Ben Banks, wool farmer and sheep scanner from WESTERN Queensland, is well placed to see the benefits of feral dog control and he doesn’t think introducing dingoes to Victorian parks is a good idea.
The Banks family manage a self-replacing merino herd of 22,000 head protected by 120km of exclusion fencing on 48,500ha 100km west of Blackall.
Lamb survival rates have increased from 30 per cent to 100 per cent thanks to wild dog exclusion fencing on their station and Mr Banks said there was no need to treat the flock for lice during the last two years.
“It’s only because we have the fence and we have full control over our inventory – it’s saved us $35,000 to $40,000 a year.”
He has also observed more native animals and birds on the homestead since the cell was completed.
Mr Banks said the feral dogs had not been completely eradicated from the property, but the business was still well ahead of where it was six years ago.
Reduced stress on ewes resulted in conception, lambing and branding rates, and wool cuts all increased while attacks decreased.
“Our lamb mortalities have come down significantly – in 2012 we were getting lambing percentages down about 20-30% when scanning,” he said.
“In 2016, after the fence was built, we scored and weaned 100% – before the fence, we wouldn’t have dreamed of achieving that.
“Before fencing, we did trapping, baiting and shooting,” he said.
“Four of us spent 25% of our time controlling feral dogs.”
The Victorian government is considering proposals to reintroduce dingoes to some areas, but Mr Banks said it was ‘a crazy idea’ and he was not convinced that the use of guard dogs, as recommended dingo supporters, would be an effective deterrent.
“In my opinion, guard dogs do not work in extensive pastoral operations.
“They can work in more intensive places, but often seem to only help the wild dog breeding program.”
Fence height isn’t the whole answer
The Banks family have discovered that fencing is not the total answer to the problem with their ongoing feral dog monitoring and control program as incursions continue, but the advent of surrounding properties fencing and controlling dogs has was well received.
The entire Banks property was fenced in late 2015 at a cost of $8,000-$8,500/km using their own labor.
“Now we’re budgeting for a five-foot-tall (1.5m) fence closer to $10,000/km,” Mr Banks said.
“It’s a five-foot mesh fence if you’re starting from scratch, but if you’re retrofitting an existing fence, we put a four-foot mesh fence with two barbs on top to bring it up to a five-foot tall fence. .
“All of our outdoor fencing has a 30cm apron – after six years the wild dogs are starting to foil it and we are getting a lot more intrusions than when it was first installed,” he said.
“At first it really limited the numbers, but lately the dogs have started working on these fences and they will now dig under them.”
In the future, he will consider erecting fences up to 175cm high, but said if a dog has to crawl over a fence, it doesn’t matter if it is 150cm or 175cm.
“We are in a group with a neighbor and no other wild fences are coming out of our fence, but now two large places outside of us are fenced off.
“It’s going to be huge for us because it’s another barrier on the outside – it’s happening all over western Queensland.”
The number of sheep is increasing
As a commercial sheep pregnancy scanner, Mr Banks noted an increase in sheep numbers in existing wool businesses in western Queensland, partly due to exclusion fencing.
“If you bring Dorpers and goats there, there are definitely a lot more small livestock in the area,” he said.
National wild dog management coordinator Greg Mifsud said that as the number of exclusion fences increases, there is a risk of less emphasis on baiting and control programs being carried out. outside the fences.
“This is a real and ongoing problem with large numbers of feral dogs using unfenced areas and cattle routes – some of these areas are quite problematic for management,” Mifsud said.
“For landowners on the periphery of exclusion fences, if these feral dog control programs are not implemented, then they are at greatest risk.
“Wild dog control is a shared responsibility – just because landowners may be inside other exclusion fences doesn’t mean they shouldn’t contribute to the control program as part of ‘a count.”