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Beyond the Bale : March 2014
29 AWI helped make it a community effort -- it was the catalyst that got the whole thing going. But it was also a combination of the dogmen, being able to bait on public land, hunters coming up and electric fencing." The Mudges landed their 371 Merino ewes in November last year, to be joined to rams in February. "Hopefully theirs will the first lambs we will get to survive for about six years." Phil said he liked the idea of being a woolgrower again, though he also had some beef cattle on to help eat the abundant pasture available. But other district farmers are lifting their sheep numbers after the decline in dog attacks. "Everyone in the area is certainly showing a lot more confidence in sheep again now." Jim and Sue Gray The Mudges' neighbour Jim Gray started farming his wife Sue's parents' 400 hectare property in 1995 with 1500 sheep. "But just after that the dogs moved in and over a period of five to six years we probably lost 300 to 400 sheep," Jim said. "The dogs were completely in charge of this area." They replaced their Merinos with first cross ewes and kept them within a 120 hectare area protected with electric fencing. "That went reasonably well for a little while, but anytime the fence went out, for floods or anything else, they seemed to know and then came in. I would lose 15 to 20 lambs a night," he said. "You didn't sleep too well at night. It was such a hopeless feeling because you just don't know where they are going to strike or when." The Grays were down to about 200 first cross ewes before they joined the community baiting program about five years ago and he has just ordered another 100 ewes. "I think our success, the fact that we can get more sheep and let them out from behind the electric wire and spread them out, is solely because of the big poisoning campaign with everybody in. Last year was the first time in 12 years I could put the sheep outside the electric fence for lambing and not have any lambs killed. "I haven't heard a dog for over 12 months and I think every night you would walk out and hear dogs howling before that." Jim said being able to run more sheep on district farms could help lift profitability enough to attract and hold young people in the area. ON-FARM Phil Mudge's son Carey, left, with neighbour Jim Gray look at some electric fencing on the Mudges' property. "You can make a lot more money from an area of land with sheep than you can with cattle, you always have been able to. Sheep could make it much more attractive to maintain a younger member of the family here." Coordination vital The Ensay BESTWOOL/BESTLAMB Wild Dog Group was formed in 2012 to help get sheep back into the area and co-ordinator Craig Lloyd said of the 18 producer- members, most were mainly beef farmers. But several were getting back into sheep -- "testing the water" with some Merinos or prime lamb mothers. "In the past few years there has been a bit more confidence around," Craig said. He had to destock his Merinos because of OJD in the 1990s and restocked with first cross ewes, but electrified fencing around about 110 hectares of his 400 hectare property to keep out dogs, wombats and kangaroos. "Baiting has been a big part of it, but it is not everything." AWI-funded community wild dog control co-ordinator Brian Dowley at Bairnsdale said the success of the wild dog control around Ensay was due to the co-ordinated effort of landholders working co-operatively with government wild dog controllers, integrated control measures (baiting, trapping, shooting and electric fencing), AWI support of on-ground action and BESTWOOL/BESTLAMB group establishment to discuss sheep production and dog management in a positive and friendly environment. AWI-funded trap kits have also enabled landholders to undertake trapping on their land. Brian said there has been a dramatic change in landholder attitudes and well-being. "They can now focus on other issues that affect their production. Dogs are seen as just another management activity -- not the only one." But Brian said the success around Ensay has been hard-earned. "The challenge now is to maintain the effort when things are going well. It really proves that landholders working together can really make a difference." AWI COMMUNITY WILD DOG CONTROL INITIATIVE - FUNDING AVAILABLE Funding is available to groups under AWI's 'Community Wild Dog Control Initiative'. Applications are open to new groups as well as those groups that have previously received funding from AWI. If you would like to apply, please complete the Community Wild Dog Control Initiative application form available at www.wool.com/pestanimals and submit it along with a map and project budget to email@example.com. If you need clarification or assistance please contact Taran Blyth at AWI on (02) 8295 3164. March 2014 BEYOND THE BALE