Donkeys keep dogs on the hoof

28 Jun, 2015 02:00 AM
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They are one tool we use to keep the dogs away, but we still need to bait and get trappers in
"Ardrossan" manager, John Whitley, Holbrook, NSW, with first cross lambing ewes being protected by two donkeys from wild dogs.

LIVESTOCK producers in southern NSW are ramping up their fight against wild dogs with baiting, trapping and donkeys all part of the arsenal.

Rob and Sally Bulle introduced donkeys to their Holbrook property "Ardrossan" two years ago to help combat wild dog attacks against their first-cross ewe flock - particularly at lambing time.

The donkeys - a mixture of jacks and jennys - have proven their worth and have remained a fixture on the property.

However, "Ardrossan" manager John Whitley said they were not the silver bullet to the persistent problem.

"They are one tool we use to keep the dogs away, but we still need to bait and get trappers in," he said.

The 2200 ewes were split into 10 mobs for lambing, which was presently underway, and as they only had eight donkeys they concentrated the donkeys on protecting sheep at the rear of the property that was closest to the Woomargama National Park and Crown Land.

Mr Whitley said the donkeys lived up to their guardian status when some sheep got out of a protected paddock.

Unfortunately wild dogs attacked some of those that fled the paddock, while those that stayed with the donkeys were unharmed.

He said when he started at the property seven years ago wild dogs weren't an issue, but now dog sightings and attacks were more frequent.

"As soon as you let your guard down they come back."

Group success

Mr Bulle and Mr Whitley were both part of the Holbrook wild dog control group which involved Murray Local Land Services (LLS), National Parks and NSW State Forests and other landholders, with the aim of taking a co-ordinated approach to wild dog control.

The group conducted a co-ordinated baiting program over the last eight weeks.

There are 70 properties within the Murray LLS involved in baiting programs.

In the past eight weeks, Mr Whitley had put out 30 kilograms of bait (meat injected with 1080) on "Ardrossan" on three occasions in an effort to clean up foxes and dogs while lambing.

Both Mr Whitley and Mr Bulle have sighted the dogs prowling the properties in daylight.

A neighbour sighted six dogs working in pairs working a mob of ewes on "Ardrossan".

Following this a trapper camped at the property for 10 days and captured the six dogs plus another two.

Mr Whitley has also sighted a wild dog singling out a calf.

Controlled burns in the nearby State forest tended to flush out dogs on the farming country, hence, the group Mr Whitley was part of planned to implement perimeter baiting programs in the future at the same time as the scheduled burns.

Mr Whitley was interested to learn where the dogs trapped on the property had ventured from, something that will be possible from GPS collars that will be fitted to 30 dogs in the Murray LLS and Riverina LLS as part of a research project that would commence soon.

Department of Primary Industries researcher, Guy Ballard, Armidale, NSW, will oversee the 12-month project which will obtain dog movements and will be used to implement effective baiting and trapping programs in the future.

Riverina LLS biosecurity and emergency manager, Ray Willis, Wagga Wagga, NSW, said they had worked with local wild dogs groups and contract pest animal controllers to determine the areas to trap the dogs for collaring - essentially away from landholder boundaries.

Mr Willis said once collared, the dogs would be trapped and baited as normal.

"If a collared dog takes bait or is trapped they are taken out as per usual, we want the project to show how effective trapping and baiting is, but the main aim is to track their habits, how much country they cover, where they are coming from and going to," he said.

Mr Willis said they were interested to know if dogs were travelling to and from Victoria.

"The more knowledge we can get the more efficiently we can use our resources."

Mr Willis said it has been a bad year for wild dogs in the Riverina as 74 dogs had been trapped or shot since March.

"We are hoping to get some population estimates from the collaring project also."

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Cara Jeffery

is the national sheep and wool writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media

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