Dogs force sheep out of area
IN the past six months alone Greymare graziers Raymund and Margaret Cleary have lost 60 sheep to wild dogs.
He has been forced to start installing a new fence at his own expense to try and protect his flock.
The lifelong farmer has slowly watched more and more of his neighbours being forced out of sheep until just two remain in the industry.
He says the situation has reached a critical point.
“We’ve got dogs constantly, we just seem to catch one before another arrives,” he said.
“There’s not many sheep in the area now ... most people are going out of sheep.”
Mr Cleary said a huge part of the problem was that landholders, public and private, were not working together in the district.
“The trouble is a lot of people are going into cattle and when they’ve got cattle they don’t worry about the dogs as much,” he said.
“Those people are not doing enough and that’s a major problem, when you’re one of the only ones with sheep it makes it extremely difficult.
“There is no return in the sheep, there’s no profit if you’re losing them. When you’ve got everybody helping one another it just makes that much more difference.”
Mr Cleary said he had just begun installing a wild dog barrier fence on his property, Well Station.
“I’ve done a kilometre now and it’s only a start but if we had more neighbours interested in doing the same sort of thing we wouldn’t have half the problem,” he said.
“The government should help us fence a lot of our country; this is where they’re slipping up.
“It’s a breakdown in the community if you’re not helping your neighbour.”
Mr Cullen, who has been at Greymare all his life on the same property his family settled in the late 1800s, said he had been forced into some cattle to continue to try and make money out of the 5000-acre block.
“It’s very difficult because a lot of our country is sheep country not cattle country, but I have converted some of my country over to dry cattle,” he said.
“Nobody owns the dogs and they are everybody’s problem. We’ve got dogs coming from the east, the north, the south and the west here.
“The government says we’ve got to do something but they do nothing, they might put on these field days but getting down and doing the job is the main thing.”
Michael Welsh was forced to make one of the hardest decisions of his life last year.
His family has grazed sheep at Everleigh near Karara since 1973 but last year, after losing 250 head last year to wild dogs, he was forced to all but get out of the industry.
“I had to get out because of the dogs, I only have 150 sheep left now and they’re in a secure paddock ... I just couldn’t keep the dogs out,” he said.
“About this time last year I made the decision. One dog was creating havoc ... we had a dog drive and that was the only way we got him.
“I would have lost 10 per cent of my sheep over a 12-month period.”
Mr Welsh said in the end it was a combination of the loss of profit and stress which forced him out.
“It was just heartbreaking, we try to look after our stock to the best of our ability,” he said.
“It’s also the stress factor, when you go out there and see three dead and another couple maimed ... that’s what probably drove me out.”
Mr Welsh now grazes cattle, but he said he would look to try and get back into the wool-growing industry if costs allowed him to install wild dog barrier fencing.
“I’d like to go back into them but I’ve got to spend money to put electrified fencing up and the time and cost of doing that is not feasible at the moment,” he said.
“We work as a co-ordinated team but the dogs are very cunning and hard to get. We all work together to try and get on top of the problem.”
He said the dogs were now as bad as they had ever been.
“It’s got too constant, we used to get the odd dog but now we get a dog in and it’s just so hard to get them, it takes months to get them,” he said.
“I’m in cattle now ... single dogs are OK to deal with cattle but I’ve heard of packs of dogs killing calves so we don’t let up.
“We still bait and we still try and get those dogs, we don’t want to let them get into a situation where they can attack in packs.”
Heather Weeks runs sheep at Swan Creek on Mirambeena and she said she was forced to diversify her operation because of the wild dogs.
“I had to stop breeding sheep and switch to just having a lamb feedlot,” she said.
“I have been farming sheep here at Swan Creek for 20 years ... when we got into that really dry spell leading up to winter 2008 it was just too hard to cope with the dogs and the dry and everything so I sold the breeding block and improved the lamb feedlot, which is behind 12-foot high fences.
“I did away with the breeding altogether. I used to keep about 50 ewes ... at any one time, the last kill I had I think I lost six lambs in broad daylight, I came back in at 6pm and there were bodies lying everywhere.”
She said baiting programs had helped the dog problem.
“I do think out in the Swan Creek area the dog problem has been alleviated a bit with the baiting programs but it goes in waves,” she said.
“I work full-time in town and I’m not home to guard the lambs all the time so I just made that decision.
“For years and years I locked them up every night.”