Reducing the risk at Wagga Wagga station

27 Apr, 2015 01:00 AM
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We're at the stage now where we're keeping all of the sheep in one area

LOSING prize rams to wild dogs is not a gamble Wagga Wagga station owners Brett and Jo Kanny want to risk as their flock has reduced by thousands in recent years.

The pair believes the main reason they're one of the last stations running sheep in the area is because their rams spend most of the year on a family farm closer to Geraldton.

This allows the Kannys to put their rams in with the ewes in the new year and remove them at mustering time around June.

While they aren't immune to the affects of the wild dogs, Brett said it does at least ensure they have rams to breed from the following year.

Brett said he began noticing the wild dogs in March 2011, catching two to three in the first 12 months.

From there, numbers grew, as did the locations the dogs were found to occupy.

Last year, Brett trapped 13 wild dogs across his entire property of 87,000 hectares.

"We're at the stage now where we're keeping all of the sheep in one area," Jo said.

"The north of our property seems to be where the dogs are coming down from, but in the south we can at least hold an area."

The holding area for the Kanny's sheep is bordered by several stations that are managed by a local dogger, providing them with a focus area for baiting and trapping efforts.

Brett said he was working in conjunction with the dogger's program and this was helping to reduce the impact.

Wagga Wagga station is home to 2500 Merino ewes and 1000 lambs but this is a far cry from the peak times of 8500 ewes and 10,000 lambs.

It also attracts mobs of goats which Brett and Jo trap on a routine basis, with a recent haul yielding 1500 head.

"With dogs around we're now seeing the numbers of goats on our property increase," Brett said.

"Where we are getting 1500, it used to be only around 400."

As one of the few station owners remaining in sheep, particularly Merinos for wool production, Brett said his wild dog control efforts were a "full time job".

"The dogs haven't been as bad in the south and by putting the sheep there I can concentrate my efforts," Brett said.

"I cover that area twice a week, and I do the rest once a week."

Despite this, sheep numbers are still on the decline for the Kannys, who lost about 900 wethers last year.

Brett said while he couldn't be sure wild dogs were to blame (for all losses) it was a fair conclusion.

The economic affect of the dogs, which has forced many fellow station owners to seek work off the property to survive, has been dampened at Wagga Wagga as Brett works on the family grain farms closer to Geraldton during peak seasons.

"We're probably a bit luckier than most, as Brett's parents have two farms that he works on," Jo said.

"We get a caretaker here to do the baiting and trapping and I stay here to continue with the kids' schooling."

Brett said he was committed to maintaining sheep at Wagga Wagga and was mindful that his land, vegetation and infrastructure was not suited to cattle, a direction many locals were taking.

"All of our infrastructure is for sheep and our land is suited to sheep, that's just how it is," he said.

Brett said the danger of the region eventually losing its sheep and the people who live on the land could be avoided if the government committed to closing the final stage of the vermin cell.

"If they don't finish the fence, it's going to cost them more than the $4 million we need when everyone walks away from the stations," he said.

"They won't have our royalties coming in and they will have upkeep with the stations and the dog problem will be theirs."

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