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Beyond the Bale : December 2018
ON FARM 47 A coordinated community baiting program involving several adjoining landholders has reduced wild dog activity in and around sheep properties in Glenaladale in Victoria. Coordinated community-wide wild dog control has enabled woolgrower John Boyd from south east Victoria to focus on producing quality wool, rather than worrying about wild dog attacks that were once devastating his business. John (left) is pictured talking to the Community Wild Dog Control Coordinator for the Gippsland region Brian Dowley, whose role is funded by AWI. Two wild dogs on a neighbouring property in the Glenaladale community group area. The front dog is visiting a bait station (baits funded by AWI). PHOTO: Trevor Howden COMMUNITY-WIDE WILD DOG CONTROL BRINGS RELIEF John Boyd breeds Merino sheep and Angus cattle at the base of the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, 20km north of Stratford in Victoria. Undulating sandy country with an annual rainfall of 28 inches, John’s property ‘Stockdale Park’ was the perfect environment to grow Merino sheep and for many years John had great success producing quality fine Merino wool. But in 2010 breeding Merinos became an unviable option for their enterprise. In May 2010, John began to find healthy sheep drowned in dams around the property. John had never seen this before and it was a mystery to which he could not find an obvious answer. After close and extended observation, John spotted a female wild dog and identified the canine as the culprit of the attacks. “The initial problem started in the autumn of 2010 with around twenty sheep being found in dams,” explained John. “This escalated to a year-round issue and we were losing sheep each night. “The pack of dogs wouldn’t kill for feed, it was the thrill of the chase and they would force mobs into corners, flattening the fences and leaving sheep with gashes in their sides and intestines dragging on the ground.” The damage the wild dogs were doing affected not only the sheep and the viability of John’s business, but also the emotional stress had a huge impact. “It was a problem we thought we could never get on top of. We decided that if we couldn’t do any better than a 20-30% lambing rate then we couldn’t keep the Merino side of the business. “At the worst period, we lost 1,500 sheep. 80% of these were lambs. In one particular mob of 200 ewes, we marked 120 lambs and only two weeks after marking not one lamb was left alive.” TURNING THE SITUATION AROUND At the start of 2011 John was supported by a Government trapper to address the immediate issue at Stockdale Park. This tackled the immediate problem of these particular wild dog attacks. Then John and his neighbours initiated a community approach. Through their local Landcare group, John and his neighbours contacted the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and were put into contact with Brian Dowley, the Community Wild Dog Control Coordinator for the Gippsland region in Victoria, whose role is funded by AWI. With guidance from Brian, the group applied for funding from AWI to assist in their wild dog baiting program. Brian says that the Glenaladale Landcare group was proactive from day one. “John was committed to growing wool. Although his enterprise was being decimated by the attacks from wild dogs, John and the Glenaladale group’s determination to get on top of the problem was the deciding factor in their success,” said Brian. From 2011 to the present John has had 600 baits distributed on Stockdale Park and the neighbouring property. John emphasises the importance of a community approach. “Without a coordinated approach across the region we would not be where we are now.” Each year since the initial attacks in 2010, John, the Glenaladale Landcare group and neighbouring landholders have been addressing the issue of wild dogs through a planned approach that combines trapping and baiting. “If you want to get on top of your wild dog problem, you need the whole community’s support. Dogs don’t limit themselves to one property and whether you’re in sheep, cattle, cropping or forestry, supporting your neighbours is the most important community contribution you can make,” emphasises John. The current program rolls out in autumn and spring with community baiting, and when a dog is identified landholders feed this information back to the trapper straight away. The last attack on Stockdale Park was in March. One wether was attacked but the dog was spotted and the local trapper came straight out to deal with it. “The most important thing is to keep on top of it,” says John. “The problem won’t go away but with this coordinated effort our lambing percentage has increased to a level that is viable for our business and we are again producing great wool.”
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