Dramatic population growth of wild dogs is having a devastating impact on livestock producers and rural communities across Australia.
Wild dogs are killing and maiming significant numbers of sheep, cattle and other small livestock. As well as the distress of seeing their livestock killed or injured, livestock producers are seeing wild dogs having a major impact on the bottom lines of their businesses.
A report released in 2009 conservatively estimated the economic costs of wild dogs on the Queensland grazing industry at $67 million. Livestock producers are fighting back and developing innovative ways to protect their livestock.
Rick and Jenny Keogh are seeing immediate benefits from enclosing their property “Amaroo” 120 km South South West of Blackall in Queensland with a wild dog proof fence. Mr Keogh said from about 2003 lambing percentage were dropping for no apparent reason and this continued to deteriorate in the following years. “We were aware that we did have a few wild dogs but didn’t believe they were having too much of an effect on our overall production,” he said. “It became evident in the following years that it was the dogs that were the problem and despite professional trappers and ongoing comprehensive baiting programs the problem quickly compounded.
“As the conventional control methods were failing we decided to do a test case and fenced 3000 acres in 2013 and lambed the special stud ewes down inside the fence. “That year we marked 90 % inside the fence and 30% outside. “In 2014 we marked 80% inside the fence and 5 lambs outside. “We also caught 45 dogs in that year and have no idea how many were baited. “In light of this result it was clear that we had to protect more country and after many hours of looking at maps and doing budgets we decided to fence the whole boundary last year. “This will be the first year that we will lamb all the ewes down behind a dog proof fence.
The Keoghs have been running a commercial sheep and cattle operation on “Amaroo” since their purchased the property in 1988. The 32,500 acre property is made up of shaded Gidyea, Boree and Myall country interspersed with channels and red gravel ridges running up to the foothills of the Grey Range. In 2001 the Keoghs purchased 2000 stud ewes, 1000 ram lambs and 50 stud sires from the nearby Terrick Merino Stud and moved the stud to “Amaroo” while retaining the stud name.
“We aim to produce high quality acclimatised rams for western Queensland incorporating measured performance for genetic gain,” Mrs Keogh said. “Terrick Merino Stud is using cutting edge technology in its quest for measured genetic gain. “This incorporates indexing on measured performance, the sourcing and use through an AI program of proven genetics and DNA fingerprinting to isolate high performing animals. “The AI program involves 300 special stud ewes annually and sire selection carried out using information in the Central Test.” To protect these valuable genetics, the Keoghs have spend a total of $5700 per km on the fence; $3,500 on materials and clearing and $2,200 on construction.
“There are many different models for building dog proof fences and the model we used is one of the less expensive,” Mr Keogh said. The Keoghs used 11 strand 4 foot feral netting with square knot, with 6 foot steel posts 8 metres apart. There is one salvage wire at the top of the netting and 2 barbs at the top of the fence. The end assemblies are all railway iron and the floodways are all wooden posts with the netting swung. The grids have electronic movement sensing beepers. Height of fence 4 foot 3 inches, with the bottom section of the netting is draped onto the ground so nothing can get under it.
“While it is early days for the whole property the results from the fencing of the 3000 acres gives us confidence of a positive outcome,” Mr Keogh said. “We are under no illusions that there will be some breeches of the fence by wild dogs but we will certainly not have the pressure of recent times.” Mr Keogh said a major additional benefit of the fence is it the ability to control total grazing pressure in the form of kangaroos and to a certain level feral pigs.
“Recent accurate data suggests that there are conservatively 10,000 kangaroos running on “Amaroo”. “If we can control total grazing pressure to the extent that we hope productivity levels on the property will rise dramatically.”