Dog control guidelines for organic sheep operations welcomed

Sheep Central, October 30, 2019

Stuart Mackenzie (right) with son, Sandy, on ‘Plevna Downs’, Queensland. The NWDAP’s organic guidelines means they can now excise land from certification to more effectively control wild dogs that break through the wild dog barrier fence and their exclusion fences. Image – Leonie Mellor ABC

NEW guidelines for the use of the wild dog and fox poison 1080 on organic-certified properties have been welcomed by organic sheep and wool producers.

One of these is south-west Queensland organic producer Stuart Mackenzie who has seen successive drought years drive hungry and thirsty dogs towards his sheep flock, make control harder and change the social and economic landscape around him.

He said a lot of family farms in the region have sold to corporate entities investing in carbon trading.

“These properties are deserted, there’s no business activity, they sit there like national parks and any money generated is invested elsewhere, creating an economic downturn here.

“Many of them have major problems with dogs – they don’t fence, they don’t bait and they don’t care,” he said.

While the situation on ‘Plevna Downs’ is challenging, it’s not all despair. Stuart and his son, Sandy, now the fourth generation on their 112,000ha organic wool and beef property, are deeply committed to best practice wild dog management.

The best news on their horizon recently has been the National Wild Dog Action Plan’s launch of new guidelines for the use of 1080 on organic-certified properties. The guidelines are supported by industry and enable producers to use 1080 baits on their properties in areas excised from organic certification.

In practical terms, this means even producers accredited with the stringent United States Department of Agriculture National Organic Program (USDA NOP), one of Australia’s most discerning organic markets, can now bait around watering points and other strategic locations on their properties, to minimise wild dog impacts on livestock.

Stuart has zero tolerance for sheep losses caused by wild dogs and said being able to excise strategic pockets of land from their organic certification program and bait inside those areas will give him, and other organic producers, more effective management tools.

“This will give us another alternative control measure,” he said.

“Dogs naturally gravitate to water so it’s a logical place to trap but sheep and kangaroos also using the same watering point make trapping problematic.”

Stuart estimates that dogs can reduce his lambing percentages by up to 10 percent and while they don’t usually bother his organic beef herd, he says young stock have been bitten during exceptionally dry periods.

“Thanks to our cooperative neighbours, we’re able to bait along our boundaries twice a year to try and keep those attacks to a minimum.

“We also use exclusion fencing, inside the wild dog barrier fence, to help protect the sheep.”

Stuart founded the non-profit, charitable public company Outback Gondwana Foundation and is a keen conservationist. He worries about the effects an unchecked wild dog population can have on biodiversity as well as livestock welfare and farm production.

“Taking ownership of the dog problem is the answer, if we don’t do anything about them, they get completely out of control.

“We’re seeing this now around Charleville where producers have got massive problems with calf losses and I’ve talked to people in WA in areas where wild dogs are the only things left alive – there’s no livestock, no native animals, nothing,” he said.

Learn more about the new guidelines for managing wild dogs on organic properties here.


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  1. Lloyd Dunlop, November 13, 2019

    You know the law is an ass when it does more harm than good and this has been the case with this organic certification rule, prohibiting dog poisoning, where it costs the lives of animals in return for a small almost immeasurable reduction in chemicals in food, particularly food produce from extensive pastoral areas which is near, if not completely, chemical-free. It is definitely prudent to raise feral fences as the primary defence against dogs and pigs and my clients have raised well over 300km of feral fences. So you just know that when dogs kill their hundreds of lambs and pigs, a real organic conservationist regards the life of his animals first.

  2. Mel Brady, November 6, 2019

    Thanks for the article, I am a fourth year environmental science student with two years of an ecological agricultural degree. I owned and managed an organic plantation for many years and have worked and lived on pastoral stations in Northern Western Australia extensively.
    1080 is a dangerous, non-discriminate poison that has been banned from every country in the world except Australia and New Zealand. As an organically certified grower, I am absolutely appalled at this decision and would like to know how this is even justified. It is our children and the precious biodiversity web of life that pays for the ignorance and inhumanity of these actions, by those that continue outdated, unsustainable farming practices.

  3. Bradley Smith, November 5, 2019

    Sorry, but if you use 1080 poison to kill wildlife on or near your land, you are not organic, nor should you receive “organic certification”. This is seriously outrageous. It goes against the very definition of organic. I would argue that the majority of people buying organically certified foods would not approve of the use of such nasty toxins on the land. Perhaps the public should be consulted, it’s they who buy these goods after all.

    Herein lies the real problem, Stuart has “zero tolerance for sheep losses caused by wild dogs”. This means that he expects to set up his farm and stock in the presence of wildlife and that nothing or no-one can or should prevent him from making a profit. Livestock losses are arguably part of the ‘cost of business’, and all attempts should be made to co-exist with nature, not dominate it. There are many things that can be done to better manage livestock losses than killing dingoes. The 200 years of killing dingoes has not achieved the goal of eradicating them. So perhaps try something new? If you want to 100 percent protect your livestock then build a predator-proof fence.

  4. Rebecca Marsh, November 1, 2019

    How can a conservationist possibly support the use of 1080 in bait or any other form of poison? If as a property owner you have pest issues, then address that pest issue, please don’t poison our planet. Wild dogs can be shot – please buy a gun not bait.

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