Community digs deep for baits

Kate MatthewsCountryman

Sheep farmers at Goodlands, north of Kalannie, are forming a declared species group in the fight against wild dogs.

More than 20 farmers met last week and pledged $10,000 towards a baiting program.

They are hoping for the State Government to match the amount through funding for declared species groups.

The farmers say more than 300 sheep have been killed and other 300 mauled in the last three months.

The financial cost is well over $100,000 when breeding potential is included and some farmers have already sold out of sheep.

It's also having a flow through effect on the community with less sheep for shearing and mulesing contractors, less wool for brokers and less shipping wethers.

Group chairman Ashley Sanderson , who has lost 30 sheep including lambs in the past two weeks, said the impact would start to affect stud breeders in the south who supply many northern sheep producers.

Mr Sanderson said the primary focus of the group will be baiting, fencing and getting a full-time dogger.

At the meeting, 900 baits injected with 1080 poison were made with help from a dogger and another 4000 will be made this week and laid during community baiting days this month and in July.

"The biggest expense is to employ a dogger for $450 a day to inject the baits, but we would prefer a dogger to do it so it's done right," Mr Sanderson said.

It also costs $120 per litre for the 1080 poison and there are additional costs for safety equipment.

The group has decided it will look toward industry groups including exporters and stock agents for funding to help them fight wild dogs.

They need to install a 45km lap wire on the Yilgarn-Lake More fence where the dogs are getting through, which has been quoted at $650/km for the fencing and an additional $900/km for contractors to install.

Mr Sanderson said the community would be more than happy to donate labour if the fencing materials were supplied.

The group is also hoping to have a dedicated dogger for the shire, employed for 200 days a year.

Kalannie farmers Robin and Kay Hester warn if nothing is done, the situation will only get worse for the State's declining sheep numbers.

"If no action is taken, in two years time, wild dogs will be prolific in the Hills, at Toodyay," Mr Hester said.

Lending a hand to the cause is the Shire of Dalwallinu which has offered to provide administrative support.

Shire chief executive Peter Crispin said dogs could travel more than 30km a night, which was a big concern for the community.

Mr Crispin said the Shire was looking at ways to increase the presence of a dogger, who was currently allocated 100 days covering from Lake More to the coast, a distance of 570km.

Wild dog attacks are becoming more and more common according to Invasive species project manager for the northern agriculture region Tim Stevens.

"The northern agriculture region has seen dog attacks in the past three years but its nothing compared to the reports received in the last four months," he said.

The increase, Mr Stevens said was due to greater awareness among farmers for signs of dog attack coupled with dog population growth.

"At the end of the day, you get a far greater effect though a community effort and this funding, dollar for dollar which we can match to a certain point, can be an incentive to go a bit extra," he said.

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