Farmers pay to keep foxes at bay

13 Jul, 2015 02:00 AM

FARMERS are putting their money where their mouths are when it comes to fox control.

Some farmers in southern NSW have decided to take the fight against foxes into their own hands by paying an experienced shooter $10 a scalp to keep the predator under control.

Former Livestock Health and Pest Authority ranger Mic McFarlane is being paid a $10 bounty by six mixed farmers in the Culcairn district throughout their lambing seasons to shoot the pest.

Interestingly, the farmers are situated less than 60 kilometres from the Victoria border- a State where its government foots the $10 bill for each fox scalp delivered to collection centres.

Since the bounty system was established in Victoria in 2011 more than 394,000 scalps have been collected.

Scott and Doug Mitchell, Rene Poll Dorset stud, Culcairn, who also run a mixed farming enterprise on their property "Rockwood", have employed the services of Mr McFarlane for the last two years.

In the last 18 months alone Mr McFarlane shot 110 foxes on the property.

Scott Mitchell said he would like to see a bounty offered in every state for fox scalps as they were a nationwide problem.

But for now he is committed to paying the $10 bounty as the value of the livestock that falls prey to foxes was too great a loss.

"You only have to save one crossbred lamb from a fox and that's worth $180 and the cost would be far greater if it's progeny from the stud," Mr Mitchell said.

About five years ago the Mitchells lost 12 East Friesian lambs in one night that were from an artificial insemination program.

Since then they have become more vigilant with their fox watch when they lamb from April through to September.

"We have been farming here for 13 years and foxes have always been about, but it wasn't until we started shooting them we realised how bad they were," Mr Mitchell said.

They tried baiting with 1080, but believed it was unsuccessful as the baits were untouched.

Then for a couple of lambing seasons they a employed shooter and found it was more successful.

The Mitchell's are fortunate that Mr McFarlane lives on their property and keeps ahead of the pack now.

Mr McFarlane said he would average three to four foxes every night he went shooting, and had shot up to 13 a night across a couple of neighbouring properties.

He said foxes were the only major pest plaguing farmers in the Culcairn district at present as there were no wild dogs north of the Hume Highway.

Mr McFarlane said fox numbers were seasonal and it appeared there were a lot more about at present as they were more visible.

"Alot of paddocks have been eaten down so people see a lot more foxes, but there has also been an increase in numbers this year," he said.

To keep foxes under control Mr McFarlane said farmers should undertake at least two control methods.

"Whether it's baiting, fox lights or guard animals they need to do a combination of at least two as there is the chance one won't be successful," he said.

Mr McFarlane said while fox lights don't keep the foxes out of the sheep for long, they were a handy tool for spotlight shooting.

"The foxes become familiarised with lights moving around and settle down a lot quicker and you can shoot more foxes."

Mr McFarlane said there was also a groups of eight to 10 shooters working in the district doing fox drives in swamps, a control method he said farmers could easily adopt.

"If farmers went out and drove their trees lines that are covered in phalaris they would be amazed how many foxes would be their on winter days. One farmer just needs to walk through and flush them out to the one at the end to shoot."

In terms of bounties, Mr McFarlane said from a shooters perspective it's a great incentive to go out for a couple more nights a week and to help cover costs, but from an ex-ranger point of view, he said the money would be better invested in baiting programs or something similar.


Cara Jeffery

is the national sheep and wool writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


13/07/2015 5:53:09 AM

For half the cost of 1 lamb per light Mr Mc Farlane could deploy some Foxlights ( Ausie invention) around his lambing ewes and find his lamb survival rate increase far more dramatically than by trying to shoot all the foxes as he can never get them all. They work!
Chick Olsson
13/07/2015 7:25:52 AM

Great article Cara. We have started shooting religiously ourselves as well as employing shooters. 35 foxes in one night recently.
13/07/2015 8:52:03 AM

Fox lights, haha, What a crack up! Lost count of the number of foxes I've shot within fifty yards of the neighbours fox lights when he's lambing. Snake oil.
13/07/2015 9:06:30 AM

Ian my neighbours who live on a large fenced creek & are ex city green types gave them a go & while they confused some younger foxes the older ones largely ignored them.Baiting & shooting much more effective .The foxes dined by torch light .
13/07/2015 9:10:18 AM

"They tried baiting with 1080, but believed it was unsuccessful as the baits were untouched" They are spending money on shooters but not baiting????
Ex farmer
13/07/2015 10:44:39 AM

Good work and money well spent, all breeding stock are worth a lot of money and it takes years to build up a good mob of ewes and you don't want to lose the next generation to foxes. Our annual fox shoot had a point system 1 point for a rabbit, 10 for a fox, 15 for a cat and 20 for a cat with a collar. Foxes, cats and rabbits do untold damage to the environment, native animals and livestock. Baiting and shooting works you just have to keep doing it.
13/07/2015 12:13:00 PM

Jacky Shooting is far more humane than using 1080,the RSPCA agree with this. Death is instant with a good shot,1080 can take up to 4 days to kill the animal which then must be buried or burnt according to regulations as it will be toxic for other animals and eagles who might eat the carcass. People have lost working dogs to 1080,i can understand why some say it should be banned.
13/07/2015 1:55:04 PM

Aaron, are you a hunter? 1080 will not take 4 days to kill a fox, and is very biodegradable meaning carcasses are safe very quickly. Eagles like all Australian natives have a very high tolerance of 1080.
14/07/2015 11:22:46 AM

Jacky Not a hunter just someone who grew up with my mother holding a spotlight so my father could shoot foxes/rabbits. I suggest you read the guidelines for using 1080 it clearly says carcasses must be burnt or buried as they are toxic,i will take what the guidelines for using 1080 say. Shooting is cheaper and less work for me compared to using 1080, I am sick of people like you suggesting I use a less humane method that involves more work and money.
Love the country
21/07/2015 7:03:55 AM

We have no dogs and bait all the time, if you don't huge losses as we are in a area of total cropping and those farmers do nothing. Plovers have come back in big numbers since we started baiting again and it's all good.
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