Team effort cuts stock losses

Better together: Co-ordinated community baiting programs need to be put on the calendar, such as shearing or summer drenching programs.

Wild dog predation in Victoria is trending down thanks in large part to co-ordinated community efforts.

The operations manager for the Hume and Mallee regions, Craig Hamilton, outlined the trend on a webinar hosted by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (Forest, Fire and Regions) Wild Dog Program.

He said the program performed control work in response to incident reports for livestock killed, maimed or harassed by wild dogs across 16 wild dog management zones in eastern and western Victoria.

The trend in incident reports since 2014 has been downwards, reducing by more than half.

“This year so far, in response to 303 farmer-related incident reports, the wild dog program established 2323 bait stations and replaced 4648 baits over 1450km, with a further 700km to be completed by the end of the financial year,” Mr Hamilton said.

“Wild dog controllers have established 1919 trap sets, and checked those trap sets 12,659 times, and have helped facilitate the protection of farmland through community wild dog control.”

Mr Hamilton said the downward trend in incident reports had been achieved through strong collaboration with landholders and community groups, successful community baiting programs, aerial baiting program, improved technology in pest exclusion fencing and expansion of exclusion fencing networks.

“The aerial baiting program is conducted only in areas where ground access is difficult and where there is a high number of livestock losses and farm-related incident reports,” he said.

“This year there were 3731 baits laid over a series of transects totalling 425km. The aerial baiting program is conducted in autumn and spring.”

Australian Wool Innovation community wild dog control co-ordinator Mick Freeman said 102 landholders were supported by community wild dog co-ordinators across 72,600ha of private land with 13,252 baits in 2021.

Mr Freeman said a suite of community fact sheets had been developed on foxes and wild dogs providing land managers with contact points for assistance, available support, ground baiting tips, managing predators post-bushfires and guardian animals.

He said vertebrate pest management workshops on wild dogs, foxes and feral pigs were planned for Tubbut, Buchan, Mansfield and Cudgewa.

It is recommended that farmers pencil in baiting programs on the calendar just like shearing or summer drenching programs.

Mr Freeman said a financial gain of $14,000 was achievable in a scenario based on 1000 first-cross ewes to achieve a seven per cent increase in lambing (70 lambs) valued at $200 a head through best practice ground baiting.

“With baiting, it’s not just lambing percentages but wild dogs and foxes can carry some diseases causing foetal abortions in livestock,” he said.