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ARTICLES >> Livestock Articles

WILD DOGS - Community Co-operation

Posted by Bestprac on Oct 06 2010

By Liz Guerin
In 2007 the Blackwater Dog Trust, confronted with an increasing dog problem, decided that they needed to reinvigorate group participation and momentum in order to begin addressing the issue.

 

With 15 properties participating, each property contributed $2000 to employ a dogger, supply and inseminate their own meat for baits, and adjust time of baiting to when pups were dispersing.

In essence Trust member and Merino Stud and beef producer, Rick Keogh, says it was a little like returning to the way things used to be done and also that there were a number of reasons for the increasing dog problem.

“In the pre -1080 days the old guys employed a dogger, used a bit of strychnine and used traps. Then 1080 came in and it was seen as magic bullet for wild dogs” Rick said.

Post introduction of 1080, the Blackwater Dog Trust used to get together over 3 or 4 days, supply their own meat, inseminate it and fly it over in the plane, distributing over 2.5 tonne meat bait per baiting period.

“It was a social thing too” said Rick. “It was community driven with the key elements being participation and responsibility.”

In the mid 1990’s, control of the baiting program was taken over by the Blackall Shire Council who bought and paid for the meat, inseminated and distributed it. Unfortunately, this also coincided with the severe down-turn in the sheep and wool industry.

“With the removal of community ownership of the process and the bottom falling out of the sheep industry, the amount of baiting just got less and less and dog numbers got more and more.”

Three years on, Rick says the reinvigorated process is working really well.

“I actually believe we are winning. But we only win for a certain period of time because there is still a critical mass of dogs outside our trust area - so we clean them out and then they move in again.”

However, there is the feeling particularly among sheep producers that some cattle properties are not dealing with, nor concerned by the growing dog problem, and this has created an immense amount of country that doesn’t have any level of dog control at all.

With a variety of measures and strategies being implemented, Rick says that the message regarding the need to control wild dogs is slowly sinking in and resulting in action.

“Dogs are attacking cattle as well as sheep” said Rick. “7 properties east of Blackall which have never baited before have suddenly started baiting. This is because they are now only marking 70% calves - so dogs are taking 30-40% of their calves and with it, their profit.”

Neighbouring Dog Trusts such as Adavale to the south have employed the same dogger as Blackwater Trust and Quilpie Shire this year baited the whole shire resulting in full coverage.

In the last three to five years, Rick has noticed a definite shift in mentality about the need to control wild dogs and admits that he also, was slow to come to the conclusion that they had a wild dog problem.

“It was probably three years before I admitted we had a problem” he said. “Initially we thought there was something wrong with the ewes we had such a low lambing percentage, but this year, the first time in over 5 years, we’re back to marking over 100% lambs.”

Don Salway, employed by the Blackwater Dog Trust, at work on Rick Keoghs’s Blackall propertyOne of the key factors listed for the success of the Blackwater Dog Trust program is the group mentality of responsibility and participation, and a key person to drive the process. Rick feels that maintaining the momentum the Trust has achieved to date will not be a problem.

“The interesting thing about our trust is that there are only 3 sheep properties and the remainder are cattle” said Rick, “So it is quite a coup that we’ve been able to gain and maintain such a spirit of co-operation.”

Another factor that has aided their success has been the already well established sense of community and ‘neighbourliness’ that differentiates Blackwater Trust from others.

“We know our neighbors really well as our trust doesn’t go anywhere near town. We have a recreational club at Scrubby Creek where the district goes to play sport, talk and socialize” said Rick. “This community spirit and trust creates a catalyst for action.”

With the Blackwater Trust’s dogger, Don Salway recently arriving on Rick’s property, his initial comment regarding wild dog numbers was that it was quiet – a lot quieter than usual.

Ricks says that Don the dogger usually arrives on the place around September and stays for a few months before moving on to neighbouring Trust areas. This calendar year alone Don has caught 600 wild dogs, mostly in the area east of Charleville. At the moment he’s having a bit of difficulty as it keeps raining and washing his traps out.

“It’s really encouraging that Don thinks it’s quiet” said Rick. “His experience combined with our lambing percentages evidence indicates that we might be winning – but we still need to be diligent about what we are doing.”

Rick estimates that over a 5 year period they have lost over $250,000 to wild dogs via lamb losses and says that there is nothing more soul destroying than coming across an animal that has been decimated by dingoes.

“If every property across Queensland baited over a two week period, I believe we’d kill 90% of the dogs but we have to get the co-operation and coordination going.” 
 

 

Last changed: Feb 07 2012

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