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Wild dog boom bites farmers hard

19 Apr, 2012 04:00 AM
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Graeme Brazel,  “Broadacres”, Niangala.
Graeme Brazel, “Broadacres”, Niangala.

ON MORE than one occasion, mixed-enterprise grazier Graeme Brazel has been forced to head out in the dark of night to destroy ewes and lambs maimed by wild dogs on his 590-hectare property “Broadacres”, at Niangala.

One particular occasion remains vivid in his mind. During November 2010 Mr Brazel discovered a wild dog attack on a flock of crossbred ewes and lambs.

The sheep, still skittish from the attack, were unable to be herded with dogs so Mr Brazel was forced to leave them and return at dusk with vehicles to move them to safety.

“With the spotlight and jeep lights, as dog-bitten sheep fell behind I had to go back and destroy them. One crossbred ewe had bites on her shoulder, her front leg was broken in two or three places, her head was ripped around,” he said.

“She had one lamb that would have been good enough to put on your Christmas dinner table, but the skin had been completely stripped off down the back legs. It was straggling its skin along... it was still alive.

“That’s probably one of the worst night’s work I’ve done in a long time.”

Mr Brazel ended up destroying more than 30 ewes and lambs that night. He has already lost more than 60 Merino lambs to wild dogs this year.

Mr Brazel is just one of many livestock producers who have been forced to deal with the horrors of dog attack, yet as the problem grows, the message doesn’t seem to be getting through to those who can make a difference.

The Livestock Health and Pest Authorities (LHPA) State Manage-ment Council (SMC) has this year changed its position for aerial baiting so all navigators and bait droppers must be “appropriately” qualified.

In previous years, volunteer landholders from a number of wild dog association groups have ridden in the helicopters as bait droppers and navigators.

Barnard River Wild Dog Control Association (BRWDCA) secretary Bruce Moore runs 1200 Merino ewes, 200 Angus breeders and about 1000 wethers on his 2800ha property “Olsland” on the edge of broken escarpment country near Hanging Rock.

He has been fighting wild dogs for close to 50 years with Mr Brazel, who is the president of the Niangala Wild Dog Control Association (NWDCA).

The two control associations are about to conduct the annual aerial baiting program and Mr Moore is concerned the LHPA SMC decision will put the future of the program at risk.

Mr Moore believed the aerial baiting program was one of the most cost-effective in NSW, thanks to members annually providing meat for baiting and volunteer labour in the form of navigation, bait-dropping, signage and landholder negotiation.

Mr Moore was worried there would be a cost rise associated with the fact contract navigators and bait droppers would need to be engaged, and was concerned baits may be placed in incorrect places without landholders – who have local knowledge – on board.

Mr Brazel said he and Mr Moore had both offered to do whatever training was required, but had run into a brick wall.

“Both associations have offered to do necessary courses... so we could be involved in the program at a hands-on level (but) nobody seems to be sure what that ticketing process is,” Mr Brazel said.

LHPA SMC pests and travelling stock reserves project manager Tim Seears said the organisation had moved its aerial baiting position in line with other State government departments.

“We should only have trained people in aircraft,” he said.

Mr Seears said the LHPAs would not facilitate the required training for landholders and said the cost of aerial baiting would rise.

“I don’t see that aerial baiting programs will be put at risk. This is the first year of this and like all new things we’ll learn from it as we go,” he said.

“(From) the navigation that has been done in previous years, my experience was that they basically flew the lines in the GPS. The baiting routes are pre-loaded in the system and that’s basically what the helicopter follows.”

The Niangala and Barnard River region has some of the most inaccessible country in NSW and is covered by two separate LHPAs – Central North and New England – and adjoins the Mid Coast authority.

Mr Brazel said there had been a “fragmentation” of the control of wild dogs on the southern New England Tablelands, which he said was a result of “restrictive” National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) policies, lack of regional co-ordination between neighbouring LHPAs and a lack of landholder participation.

Mr Brazel said in the 1990s they had close to zero predation of livestock in the Niangala, Nowendoc and Barnard River association areas, which he believed could again be achieved.

“We know from past experience that the program does work and is successful. National Parks only came to Niangala in the late ’90s and 15 years later we’re seeing all of these issues and increases of dogs,” he said.

“I’m reluctant to throw the blame at National Parks as a whole. They can be very good neighbours, but unfortunately I see a lot of the work they’re doing as more reactive than proactive.”

NPWS Walcha area manager Roger Mills manages 14 reserves and said fire management and wild dog control were the two highest priorities.

“We have three people virtually on wild dog management for six months of the year. We do a whole suite of things from ground baiting programs to fencing assistance, and we hold trapper training for landholders and for neighbours,” he said.

“We also do spring and autumn baiting programs in co-operation with the wild dog control associations, as well as our aerial baiting program.”

Mr Mills said while they were unable to increase the baiting rate, they had increased the total amount of bait being dropped.

“There has been a big increase in the amount of baits that we put out on the park over the past five years, because we’ve put out longer runs,” he said.

“In the Winterbourne area near Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, we’ve moved from 272 baits to 1248 baits. Overall we’ve gone from just under 500 kilograms of baits to 800kg of baits in our reserves.”

However, landholders say more action is needed.

Mr Brazel said during 2010-11 he lost 216 sheep to wild dogs.

“In all of my time, and my father’s time, we have never seen the types of (losses) that we’re getting now.”

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READER COMMENTS

Ned
19/04/2012 8:59:17 AM, on The Land

Where's WWF on this occasion?
Ian Mott
19/04/2012 9:29:53 AM, on The Land

The fundamental problem remains the fact that all control measures based on Australian wage rates are only viable when the dogs are in plague proportions. We have priced ourselves out of our own ecological stewardship. Only when properly trained, lower cost foreign guest workers are employed does it become economic to hunt down that last breeding bitch in the district. At the moment all we have managed to do is conduct a perverse form of "sustainable harvesting" of excess dogs without making any serious inroads into the core breeding population.
Farmer Greg
19/04/2012 11:43:12 AM, on The Land

It has not helped that national parks and state forests are allowed to grow rampant undergrowth which these ferrels live in. There needs to be a coordinated approach of undergrowth removal to flush them out and the local land owners should be allowed to gather their rescources, bait and set traps and hunt the dogs down. That would solve 90% of the problem and remove alot of the bushfire danger as well.
Neil Grinham MRBA WA
19/04/2012 5:12:16 PM, on The Land

The Wild Dog problem is becoming a massive issue for livestock producers all over Australia, the small stock industry in the Pastoral areas of WA is all but wiped out and cattle producers suffering loses as well. The Wild Dogs are now invading the WA Ag areas killing livestock. Our problem seems to fall on deaf ears and swept under the carpet so encourage people to join the Wild Dog Control site on face book and post your stories and photos it may help. The National Wild Dog Committee does anybody receive any feed back from them as to what they are doing to help.
Bluey
20/04/2012 8:52:02 AM, on The Land

There have been dingos (or dogs that are extremely dingo like) sighted north of Condobolin.
farmer barb
21/04/2012 10:58:37 AM, on The Land

My sympathy to Graeme. I and my husband spent many nights doing just what he had to do. My property is on coastal SE Qld and the problem is just as bad here. I have seen packs of over 30 X bred dingos and 20 dingos in broad daylight at the same time! Over the past year I have lost more than a hundred Boer Goats worth a minimum of $450.00. each. The value of lost production and sales is nil compared to the suffering of animals left in a dreadful state by dingos that are not hunting for food but appear to hunt for fun. Protected in forestry and Nat. Parks in Qld. they raid flocks from there.
Ian Mott
23/04/2012 2:47:16 PM, on The Land

Thousands of animals torn to shreds, half still alive next day, and the "caring" public work themselves into a lather over some "cash for cruelty" film footage from Indonesia. And worse, they expect Graeme and Barb to do all this extra work at night after a full day on farm. And don't expect the market place to factor in a single extra cent for animal welfare. And penalty rates? You must be kidding?
Gary Jackson
27/08/2012 9:52:49 AM, on The Land

Farmers may contact me in the New England area (Walcha to Tenterfield). I am a SSAA. member and responsible hunter. I can help out (shoot and trap) with wild dogs and other recognised ferals at no cost on a voluntary community service based arrangement. Please call to make an appointment for a 2-3 day hunt and clean up in this regard. Regards to producers, Gary Jackson Tel. 0403 545 398

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COMMENTS

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Sorry Chops, but the reality is already here, we have been relegated to a nation of price takers
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I am in Dubai at the moment staggered by the price for Australian beef at any one of hundreds
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Rob an underpinning principle of a spot market that needs to be embedded is that the producers