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Beyond the Bale : March 2014
28 ON-FARM Free wild dog baits and community-wide baiting aided by AWI and the Victorian Department of Environment Primary Industries' (DEPI) staff are returning sheep and hope to parts of Gippsland. AWI's Community Wild Dog Control Initiative through which local groups applied for funding to assist with their baiting program is helping sheep return to the Ensay FAST FACTS l Farmer Phil Mudge has been able to reintroduce Merino sheep onto his property at Ensay, Victoria following the introduction of a successful wild dog control campaign in the area. l A coordinated baiting program, in combination with trapping, shooting and electric fences, by local landholders and government wild dog controllers has proven effective at reducing wild dog attacks around Ensay. l AWI has assisted with funding for a community baiting coordinator, wild dog baits, trap kits and the BESTWOOL/BESTLAMB network that has a group in the Ensay area. area, just a few years after marauding packs virtually made wool and lamb production unprofitable on some farms. Sheep numbers in the area might never return to the levels before Ovine Johne's Disease (OJD) forced destocking and the swing to beef cut flocks. But wild dog control achieved through an integrated community baiting, trapping and hunting campaign with electric fencing on farms is giving determined producers like Phil and Ros Mudge, Jim Gray and Craig Lloyd the confidence to try wool and lamb production again. Phil and Ros Mudge The Mudges had been growing wool on their 128 hectare property 'Merrildale' since 1962, with virtually no problems with dogs until the past six years. "It has been a family property for three generations with the first wool sent away in 1898," Phil said. At its peak, the current holding ran up to 600 sheep, with the Mudges working off-farm to supplement their income. But increasing dog attacks gradually cut their flock down and they decided to agist cattle from a neighbouring beef producer three years ago. "After every lambing the dogs would move in and you would end up with no progeny whatsoever and the sheep numbers gradually decreased," he said. The Mudges' flock of 350 ewes was whittled down to 120 by the dogs before they gave up and sold the remnants about three years ago, leaving only 12 sheep on the property. Their land is only about one kilometre from the nearest state forest, but over the years the dogs had destroyed the flocks of neighbours, until finally the wild dogs moved in and were living on the farm. But Phil said two to three annual baiting programs assisted by funding from AWI over the past three years -- in late summer/ early autumn and in spring -- had proven to be very successful. "AWI stepped in and started supporting us. We are at the stage now where I am quite confident we can put sheep back on again." Phil said the turning point in wild dog control around Ensay came when AWI provided funding for baits and a community coordinator, a new DEPI dogman started in the area and a community baiting program began. "Baiting was then widespread across the whole community and not just individuals doing it on an ad hoc basis. Phil Mudge has reintroduced Merino sheep onto his property after wild dog control success near Ensay, Victoria. Ensay wild dog success brings sheep back March 2014 BEYOND THE BALE