The impact of cluster fencing in Western QLD

The impact of cluster fencing in Western QLD



(upbeat music) – Wild dogs impact on all
of the age groups of sheep. So unlike foxes or pigs which
might prey or kill lambs, wild dogs like to kill all of the ages. So lambs, weaners,
ewes, wethers, and rams. So for a sheep producer,
stopping that level of attack across his whole flock, he
soon finds out that his income stream is basically
not making any dollars, he's stressed to the max
because he physically can't protect his sheep. They will actually force
sheep producers to move away from sheep altogether and
move into either cattle or leave the district so it
becomes quite a stressful and emotional decision to have to make but for some of these people
who have lived on the land and had sheep for three or
four generations in family. (upbeat music) – I think the cluster
fencing at the present time is the only answer we've
got to try and support and save our wool industry. (hammering) Back in the 50's they
built dog netting fences. (hammering) They were built out of materials
that didn't last that long, the kangaroos tore the bottoms off 'em and they weren't really
an answer to the problem. It's about inch and a half
chicken wire at the bottom. It was buried in the ground. The soils here have rusted it off and the roos have punched
holes underneath it. I don't know how it kept anything out. In the last probably 10
years the wild dog population is growing on the back of a
massive macropod population. When we're developing country, we're providing water,
we're providing feed for our macropods as well as our dogs. Scalpings are now up
around 3000 dogs a year. It's almost uncontrollable. – We had massive losses
of wethers on Knockninny. We lost some 800 up there
and of course you immediately think they've been stolen or they're in the next door neighbours
and you get ultra lights in and you're looking for
them and looking for them. And you start to think well
how could they possibly have killed that many? I remember Joss and I talking
about it here one night and we said look ewes,
especially young ewes, are $120 to $150 a head, we cannot let the dogs
continue this carnage. By 2011 we'd worked out
that we'd lost 10000 sheep. This was an operation where
we just bred 4000 odd lambs a year and we had pretty tight control on what our numbers were. And we were doing everything
we could to control dogs. So we were baiting and
trapping and shooting and giving people
incentives to do their bit. It was a tough decision
but it was just one we had to make to sell
all the sheep in 2011. (upbeat music) – So in order to manage
the impacts of wild dogs, through the national wild dog action plan, we've developed this approach
called a nil tenure approach. Which basically removes who owns the land and the boundaries. Dogs don't obey boundaries, pest animals don't obey boundaries. And got them to start
looking at the landscape and whether the dogs were moving, where they were causing
impact and where they need to deliver their control. So what we've done is we've
worked with those communities and communities and
their local governments to form groups where
everyone was delivering their control probes collectively. – Well up until now most dog control was in individual level,
land holders themselves. We needed a more coordinated effort. Now the council's come
on board and we have RLOs who distribute our baits. But the whole process,
it now is coordinated, which it wasn't done
probably 20 years ago. And that's been an exceptional advance as far as we're concerned. – Longreach formed the wild dog committee because there had been
sporadic wild dog control, the odd committee here and there, but nothing really
concrete like some of our neighbouring shires. So I just got together with
a few concerned land holders and put a proposal to
Longreach regional council and they came back to us
and we've actually set up an advisory committee under the council and we just took it from there. – We formed ourselves into a
committee to try and control the dogs but what happened
was our lack of participation has forced us into cluster fencing because participation
rates are down around 30% which is, it just doesn't make it viable. – For a lot of these producers fencing really is the last resort
to remain in sheep and wool. The impacts of dogs are so
debilitating both economically and emotionally that a lot
of people have already left the industry and as
John Chandler describes, his family made that choice
given that the impacts and the losses that it was no
longer economically viable. Nor could he tolerate any more
of the welfare implications of wild dog attacks on his livestock. We've got research that
demonstrates that dogs can move up to 600 kilometres
in four or five weeks. The only way these guys
see to get the security to protect those livestock
is to start putting up a physical barrier. And that's where the
cluster fencing comes in. They can then manage their
land and control wild dogs within that and continue to
support wild dog management through those wild dog committees
to the rest of the people in the shire that can't afford to go into those arrangements. – The fencing seems to now, to
evolve us into the next stage of control which is to eradicate
the dogs out of the area and in small areas so that
they can be controlled. Gives us a chance to manage
our grazing pressures, gives us biosecurity controls, it gives us a lot of advantages
that we never had before, lets us look after the land a lot better. (upbeat music) The best way these fences
work is to be as tight as you possibly can which this one is. And we have to stop the animals
from putting their heads through so they don't separate. Also at the bottom we have this
footer that is pretty tight that stops the animals
from burrowing underneath. 'Cause as you dig out it
just keeps rearing itself into the ground. – What we have seen is
this consequence of this cooperative approach to the
wild dog control programme is that people are more
willing to work together. So by entering into a cluster
fence means that each person only has to fence a certain
proportion of their boundary. Which then links to their
neighbouring property. And so you end up with
a number of properties, between three, and
eight, or 10 properties. What they end up with is an enclosed area where they can actually
have proper control over what happens inside that fence. The funding programme only
provides for half of the material per kilometre for each of those fences. Which works out to around $2750. However the cost to put
up the fencing materials and maintenance and the preparation runs to around $7000 a kilometre. And that additional cost has
to be absorbed and paid for by the producers that are in that cluster. So that decision and going
into that cluster agreement is quite a costly one. – With the role out of dog
fencing in the district, I think it's gonna be really good, not only for those people
inside, for wild dog control. They can have a better
handle on the inside. But also on the outside I think
it provides an opportunity for people to bait up
against those fences. – The cluster fencing
will actually increase the sheep numbers in the area
which means the contractor will have a continuation of work. He will be able to employ more people. We like to keep people in our town so that they can spend money in our towns and our towns evolve
into a better community. – We've already seen shearers are coming back to the district. And it really is an exciting time. And I certainly hope
that it's gonna result in more people coming to
town, bringing kids to town. And then we've got more kids in schools, more money going to all sorts of business. Yeah so it's an exciting
time I think that's for sure. – I'd go so far as to say this
is one of the most exciting infrastructure builds since people started the gapsy scheme. There's no doubt that people
are extolling the virtues of their dog exclusion fencing. – I'm really looking forward
to seeing this community striving again and seeing those producers rewarded for their effort and
handing over their property to the next generation in a
sound and sustainable manner, so that they can maintain
that thriving community approach to Western Queensland
that we all know and love. (upbeat music) (bird calls)

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