Bringing wild dogs to heel pays off in the outback

Bringing wild dogs to heel pays off in the outback

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Wild dog baiting programs are paying big dividends for owners of cattle stations in the Northern Territory.

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DOG BITE: Bite damage caused by a wild dog to a weaner in the Northern Territory. Picture: Adam Bowen.

DOG BITE: Bite damage caused by a wild dog to a weaner in the Northern Territory. Picture: Adam Bowen.

Wild dog baiting programs are paying big dividends for owners of cattle stations in the Northern Territory.

Several outback properties have produced an extra 600 calves valued at $780,000 in a single year.

Five years of concerted wild dog management in the Territory has pushed cattle weaner damage from a high of 15-30 per cent down to five per cent.

Dingoes are protected across the NT regardless of public and private land and no government funding is provided for wild dog control.

Pastoralists must apply for a permit to control dingoes and are provided an annual bait allocation as part of the permit process.

All wild dog control programs and logistics are funded by the landholders.

NT Cattlemen's Association representative on the National Wild Dog Action Plan and professional pest controller Adam Bowen baits wild dogs across 50 stations in the NT.

Mr Bowen also conducted about 15 trapping and baiting informal on-station workshops last year.

On the two properties Mr Bowen manages near Katherine, the calf loss has reduced considerably.

Before the baiting program, the properties weaned 1000 calves per year but this jumped to 1600 calves once baiting began in 2015.

The first round of baiting in autumn used 30 per cent of the annual bait allocation while the second round in late spring used the remaining 70pc before calving.

Mr Bowen said bite damage on one property was down to three per cent this year from 30pc seven years ago.

Mr Bowen said cattle producers now regard a 5 per cent calf loss as unacceptable and a major financial impact.

"With the increasing costs to production, even an extra 1 per cent makes a huge difference to management practices and ability for stations to maintain their property," he said.

"Some stations have up to 600 water troughs in place of 240 bores - the ecosystems we are slowly creating are making it more habitable for wild dogs.

"So, the level of control and management practices delivered 10-20 years ago simply aren't as effective at controlling the number of wild dog populations we are seeing now."

Mr Bowen said one of the barriers to wild dog management he faced in the NT was the turnover of managerial staff on stations of his clients, reducing consistency and delivery of ongoing management programs.

"It is only when calf damage becomes apparent and weaning rates are reduced the dog control program is conducted again," he said.

Mr Bowen said wild dog activity had been light during 2021 compared with 2020.

"There is a lot more water around this year so the dogs seem to be more spread out than what they were last year, or it could be we have cleaned up the vast majority of them last year when they had to be around bores for water.

"Landholder uptake of baiting programs for my 50 blocks has been 100 per cent this year.

"Across the NT uptake is good - landholders realise it is a maintenance program and needs to continue."

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The story Bringing wild dogs to heel pays off in the outback first appeared on Farm Online.

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