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Beyond the Bale : December 2016
“E specially since the aerial wild dog baiting program, the lack of evidence of dog activity is clearly a good sign of how effective and crucial this program really is in the joint effort of controlling the wild dog population.” Such was the generally very positive feedback from landholders involved in this year’s aerial baiting program in South Australia, which strongly reinforced the value of the investment. This particular landholder continued: “The program is obviously excellent and must continue in our opinion. The running of this property has become a simpler task and more time can be spent on productive land management as opposed to chasing the elusive wild dogs that pop their head up from time to time.” The aerial baiting was undertaken for 10 days during April, following a successful trial in autumn 2012 and further programs in the autumns of 2013 to 2015. This year, the baits were dropped (from a Cessna 210 aircraft) along a route of more than 10,000km, with baits generally laid at a rate of five baits per km. It concentrated on inaccessible areas, especially rugged ranges and margins of large salt lakes. The aerial baiting complemented the concurrent autumn ‘Biteback’ wild dog ground baiting program run in South Australia, with many properties participating in both programs. Funds for the aerial baiting were provided by AWI, the South Australian Sheep Industry Fund, Federal Drought Funding and Biosecurity SA with in-kind support from Natural Resources SA Arid Lands. CONSULTATION, PLANNING AND MAPPING An important part of the program is that it links sheep producers and other landholders in a coordinated effort to counteract the wild dog problem. “It has to be a united approach,” commented a producer in the program’s feedback survey. “It is good most people are enthusiastic.” Landholders from 97 wild dog-affected properties, members of 22 wild dog planning groups, had identified areas of wild dog activity for the potential flight path. This was supplemented by information from phone conversations with additional landholders. The draft flight path was consolidated onto regional maps, for landholder approvals, then digitised into GPS-ready formats for bait distribution. The dispensing carousel in the Cessna was linked to the GPS to automatically release baits at consistent 200m intervals irrespective of air speed. Unbaited exclusion zones (buffer zones) were created around defined infrastructure such as homesteads and public roads to minimise the risk to domestic dogs. Individual landholders specified additional restrictions as required. THE BAITS The total production for the aerial baiting program was 60,000 baits. Of these, 54,000 were distributed by the contract aircraft, 2,000 by local pilots and the remainder used for ground baiting initiatives. Landholders participating in the ‘Biteback’ ground baiting program used 99,000 baits in spring and autumn 2015/16. Bait usage in the Arid Lands NRM region inside the dog fence thus totalled 160,000 baits of which 38 per cent was contributed by the aerial program. Baits were prepared from 8 tonne of kangaroo meat by paid casuals and government NRM staff at the bait production facility at Oraparinna in the Flinders Ranges National Park. The baits were laid out on racks and dried prior to transport to 11 airstrips for aerial distribution. IMPROVING FARMERS’ WELLBEING Sheep producers involved in the aerial baiting program expressed general optimism that it would improve their ability to run more sheep and produce more wool. Notably, they overwhelmingly said that participating in the wild dog program also improves their wellbeing, with a producer commenting: “Wild dog programs make a huge difference to reducing stress for growers when we know dogs are active. It helps significantly for peace of mind and dog control especially in difficult terrain.” Aerial baiting of inaccessible areas was strongly supported in several comments as an essential component of any wild dog control program. Typical was: “I feel that this program is very beneficial to our enterprise as it allows us to access areas that we would otherwise not be able to.” “The aerial baiting program is an outstanding initiative by AWI and all running it. This is one of the reasons sheep production is able to continue to thrive in South Australia. The importance cannot be measured accurately but coupled with ‘Biteback’ ground baiting is essential to the wool industry.” Woolgrower involved in the aerial baiting program. AERIAL BAITING HITS THE MARK An aerial wild dog baiting program, part funded by AWI, was once again conducted this year in the pastoral sheep zone south of the dog fence in northern South Australia, complementing existing ground baiting to target wild dogs threatening sheep production. Loading baits onto the plane. 34 ON FARM
In the Shops - March 2017