AS part of the FarmOnline Wild Dog project, which aims to share information, educate landholders and promote co-ordination of management programs, Queensland Country Life commissioned a series of opinion pieces on the topic "how I would manage wild dogs". This third article in the series is from chair of Blackall-Tambo Regional Council Wild Dog Advisory Group, ANDREW MARTIN.
MY earliest memories of paddock work involve dog drives with my Dad and a heap of neighbours, both inside and outside the fence, on a regular basis. I grew up on the Dingo Barrier Fence, but inside it.
There were regular trips down the bitumen to check the dog gate on the stock route; weekly maintenance runs along our section of the fence, generally on the weekend because there was no school (thanks Dad); and meetings with Dogger Holmes camped outside the fence but on our bottle tree corner, delighted when a week’s vigil went past without a “dawg”.
A dog inside was an absolute rarity, and eliminated promptly.
All this is not a romp in the past, but an affirmation of my absolute belief that it isn’t the dog at fault today – it is the human.
It is easy to blame this or that, but from about the mid-1980s we have dropped the ball inside the fence.
Cattlemen dominating the inside are an easy target, but whilst there has been an element of that, in general it’s just a small part of the issue. The simple fact is this is a red meat issue, period. It is the small number of those who do little or nothing for whatever reason who deserve the blame. Man's error.
Notwithstanding the current compliance trials, and I applaud them most loudly, most of us know the compliance issue, but do we have the clout to prosecute? Not yet. Do we have the fortitude to get the clout? Not yet. Man’s error, apathy and stupidity.
How many people simply throw out baits twice a year and consider their job done? Heaps I’d guess. Pretty scary when most people know the local RLO can and will bait home-killed meat every week if you want, and for free. Man’s ignorance.
Communities, including most councils and governments across the inland, have turned themselves inside out to counter these few recalcitrants by providing free meat, free poison, bounties, free aeroplane access, syndicate help and encouragement, free co-ordinators, free workshops – free, free, free.
I am devastated to find that a good percentage of these people are driven further onto their verandahs, in the expectation of even more free help, and the belief that it is up to someone else, for free. Man’s error.
All the major road accesses into the fenced area now sport a fancy grid, a neon flashing invitation to all dogs for the last 20 years. No wonder we are getting 16 dogs a week on properties that would not have had that tally in the half century previously!
I cannot remember the number of times I have proposed to those who can do something. Lots of nods, but oh, the blankest of stares. Man’s something.
Fencing out the problem
On fencing, I applaud the collaborative area management initiatives. It is the perfect way to fence out the do-nothings and allow them to be hoisted on their own petard, but does not cure the bigger issue.
I also believe the removal of the old boundary fencing renewal requirement, which was opposed stridently by many, has led to tears all round. The cluster fencing may atone for much of that, but a billion or so dollars too late. Man’s apathy.
The hyatid issue
The community health issues are potentially enormous. Hydatids, carried by dogs, can kill humans and nearly did in one case not far from Tambo. The only dogs showing this blight were the wild dogs caught in the vicinity. Neospora caninum, carried in the droppings of dogs and into cows through grass, has, in my case, rendered up to 25 per cent of breeders permanently barren.
I have proposed random blood tests on females at Queensland abattoirs and having the results distributed on a shire-by-shire basis, purely to ram home the compliance and economic issues. Lots of nods, but that same old blank look. Man’s something else.
Dangers of top-down management
Many enterprises cannot bait, some will not. That’s cool by me, but what are they doing in lieu? Not much in too many cases. Man’s laziness.
There are lots of committees, consultation processes, ministerial involvements, local government wild dog advisory groups, the Dogwatch co-ordination committee, AgForce, QDOG, fence co-ordinators, facilitators, and this is only in Queensland!
Dogwatch, the inland alliance of wild dog chairmen, has brought the baiting window down from a four-month period to nearly four weeks, over an area from Hughenden to Goondiwindi – not bad for a bunch of cockies!
But any further up the line and the decisions and discussions get further and further away from blokes with dogs. The danger of top-down management is ever present and could drive the leaners off their verandahs and into their lounge rooms, and we will lose complete control.
A warning to all, particularly those up the decision tree – do not make the policy and ask us to rubber stamp it. We are waiting at the bottom of the tree and you have to come down sooner or later! Man’s ego.
Without doubt the beast is winning but man has very generously encouraged him to do so for way too long.
A hex on the leaners.
Andrew Martin is a fourth generation Tambo grazier with a 40-year involvement in agripolitics, currently chair of Blackall-Tambo Regional Council Wild Dog Advisory Group, member of Western Dogwatch committee, and executive member of South Tambo Cluster Fencing Group Inc.