Exclusion fencing providing DeFence against wild dogs

As part of the DeFence project, sheep producer Doug Cameron from Mt Delegate in Gippsland has benefited from new electric exclusion fencing.

A multi-partner project has resulted in the construction or retrofit of 75km of wild dog exclusion fencing in East Gippsland, benefiting local producers’ productivity and wellbeing.

AWI-funded wild dog coordinators in 2019 saw an opportunity through the Federal Government’s Drought Program to help landholders in drought-affected areas of East Gippsland to construct wild dog exclusion fencing.

They collaborated with the East Gippsland Shire Council, East Gippsland Landcare Network and the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) to develop and apply for funding for the Wild Dog DeFence project. Successful applications resulted in 36 farmers receiving a total of $370,000 in funding, to build or retrofit 75km of exclusion fencing.

Construction began immediately and was quickly and efficiently carried out, with some fences operational within three weeks. Fencing companies Gallagher, Waratah, Clipex and Datamars were invaluable to the success of the project.

“In the Wild Dog DeFence program, AWI coordinators provided essential expertise in wild dog fencing requirements and information on best practice methods to reduce wild dog attacks. Without this expertise, this project may not have delivered the significant reduction in sheep losses that we are hearing about from landholders as a result of this program,” said East Gippsland Landcare Network coordinator, Erin Weir.

Fences provide turnaround in farmers’ productivity

Prior to the construction of his new fencing, sheep and beef farmer Doug Cameron from Mt Delegate, joined 1,200 ewes and marked 700 lambs. After the fence was built, he joined the same number of ewes but marked more than 1,400 lambs – a number he’d never have imagined when he was “in the thick of it” with wild dogs.

Doug says that prior to the new fence, they had very limited success with controlling wild dogs, especially because the property was bordered by pine forest and gumtree country. He also admits he wasn’t confident at first that the new fence – which comprises eight wires with five hot to exclude wild dogs, including a hot wire on top to deter kangaroos – was really going to work, and retained the old fence to be sure.

It’s a decision he now acknowledges was unnecessary as the new fence is “doing all it was required to do, and more”.

“It was the best investment. The dog fence has taken away the problem of us worrying about wild dogs taking our sheep. My mental health improved immensely when we knew there wasn’t a dog problem. I went back to sleeping right through, not waking up at three o’clock wondering what I could do to try and save my sheep,” Doug said.

Fellow Mt Delegate sheep farmer, Peter Guthrie, said his property had been suffering wild dog attacks relentlessly for two and half years.

“It was demoralising, some days you’d drive around there and there might be one dead sheep but you’d come back another day and you’d see the crows flying about and wool everywhere and another one dead – and that just went on and on and on,” Peter said.

“I was going to give the sheep away and just have cattle, that was what I planned. Then the idea of this Weston fence came up. Since its construction, I’ve never had any trouble, it’s made such a big difference. I would have lost $35,000 worth of sheep here over two and half years and it just stopped overnight when I turned the fence’s power on.”

Increased farmer and sheep wellbeing

Through the construction of exclusion fencing and a program of targeted baiting, these farmers in East Gippsland have worked collaboratively to find solutions to the wild dog problem. Although the results can be measured in terms of the absence of wild dog attacks and a decrease in stock losses, equally important is the increase in the farmers’ mental wellbeing.

“Yeah, the stress is gone. Wondering what you’d find in the morning, it used to be what everyone talked about at community gatherings; now that topic rarely comes up. The stress levels are down for sure,” said sheep and beef farmer Trevor Howden from Iguana Creek.

Sheep and beef farmer Phillip Neven from Tubbut says he has also observed a positive change in animal behaviour.

“They graze a lot freer and they don’t bunch up like before. When you get them into the yards to handle them, they’re a lot calmer. Rather than bunching up into the corner of the yard, they’ll flow through the yards,” Phillip said.

New videos explain benefits

Doug, Peter, Trevor and Phillip – along with other producers that benefited from the DeFence project – feature in a series of four new videos produced by Landcare, East Gippsland Shire and DELWP as part of the DeFence project: (1) New fencing, (2) Retro-fit fencing, (3) Creeks and gullies and (4) Farmer wellbeing. They contain insights into the farmers’ significant productivity gains and, being unscripted, are at times very raw and revealing at a personal level.

View the four videos on the DELWP YouTube Channel:

Part 1. New fencing: www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOBEbJnx9Hw

Part 2. Retro-fit fencing: www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEOTMb4lcFs

Part 3. Creeks and gullies: www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeouINv89l8

Part 4. Farmer wellbeing: www.youtube.com/watch?v=XlTM3ZCF-zo

/Public Release. View in full here.