Wheatbelt farmers dogged by lamb losses

Lauren CelenzaCountryman

Wild dogs have caused major losses on sheep farms in the central Wheatbelt this month.

Koorda farmers Greg and Sandy Westlund have lost 40 lambs in the past four weeks.

Mr Westlund suspected at least 25 of the lambs were killed and eaten by wild dogs.

“The lambs we found were about six weeks old and they had kill marks on the neck and they had been eaten from the rib cage back, ” he said.

“That seems to be the way dogs kill and eat them.”

Mr Westlund said eagles and foxes had also been plaguing the area.

“Foxes generally take a tongue and a tail and a bit of the jaw, but they don’t eat the whole thing like dogs do, ” he said. “We have never had losses to this extent.”

After last year’s drought, the couple reduced their flock. They now run only 650 ewes, and Mr Westlund said the lamb losses would be a big hit to their bank balance.

“It takes a lot of cream off the crop, ” he said. “Lambs are worth a fair bit of money, but even if they weren’t, it’s still money lost losing that many.”

Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) biosecurity officer Kate Detchon said wild dogs were on the look out for food, because it was their breeding season.

“There has been a lot of dog activity in the past few weeks, ” she said.

Ms Detchon, who is based in Wongan Hills, said there had been reports of pairs of dogs in surrounding areas.

“We believe they are breeding up in the northern agricultural region, ” she said.

Ms Detchon also said there had recently been a sighting of four wild dogs that took down a kangaroo in Manmanning.

“It’s important that people report any sightings to the department so the resources can be put in the right areas, ” she said.

“There have been a few wild dogs shot around Koorda, and recent sightings in Burakin and Kirwan.

“Sheep in the Jibberding area have been lost to dogs this year.”

Mr Westlund said he would increase baiting on his Manmanning property, but could not say whether it was effective.

“They are cunning animals, so it’s hard to sight them, ” he said.

“We have been taught how to trap the dogs, but baiting with 1080 is the best option we have at the moment.”

Mr Westlund said they suspected the dogs were breeding in lake systems, after coming from station country.

A part-time dogger paid for by Royalties for Regions funding is due to be appointed soon and will operate in the northern agricultural region.

DAFWA reported that wild dog activity across the far eastern Wheatbelt had declined.

Stock losses in the area have decreased and, for the first time since 2006, the number of wild dogs destroyed in the region has started to decrease.

These results have been largely attributed to a partnership between State Government, local governments, farmers and mining companies in the eastern Wheatbelt.

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