QUEENSLAND could become a driving force in the Australian sheep industry if the roll-out of wild dog exclusion fencing and control measures continued in the state, new AgForce Sheep and Wool Board president Alan Rae said today.
Queensland sheep numbers peaked at 24.3 million in 1964, but have declined since then to 2.2 million in 2015-16. The state was estimated to have opened with 1.86 million sheep in 2016-17 and is expected to shear 2.06 million this financial year.
The AgForce Sheep and Wool Board held their first meeting for 2017 in Brisbane this week and wild dogs dominated discussions.
“Without fences, there’s no sheep, it’s as simple as that,” Mr Rae said.
“For producers who have built fences, the results have been amazing with lambing percentages going from less than 20 percent to more than 90pc.”
“AgForce is extremely grateful for the funding provided for wild dog fencing to date, and we encourage the Queensland Government to work with the Federal Government to deliver more fencing in sheep-growing areas.
“It’s also vital that producers in clusters work together to tackle wild dog problems and look after neighbours with continued baiting, trapping and shooting programs outside clusters.”
Mr Rae said although the funding and construction of cluster fences is continuing, he was unsure if it was happening quick enough, with many producers wanting to restock with sheep but needing wild dog exclusion fencing.
“It’s a matter of the money side of things and also season as things turnaround; we’ve been in a four-year dry spell.
“You’ve got to throw a lot of money at it and we are just hoping that the federal and state governments will keep tipping in a bit.”
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Mr Rae said there will be a need for ongoing government support for cluster fencing which AgForce classed as community infrastructure generating economic growth.
“It’s a necessity.”
Mr Rae said Queensland sheep and wool producers are the most positive they have been in years following a good winter, strong commodity prices and the continued rollout of wild dog fencing. But it is taking years for producers to clean out fenced areas, meaning dog baiting must continue.
“We feel that Queensland – for Merinos over Merinos – hopefully will be the driving force for the whole sheep industry.
“It could be and will be if we get these fences up,” he said.
“With the wool and meat prices, as good as they are, there is no reason why people wouldn’t go back into sheep.”
AgForce said wild dogs were an ongoing threat to the sheep and wool industry, but producers were buoyed by State Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s visit to the Longreach region this week to inspect fencing progress and re-affirm her commitment to protect the industry. Mr Rae said the Sheepmeat Council of Australia had also addressed the board to discuss their work and board members had a robust discussion about amalgamation of the sheep industry peak bodies.
“After going backwards for years, it’s wonderful to see the revival of the sheep and wool industry in Queensland and there was a very positive vibe among producers at this week’s meeting,” he said.
Mr Rae also welcomed Barcaldine producer Paul Doneley as the new Youth Director on the AgForce Sheep and Wool Board and said it was great to see the next generation getting involved to help shape the industry’s future.