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Beyond the Bale : December 2010
December 2010 BEYOND THE BALE 20 ON-FARM e'd have been out of the sheep and wool industry if we hadn't made the decision seven years ago to purchase guardian dogs to protect our flock," Ninian Stewart-Moore says. Ninian and his wife Ann run 'Dunluce', a 46,500 hectare sheep and cattle property west of Hughenden in north-west Queensland. Their decision to purchase 24 Maremma guardian dogs enabled them to continue with sheep. "We used to lose up to 10 sheep a night to dingoes and were close to leaving the industry. But now there's only minimal attacks -- almost nil -- which makes our job doable. It's allowing us to get a good night's sleep too." Guardian dogs, such as Maremmas, are medium to large sized dogs that live permanently with 'their' stock, regarding them as their social companions. The dogs protect them from anything that they see as a threat, such as wild dogs, foxes and birds of prey. They operate by confrontation, disruption and territorial exclusion. While guardian dogs have been very good at protecting the flock of 12,000 sheep on his property, Ninian advises that managing the dogs can be time consuming. "You have to have a belief that it can work and have a lot of persistence. We've shown that success is possible. "However, it's important to get the right genetics, make sure that there hasn't been any cross breeding with other types of dogs that might have other instincts. And the dogs that live free range must be de-sexed, because you can't control their 'nocturnal habits'. "I'd recommend to prospective users that they make sure the pups are imprinted properly with livestock from a very early age, and then ensure a good bonding process with the animals that you want them to live with." The Stewart-Moores are one of the case studies featured in a new best practice manual for managing guardian dogs. Released by the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), the manual is designed to equip land managers with the knowledge to protect against wild dogs, foxes and other predators. The manual provides landholders with another option -- beyond fencing, baiting, shooting and trapping -- to assist them to protect their livestock from predation. Other initiatives under way by the Invasive Animals CRC and collaborators include: l development of a new toxin (PAPP) with fast and humane action (funded by AWI) l development of an antidote (Bluehealer®) to PAPP if it is inadvertently taken by working or domestic dogs l development of a lethal trap device which is a toxin delivery system on leg hold traps (funded by AWI); and l national registration of M44 ejector for the control of foxes and wild dogs. The Invasive Animal CRC's National Wild Dog Management Facilitator Greg Mifsud says the new manual is one in a raft of initiatives under way at the moment to combat wild dogs. "Guardian dogs are another tool in the arsenal to help producers manage the impacts of predators. Participation and continued support for community based management programs is still required at a regional and landscape level. "The subsequent control of wild dogs in the regions where land managers are cooperating is providing producers with the confidence to maintain -- and increase in some instances -- current flocks, while many others are looking at re-entering the industry." More information: The 'Best Practice Manual for the use of Livestock Guardian Dogs' is available for download from www.invasiveanimals.com or contact the Invasive Animals CRC on (02) 6201 2887 for a hard copy. FAST FACTS l Guardian dogs live permanently with 'their' stock, protecting them from predators such as wild dogs and foxes. l The Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre has released a best practice manual for managing guardian dogs. l The use of guardian dogs is one of many tools which, in combination, producers can use to protect their flocks. l Several other initiatives to combat predation are under development. Guardian dogs protect 'their' stock PHOTO CREDIT: ANN AND NINIAN STEWART-MOORE Maremma guarding sheep at Dunluce.