Landholders reap benefits of National Wild Dog Action Plan

Small stock producers in Queensland are about to reap the value-added benefits from the National Wild Dog Action Plan.

The Queensland sheep and goat industries will get another boost with $4 million in grants over two years to leverage the benefits of state government investment in cluster fencing.

The Rural Agricultural Development grants of up to $200,000 per business will help sheep and goat enterprises develop new markets. Since 2015, more than 9000km of fencing has been approved and 400 sheep producing properties protected.

National Wild Dog Management Coordinator Greg Mifsud welcomed the spin-off benefits from decades of proactive and collaborative nil tenure wild dog management in Queensland.

“The community doesn’t realise how much economic benefit the National Wild Dog Action Plan leverages with an independent review revealing the return on investment was from $6.10-$16.50:1 from dollars reinvested in wild dog control as a result of having a national strategic plan,” Mr Mifsud said.

“Exclusion fencing right around Australia has occurred as a result of the Plan and indirectly it is supporting these groups, committees and state programs who are reaping the benefits.”

A wool growing enterprise to benefit from the Plan has been Chandler Pastoral Holdings, Barcaldine, with 140km of exclusion fencing enabling the family to return to sheep after being decimated by wild dogs.

“It is certainly good to be back in the industry,” Ben Chandler said.

“We shore 20,000 sheep in the early 2000s and then wild dogs started getting on top of them year in-year out from then on, eating 2000 ewes a year and lambings were down to 2 per cent.

“While the sheep, wool and cattle industries are so lucrative, you are doing everything in your power to make sure every lamb and calf hits the ground.”

The family sold all their sheep in 2010, transitioning into cattle whilst maintaining the infrastructure of three shearing sheds in the hope of going back into small stock one day.

“It wasn’t viable for us to continue to produce sheep under those losses and mortality rate, and we transitioned into cattle to supplement the loss of income in sheep and wool short-term,” Ben said.

“Thankfully the RAPAD (Remote Area Planning and Development Board) subsidies were available for exclusion fencing making it more appealing to be proactive about fencing.

“We still factored in the predation influence on calves even now with 50 per cent of one of the properties unfenced.”

The family completed 60km of exclusion fencing in 2015 as part of a 106km Clover Hills Cluster Group with three neighbouring properties.

“That was to get the outside of the wheel established and something to build off going forward,” Ben said.

“Since then we have proactively added the spokes to the wheel, creating internal manageable cells we can control more readily.”

With great excitement, the family reintroduced the first sheep (1600 Merino ewes) back into the enterprise in 2018 to test the new model, working with two professional wild dog trappers operating across the aggregation, along with strategic ground baiting.

“One of the major drivers of the fencing was the fantastic infrastructure of three shearing sheds not getting used across three properties,” Ben said.

“It’s naive for anyone to think the fencing is the be all and end all, you’ve got to continue with your management programs of baiting, trapping and shooting.

“It’s one of the most effective tools but complements all the other traditional methods of dog control.”

The Clover Hills Cluster Group expanded from five properties to include the Salt Creek Cluster, protecting over 38,400ha.

Ben said the landholder’s aims of pasture protection, reduced land degradation with regard to pest animal influence and security of livestock were achieved.

“We have the ability to control and manage animal husbandry a lot more readily with the introduction of pest proof cells. (Sheep) joinings are more credible and it instils a proactiveness from a management point of view to monitor the fence.

“In addition, all of the neighbouring properties have continued to fence their own places outside these clusters, increasing the security and effectiveness, and further improving manageability of vertebrate pests and related pressures in the area.”

The family now run 5500 Merino sheep and 2000 Santa Gertrudis females.

“We are about to mark over 100 per cent of lambs for our second year in a row.

“There is such a high demand for shearing teams – I genuinely foresee a population increase and employment opportunities within the industry right across the supply chain from the jackaroos and cooks to agents and marketing services.

“The neighbouring properties have gone into goats, supplementing the original forecast of 11,000 more sheep coming back into the area.”

Ben said the ability to lock paddocks up had resulted in conservative and controlled grazing pressure from livestock.

To watch a video on the benefits of cluster fencing in western Queensland click here