Rural

Farmers aren't doing wild dog baiting program anymore

CONFUSION around the requirements for wild dog baiting has lead to a drop in farmer participation; meaning this season's newborn calves are more vulnerable to attacks than before.

In 2013, 77 landholders agreed to put out poisoned meat on their properties to kill wild dogs. This year that number is down to 44.

It's an improvement on 2014 though, when just 34 landholders put out poisoned meat baits, but farmers fear it won't be enough to keep the dogs under control.

Gladstone Regional Council runs the program in partnership with the State Government. It says confusion around the requirements for farmers is to blame for the drop in numbers.

But farmers say it's the council that's making it difficult.

Former councillor Leo Neill-Ballantine wants the council to "stop sitting on their d*cks" and take a more active role in encouraging more people to bait by making the process easier.

He runs cattle on a 60,000-acre property 'Galloway Plains' in Calliope and has just finished putting out 340 poisoned meat baits.

He's been baiting every six months for as long as he can remember; yet he says he has to fill out a new set of forms for the same property, each time he does it.

"Every time there is baiting you always have to make a trip to town to talk to some muppet and when I say a muppet, it's hard to blame the office girl because she's following council's procedure, but they are doing everything on Google Earth and they always seem to balls it up," Mr Neill-Ballantine said. "Why can't they just send out a form that's already got all the (property) lot plans already on it?

"They need to cut the red tape."

Wild dog baiting with 1080 poison is used in rural communities across Queensland to fight losses from wild dog attacks which cost the grazing industry more than $60million a year.

And with average cattle prices nearing $2.40 per kilogram (the highest they have been during the latest drought period) farmers have much more to lose.

And it is a bother --- filling out eight pages of paperwork, notifying the neighbours, including placing signs around the property, and returning the forms to council two weeks before taking the meat to be injected with poison.

Mr Neill-Ballantine said the whole process ran smoothly until one council employee, who was managing pest control, retired.

"Since then things have gone pear shaped," Mr Neill-Ballantine said.

"It seems as though the council is trying to reinvent the wheel, but a lot of people have been baiting the same country for years and for them it sticks out like dog's balls that it's the council making it harder."

Gladstone Regional Council said it had taken steps since 2013 to ensure farmers better understood their responsibilities in the baiting program which costs the council $5000 a year to run.

There have been no formal complaints about the program and there are no plans to change the way it is carried out on a council level.

- HELEN SPELITIS




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The improvement would be mild when compared to past cycles