Dogs a problem on multiple fronts for Boorolite producer

Sheep losses are mounting as producers feel the pain across north-east


Sheep losses mount as producers count the cost in money and emotionally.

ATTACK: Wild dogs destroyed or injured about 70 lambs last year in one hit on Steve Marshall's Boorolite farm.

ATTACK: Wild dogs destroyed or injured about 70 lambs last year in one hit on Steve Marshall's Boorolite farm.

Managing a 350-hectare farm with a view of public land gives Boorolite producer Steve Marshall plenty to think about concerning wild dog damage.

Despite not directly backing onto public land, dogs traveled across open country to get to Mr Marshall's flock of first-cross ewes and lambs.

Mr Marshall said the flock of five year-old ewes that he purchased for $204 a head had lambs at foot, about three weeks-old, when dogs destroyed or injured about 70 lambs last year.

He said there was little he could do to stop future attacks as the dogs crossed open paddocks to get to vulnerable sheep.

Baiting was an option on public land nearby to reduce the incidence.

The use of electric fencing along the boundary between private and public land was also an option.

He said the dog pack responsible was thought to be responsible for other attacks in the area.

The pack was blamed for losses totaling around 300 sheep over a two-month period.

"It's an emotional and stressful time when you are trying to catch dogs," he said.

"I can see why some people leave the land.

"It's just money down the drain, you can't insure sheep for this."

It was not just the sheep killed but others were also badly injured.

He said many people probably didn't realise the extent of the problem with small losses adding up over time.

He said while wild dog trappers had done a good job, there was not enough of them.

Losses top 50 near Mansfield

One landholder near Mansfield has reported losing about 55 sheep since the start of this year as wild dogs wreak havoc in the high country.

Craig Stevenson's family property near Mansfield, run by his mother Heather Stevenson, has reduced sheep numbers on the small holding from 500 first-cross ewes to 300.

Mr Stevenson said this was the first time for a number of years that they had lost adult sheep.

He said the impact of wild dogs on the farming business and emotional health of his family was huge.

He said the local wild dog trapper had about 15 traps out and they had baited heavily along their boundary fence and creeks.

Last year the local trapper and neighbour either trapped or shot seven dogs.

As well as reducing stock numbers, the Stevensons have been forced to move sheep to safer areas further away from nearby public land.

They have also taken to running cattle in the areas neighbouring public land.

Mr Stevenson said recently dogs were taking first-cross ewes that weighed up to 80 kilograms.

"The problems have been non-stop since 2012," he said.

"You have to ask, do we go out of sheep completely?

"Certainly there is an emotional strain on my mother, it's had a big impact on her.

"We've even had a hunter with night vision googles but they have only picked up foxes, not wild dogs."

Mr Stevenson said the dog population was increasing and as soon as one dog was destroyed another moved into the area.

Dogs a constant issue

Dog problems have been a constant part of Garry Breadon's farming career of around 50 years.

The livestock producer from Barwite, about 15 kilometres from Mansfield, said wild dogs had always been around whether the season was good or bad.

It did not matter what the season was or whether water was a problem.

Mr Breadon said it was frustrating that governments failed to recognise that no matter how much work was done to control wild dogs, the problem would be ongoing and require constant work.

He said while some wild dogs may live on private land, the vast majority lived on public land.

There has been a build up of wild dog populations on public land.

Mr Breadon said farmers didn't get much attention from governments because they generally were not noisy activists but wanted to be allowed to get on with running their farming businesses.

"My neighbours are in the same boat as me; it's pot luck whether the dogs attack," he said.

"There is no silver bullet to control, it's a toolkit of approaches."

Mr Breadon runs about 6km of electric fence.

He said the electric fences were not 100 per cent effective and Maremma dogs and alpacas had seen mixed results.


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