Wild dogs devastate wool grower
DEVASTATING is the only word Karara woolgrower Ian Cullen can think of to describe the chilling fact wild dogs have killed more than 180 sheep on his property since September.
The sheep were fully grown wethers, shorn six months ago, yet depressingly absent from his most recent muster.
There is no disguising the harrowing financial and emotional impact of the losses on Mr Cullen and his wife Jackie, who have become reluctant fighters in the battle to contain wild dogs.
I have 15 traps set at the moment and I spend half a day, each day, checking them. It is incredibly frustrating.
In the past two years Mr Cullen has shot or trapped 45 dogs - including a young bitch just days ago - in a war they fear they are losing.
"We get one dog and then another arrives," he said.
"I have 15 traps set at the moment and I spend half a day, each day, checking them.
"It is incredibly frustrating."
Yet the Southern Downs producer remains determined to stay in wool.
Mr Cullen believes it is the perfect industry for his type of country and there is no doubting his ability when it comes to production.
At this month's Warwick Show, he won the coveted champion extra super fine fleece with a 15.3 micron entry, which impressed judges with its 3.5kg weight.
The fleece was shorn in September when the Cullens' clip averaged 17.1 microns and sold for 1110c/kg.
"I was really pleased with our win at the show, I was actually surprised my fleece was that fine," Mr Cullen said.
"Things are looking pretty good this season too; we are going into winter with good feed.
"We've also had rain on the 60 acres of oats we planted so it's been a good year in that sense."
What's overshadowing the season gains and a quality clip is the Cullens' ongoing battle with wild dogs.
Increasing dog pressure has forced them to shift wethers from country they agisted on Glendon Station and cost them a "huge" amount in better fencing.
Four years ago, Mr Cullen started putting up dog-proof fencing - "four foot hinge joint with an electric wire".
Today he has finished more than 29km and just one small section remains and then he hopes to have his Merinos on the safe side of a dog-proof paddock.
"I have 3km to go and I will have 4000 acres fully fenced and hopefully dog-proof," Mr Cullen said.
"Traditionally, wild dogs haven't jumped fences so I am really hoping we will keep them out.
"The dog problem has just escalated so I am glad I started the fencing four years ago."
When the Bush Tele caught up with Mr Cullen, he had trapped two dogs in two weeks and passed another wild dog on the highway between Warwick and Karara at 8.30am on his way into the Wednesday sheep sale.
"The number of wild dogs out there is just scary and as a producer we're really struggling."