AgForce Sheep and Wool president Brent Finlay and Gore sheep grazier Sandy Smith at a predator control day held at Greymare last August.
AgForce Sheep and Wool president Brent Finlay and Gore sheep grazier Sandy Smith at a predator control day held at Greymare last August.

Wild dogs savage sheep

WHEN sheep producer Ben Cory walked into his paddock on Monday afternoon he discovered the horror every grazier fears.

Six of his ewes had been brutally attacked and killed by a pack of wild dogs.

He believes the ewes were most likely killed on Saturday night.

Mr Cory said there was little he could do to stop them.

While there have been mixed reports across the Southern Downs and Granite Belt, it appears the dogs are back out in epidemic numbers.

Mr Cory said just two weeks ago he trapped a wild dog – the first dog he had been able to catch in a trap.

The alpacas he has to protect the flock were ineffective against the wild dogs.

However, he said the alpacas had deterred foxes, and protected his lambs from the smaller menace.

Crucial situation

DALVEEN sheep producer and AgForce Sheep and Wool president Brent Finlay is convinced the only way the wild dogs could be defeated or, at least controlled, was if producers work together.

Mr Finlay, who is the chairman of the National Wild Dog Management Advisory Group and the newly formed Queensland Dog Offensive Group (QDOG), spoke with the Daily News yesterday from Canberra where he was at the quarterly Sheepmeat Council of Australia meeting.

He is the Queensland representative on the council.

Last Monday the QDOG, which was formed in response to the Kenny Review, had its second meeting.

He is confident the group can come up with some good solutions to solve the wild dog problem.

“We’re working very closely with local government to improve their awareness and the tools they and all landholders have to control dogs,” he said.

“We’ve continued to work extremely hard on developing new methods of killing dogs.

“One of the things that hinders widespread baiting programs is the supply of bait; we are looking at possibly securing supplies of baits.”

Mr Finlay said one of his sheep was savaged by a wild dog at Dalveen about two weeks ago, but that was the first contact with dogs he had noticed for four months.

“At a local level the dogs are still around and again it’s really important to push that it’s landholders’ responsibility to control the dogs,” he said.

“As landholders we need to be proactive, we need to talk to each other and undertake control programs together – it’s the only way we’ll bring the dogs under control.”

“We’ve got to work together.”

Mr Finlay said an integral part of the QDOG strategy was implementing co-ordinated control programs.

“Part of the strategy we bring to the table is this co-ordinated control programs with the landholders, private or public,” he said.

“The dogs don’t recognise boundaries ... we also have the cross-border issue we are working on, co-ordinating cross-border control programs with New South Wales.”

Industry on the rise, if it weren’t for the dogs

IF the wild dogs weren’t impacting so much on profitability and, in some cases, forcing producers out of the sheep industry, growing lambs would otherwise be a great place to be making your money this year.

Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) yearly forecasts released this month are predicting another year of high prices and profitability is on the way for Australia’s lamb producers, underpinned by strong overseas and domestic demand for the product.

Launching MLA’s 2010 Sheep Projections, sheepmeat analyst Kara Tighe said Australian lamb production was on track to post a record high in 2010, up two per cent on 2009 levels, despite the sheep flock likely to reach its lowest level since 1905.

“The key factor underpinning this production growth is improved pasture conditions in southern Australia combined with the positive price signals for lamb that continue to drive the shift in flock composition towards prime lamb production,” Mrs Tighe said.

The sheep flock is expected to post further falls this year, however the rate of liquidation is forecast to slow to about 2 per cent in 2010, to 69.9 million head.

“Healthy profits for most prime lamb producers are predicted as near insatiable demand in some markets, matched with tight global supplies, should see the maintenance of high saleyard and over-the-hooks prices,” she said.

However, Australian exporters may endure a more difficult year, due to the strong Australian dollar and high lamb prices.

“The global financial and economic crises and runaway Australian dollar failed to contain the momentum of Australian lamb in 2009, with record high prices and export volumes and strong domestic demand,” Mrs Tighe said.

On the sheep front, saleyard, live export and over-the-hooks prices are expected to post new highs as sheep turn-off declines and Middle Eastern demand remains strong, the MLA forecasts stated.

However, mutton production is forecast to fall 13 per cent in 2010 year-on-year to 188,000 tonnes carcase weight (cwt) while live sheep exports are also expected to fall 13 per cent to 3.1 million head. Mutton exports are predicted to decline by 12 per cent to 119,000 tonnes swt.

Elders Warwick branch manager George McVeigh said the company held its first special breeder sale on Saturday which was well attended by buyers and sellers.

“We had the special sale here on Saturday, which was very well supported and the market was very good ... the future looks good for sucker lambs,” he said.

“The buyers were mainly local people ... the lambs have been pretty good for a well. Prices have been very firm and the special sale we had was very well supported.”

Mr Finlay said, if it weren’t for the dogs, the sheep industry was in a great position.

“The sheep meat industry in Queensland now is just roaring along,” he said.

“It’s potentially a profitable industry and the outlook is very bright, as long as we can get rid of the dogs,” he said.

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