IT’S the problem that costs the agriculture sector $89 million each year.
Wreaking havoc on livestock producers, wild dogs will often attack 40 sheep in one night.
For those on the land it is not only the financial cost that hits the hardest – it is also the emotional burden.
Now, it is hoped that a new program officially launched in Merriwa on Monday will provide some relief to sheep farmers in the Upper Hunter who have suffered devastation from the continued loss of livestock.
The $1 million Upper Hunter Professional Wild Dog Controller program will be rolled out across the Singleton, Muswellbrook and Upper Hunter local government areas over the next four years.
And, is the first time that a range of industry groups have come together to tackle the problem.
The plan is the joint effort of the Hunter Valley Combined Wild Dog Association, Hunter Local Land Services, mining companies Glencore, Yancoal Australia, Bengalla, National Parks and Wildlife Service, Forestry Corporation and Feral Scan.
If successful, it will see the government work with landholders to create a pool of professional wild dog controllers who can be called upon after direct attacks on livestock – tackling the problem head on.
Working in conjunction with wild dog management plans currently being upgraded across the district, it is hoped that the combined effort will reduce the number of livestock lost and impact on native species.
The program comes after the completion of a successful pilot trapper project run in the district in 2016, made possible due to joint funding from the NSW and Australian governments.
“The impacts of wild dogs are felt by industry, farmers, their families and native species and particularly hard by people who are affected by drought,” Deputy Prime Minister and Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce said at the launch of the program on Monday.
“Farming smarter and growing productivity is essential and a program like this will support farmers into the future so they can see the benefits at the farm gate,” Mr Joyce said.
Biosecurity officer at Hunter Local Land Services Luke Booth said he is hoping the program will increase participation and awareness of the issue in the area.
“We are hoping that we can collectively get together on this big issue and this program has provided a significant opportunity for us to do so,” he said.
“There’s always been dogs in our environment here but the problem has become worse over the past thirteen years.
“As our sheep property close and they might change into other enterprises the rest of the sheep properties are forced to bear the brunt,” Mr Booth said.
“The more producers we can get involved the easier it will be to manage the problem.”
The program will begin this year, and initially continue until 2021.
To apply, contact your local wild dog association member, or Hunter Local Land Services biosecurity officers for advice on your situation.
For more information on this program, contact Hunter Valley Combined Wild Dog Association chairman Craig Murphy on 0427 837 855, Hunter Local Land Services senior biosecurity officer Richard Ali on 0429 722 944.