Lamb and wool producers have pegged their hopes on series of cluster fence to stop wild dog attacks.
Lamb and wool producers have pegged their hopes on series of cluster fence to stop wild dog attacks. Katherine Morris

Huge fencing subsidy to revive Southern Downs wool industry

SHEEP torn apart by wild dogs is a common sight for Karara graziers Bruce and Angela McLeish. Over the past 12 years they have lost about 1000 head to wild dog attacks.

"In our worst year we lost over 400 wethers to one wild dog that we couldn't get," Mr McLeish said.

"When we finally got it with a bait the killing stopped."

For decades Mr McLeish and his neighbours have fought a losing battle with wild dogs but that could change soon with the state and federal governments announcing $1.7million in subsidies to build cluster fences in the Southern Downs.

The fences will enclose 60 wool and lamb properties at Karara, Pikedale and the Traprock region. "We have been using our traditional methods of baiting, trapping and shooting but they are not cutting it, even though we are taking a lot of dogs out," Mr McLeish said.

"But exclusion fencing has proven to be very successful.

"It'll be game changer if we can eliminate the movement of dogs and eradicate those inside the fences."

Each kilometre of the dog-proof fencing is estimated to cost about $10,000.

The subsidy will cover between a quarter and half the cost with landholders making up the difference.

Sections of the barrier will join with the Darling Downs- Moreton Rabbit Fence and the Stanthorpe Wild Dog Spur Fence.

 

The undulating and rocky land in the Southern Downs sheep grazing areas is some of the most rugged country in Queensland.

"We might have to put a strainer post every 200m whereas in Wester Queensland producers can go 2-3 km without having to put in one," Mr McLeish said.

The landscape also provides the perfect habitat for wild dogs and over the years their attacks haven taken their toll on farmers.

 

In the Traprock region alone, herd numbers fell from 300,000 to about 100,000 in a decade.

 

"We have record wool, lamb and mutton prices so the timing of the funding is perfect," he said.

"You can be paying up to $110 for wethers at the sale just to see them killed the next day.

"The worst thing for wool growers is if they lose a sheep in its first year, they lose four years' income from its wool plus the sale price from the animal's meat at the end of its life."

Mr McLeish pointed to a recent study by the Longreach Regional Council that found every dollar invested in cluster fencing returned $3.60 to the local economy.

The money comes from extra labourers, truck drivers and shearers and better farmer incomes.

"The bang for the buck is brilliant," he said.

"That money goes back into the schools, back into the supermarkets, to the builders and everyone else."

Coupled with Warwick hosting the only dedicated sheep selling complex in Southern Queensland, Mr McLeish said the region could see the abattoir at Wallangarra re-open.

"The reason why it was so successful was because it had so many sheep on its doorstep."

Aside more jobs Mr McLeish welcomed the emotional safety. "The fences have a big psychological importance," he said.

"If you see your sheep torn to pieces is wears you down."



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