Wild dog fight personal for NFF president

14 Jul, 2014 02:00 AM
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NFF president Brent Finlay.
Now even I am questioning how much longer I’ll be in sheep because of dogs
NFF president Brent Finlay.

BRENT Finlay is seen mostly in a suit these days, but the National Farmers' Federation (NFF) president has another life on the family farm at Inglewood, Queensland, where he is just another sheep farmer battling dogs.

To his own surprise and dismay, Mr Finlay is looking hard at the future of sheep as an enterprise because dogs are having such an impact on profitability. The family has run sheep on the farm for about a century.

Three years ago - several years after Mr Finlay got heavily involved in wild dog policy with AgForce - a pack of six to seven dogs cost him 600 sheep in 12 months. His neighbour lost 1400.

The dogs were cleaned up, and Mr Finlay built an electric fence around vulnerable areas of his property and got on with business.

Over Easter this year, an electric fence failure allowed another four dogs into the property.

Mr Finlay estimates the death toll as being “in the hundreds”, although he’s yet to do a full muster.

“I found 15 killed in one day, and you don’t see them all in our country. That was one day, and these dogs worked us for a month,” he said.

“We caught two in traps, and we baited one, but we’ve still got the main dog. He’s obviously a jumper, and that takes the electricity out of the equation.

“Now even I am questioning how much longer I’ll be in sheep because of dogs. Dogs are one of the very few things that can take you from a profitable operation to an unprofitable one.”

Mr Finlay has been batting away at wild dog policy for six years. To his immense frustration, the problem has only become worse in that time.

He advocates a tough line: that landholder failure to participate in dog control should be a prosecutable offence, like failure to manage noxious weeds.

That legislation is already in place in Queensland, but no government has yet had the will to enforce it.

“We have people out there who are champions, who do everything in their power to control dogs,” Mr Finlay said.

“But we also have landholders, public and private, whose dog control is not sufficient.

“I don’t want to see landholders prosecuted, or forced into anything, but the dog issue impacts on the whole of the community. The legislation is there: it needs to be used.”

Dogs are not a personal problem, Mr Finlay said. They are everyone’s problem.

“Having cattle provides a false sense of security. When the sheep aren’t there, the dogs start on the cattle,” he said.

“I’ve known of 13 dogs working a heifer that was calving, and not only eating the calf but her as well. We’re talking about packs of dogs, and they will take on anything. I’ve heard of calving percentages reduced to 15 per cent on PTIC cattle.”

Depressed cattle prices have made many Queensland landholders consider a move back into sheep. But unless they are prepared to build defensive fences, Mr Finlay said, they usually can’t exercise that option because of wild dogs.

Queensland, which once had large areas celebrated for their capacity to produce wool, now only has about 2.3 million sheep - less than Tasmania, and half the human population of the State.

Mr Finlay commended those who worked to develop the National Wild Dog Action Plan, and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce for his support of a national approach.

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FarmOnline
Matthew Cawood

Matthew Cawood

is the national science and environment writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
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READER COMMENTS

farmerbarb
14/07/2014 6:39:14 AM

Brent, I am a goat breeder and have lost literally thousands of goats during the past 20 years that I have been breeding goats. Once I had several hundred a mixture of stud Boers and cashmeres. Despite them breeding well, yesterday when I did my annual count I had 32 left! Unless all landowners in an area are involved (should have to be) in controlling these pests, we are never going to be able to control them and most of us will leave the industry. I am now breeding cattle. There is the stress too of shooting maimed stock left to die. If only the dogs ate them it would be easier to take.
Chick Olsson
14/07/2014 9:09:34 AM

Lots of blah blah from the NFF President. Lets see if the NFF can actually do something practical rather than just admire the problem and suck on levies to undertake further studies.
AW
14/07/2014 9:48:00 AM

I attended Lambex in Adelaide last week where a session was committed to information on wild dogs, with affected farmers telling their stories, as well as industry reps supporting the stories and encouraging action. My thanks to all who speak up. I am in SA and much less affected, but how long will it be before I am. Full steam ahead with a national approach and MAXIMUM support to producers to get the problem under control. I spoke with a WA farmer a couple of years ago... he could not allow farm workers to go out alone for fear of dog attack...his story has stayed with me.
Russell
14/07/2014 10:59:41 AM

A large number of station owners who used to run sheep went over to cattle with the belief that they would no longer have to worry about dogs. How wrong this has proved. Everybody must be involved including the government owned properties.
Jacky
14/07/2014 1:03:37 PM

Am I reading this right - the NFF is backing govt to prosecute landholders?
piece maker
14/07/2014 1:37:06 PM

Rather than offering solutions to the destructive wild dog problem Chick Olsson takes a cheap shot at the NFF president. Sheep producers in particular and the broader wool industry continually suffer because of petty wool industry politics.
Chick Olsson
14/07/2014 2:37:16 PM

Piece maker, don't let fear stop you. Give us your real name and come out of the closet.
LC
14/07/2014 4:53:51 PM

Having run cattle on the NSW mid north coast, I know only too well how the wild dog situation is unbelievably out of control. Not only are dogs taking calves, they are maiming larger animals too and leaving them to die horrendous deaths. Sheep are totally out of the question and are lucky to last a few weeks before the dogs find and kill them en masse. These dogs are so brazen they wander about in numbers in broad day light. The answer is to put a sizable bounty on their head and encourage the professionals and land owners to make a concerted effort to kill them all. They serve no good use.
Inverell
14/07/2014 5:39:23 PM

Lets look at the fact that the LHPA's rangers were running chemical training for 1080 but making rate payers pay for the course. If I am doing a public service baiting foxes and dogs, I shouldn't have to pay for the baits and also pay to get a ticket to lay them! Dogs and foxes also eat native animals too. If they relax the rules on 1080 use and reduce the regulations, more people would bait. Why is it you can pass a driving test and never do one again but a farmer is made do a chemical course every 5 years?? Making jobs at our expense again.
mouse
21/07/2014 3:35:56 PM

Exactly so Inverell - better still REWARD us for our efforts to control National Wild Dogs, Cats and other destructive pest species that prey upon Natives.
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