Dogs destroy more than livestock
IN THE wake of Wild Dog Week last week, three sheep producers wives tell of the toll wild dogs are taking on their livelihoods and relationships.
The Bush Telegraph caught up with Traprock wool growers Kim Costello, Janelle Cleary and Jackie Cullen, on the morning State Agriculture Minister John McVeigh announced $700,000 for council and industry to combat the growing menace across Queensland.
Jackie and her husband, Ian Cullen, run 2000 merino wethers on the family's 1619-hectare property, Rockdale, at Karara, have been plagued by the increasing wild dog problem for the past 10 years.
"Ian is a fourth-generation sheep producer and keeps a diary of every wild dog he's killed. Since September 2012, we have lost 180 sheep to dogs," Jackie said.
"He gets down when he loses sheep and that makes me worry about him because we have to have him to keep the farm going," she said.
Kim's husband, Andrew Costello, a third-generation wool producer from Thanes Creek, is frustrated by the lack of assistance for growers suffering from wild dog losses.
The Costellos run 3000 merinos on their 3238ha property, and have lost hundreds of sheep to wild dogs in the past couple of years.
He pulled down the fence his great-grandfather built more than 100 years ago, and constructed a new four-foot high ring lock, barb and electric wire fence over 29km. It has taken him almost three years and it is all but finished.
Kim said it had taken its toll on their livelihood as well as their social and family life.
"I had to wait for Andrew to go on a dingo drive last Friday before we could go away to celebrate our 27th wedding anniversary," she said. "It's hard to get him away from home for any amount of time as he worries something bad will happen while he's away."
Kim recalls what her family describes as the "Mother's day massacre" several years ago.
"We were going out for Mother's Day in Toowoomba but suffered a very bad wild dog attack and lost several sheep. We were all so upset we never ended up going," she said.
Kim said the financial losses made a huge impact also but "money isn't everything".
"It's how it affects us emotionally that takes the greatest toll."
Both women agree "it's like winning lotto", when their husbands trap a dog that has been killing sheep.
"They are on a high when they kill a dog that has been doing a lot of damage but, within a week, there's another dog to take its place," Jackie said.
She recalled her husband trapping a menacing dog one morning, then heading into the sheep sale in Warwick that day.
"While he was driving into town a dingo ran across the road so he knew he was in for more trouble when he got home," she said.
So frustrated by his predicament, Jackie's husband has erected his own dog-proof fence around the family property.
"He pulled down the fence his great-grandfather built more than 100 years ago, and constructed a new four-foot high ring lock, barb and electric wire fence over 29km. It has taken him almost three years and it is all but finished," she said.
Jackie said she and Ian had considered selling but that brought with it a new set of problems.
"Where will we go and what will we do? It's all Ian has ever known. He was born into it."
Mr McVeigh also announced the government would allocate $250,000 for councils in southern, central and north-western Queensland to undertake wild dog control.
"The key to controlling wild dogs across such vast areas is co-ordination," he said.
"Ideally, all councils should be using available resources and strategies to ensure a consistent approach.
"All of our hard work is undone if wild dogs are not controlled in adjoining council areas."
Mr McVeigh said potential projects could involve local mapping and control in areas where wild dog numbers were
concentrated and having a significant effect on communities.
"Over the past year, our concerted efforts have started to see some inroads against the wild dog problem but we have to keep up the pressure and find new ways of reducing their numbers and impacts."
Another woolgrowers' wife, Janelle Cleary, was clearly less than impressed by the announcement.
She and her husband, Peter, operate a sheep property at Greymare, and have been fighting an uphill battle against wild dogs for many years - losing 400 head in one year alone.
Janelle said Mr McVeigh's funding announcement was encouraging but was all about education and co-ordination.
"There is no mention of the producer who is catching the dogs and whose livelihood is affected by their destruction," she said.
"Lose one sheep - that's five years of production. I'd like to say the dogs have eaten our new car, put a stop to repairing the veranda and haven't come to paint the house.
"Being greeted each day by mauled sheep still walking around injured in such a way it has to be put down probably makes Peter more determined to catch the culprit but desperate in the fact that there are more dogs to come.
"Nobody counts the loss of time - one or two days a week - when normal farm duties are put aside to look for tracks , set and check traps and attend meetings, not to mention the endless phone calls.
"These tasks are left to the few remaining sheep producers. Why should we have to feed the wild dogs?
All three husbands are members of the Southern Downs Community Wild Dog Management Advisory Committee which meets about four times a year at Dalveen.
"They do have a good network now. They ring each other up and talk about the dog problem," Kim said.
"They contact each other quite regularly especially if there's been a sighting or they've trapped one (dog).
"Year ago when you trapped a dog, that was it for a while but now it's more constant. As soon as you kill one, another one moves in," she said.
All three wives agreed more funding and/or assistance was required to prevent sheep producers from selling up flocks, or even their properties.
"We need to cull the wild dogs as the numbers are so great now," Kim said.
"Incomes on the land are shrinking anyway and this doesn't help.
"Our husbands are exhausted and, at times, depressed. We need answers and soon."