Return to sheep?

A Muswellbrook beef cattle farmer believes wool growing will return to the area if wild dogs are brought under control once and for all.

Sheep farming is strong in the Upper Hunter Shire area but it has shrunk in significance in the rest of the region.

But Arthur Roberts, who runs more than 400 head of beef cattle on his Edderton Road property, believes continued cooperation between farmers and mines could lead to a resurgence of wool.

Mr Roberts has been the president of the Mt Arthur Wild Dog Association since its inception about seven years ago.

The association works to eradicate wild dogs from the area south of the Hunter River, encompassing Muswellbrook, Denman, Martindale, Jerrys Plains, Liddell and the foothills of Wollemi National Park.

Mr Roberts said the collaborative approach struck in the area meant numbers of the feral pests had greatly reduced.

“It’s nowhere near the numbers it has been [in the past],” Mr Roberts said.

The key to the success of the program has been educating mines and landowners about dog baiting and trapping and having baits laid throughout the area at the same time.

“The biggest thing is to make sure you don’t have any gaps in the area,” Mr Roberts said.

Mr Roberts said the cooperation of coalmines was imperative because the animals tended to breed on mine sites.

After baits were laid in Mt Arthur Wild Dog Association area in May 2011, no wild dogs were seen until December.

A new round of coordinated baiting took place last month and Mr Roberts hopes there will be a similarly positive result.

Feral dogs usually target newborn calves and working dogs in the Muswellbrook area.

Mr Roberts said five farmers in the Mount Ogilvie area had lost 10 calves each.

“Some of the dogs are pretty ferocious,” Mr Roberts said.

Mr Roberts said it was not difficult for wild dogs to wipe out a flock of sheep.

“Sheep are a lot easier target,” he said.

But if dog numbers were brought under control, running sheep would again be an attractive prospect in the Upper Hunter, Mr Roberts said.

“I would have sheep here but I just think it’s a waste of time,” he said. “If we got rid of the dogs, people would go back into sheep because they could offset their income.”

Mr Roberts said part of the problem was domestic dogs in the Muswellbrook area getting out, prowling, turning feral or mating with wild dogs. He said dogs should only be let off their leads or chains when they could be supervised by owners.

Co-operation ensures aerial dog baiting continues in region

A collaborative effort between the Mid Coast Livestock Health and Pest Authority, farmers, Australian Wool Innovation and the NSW Minerals Council will ensure wild dog aerial baiting occurs in the Upper Hunter.

Landholders will contribute $4500 to baiting and Australian Wool Innovation and the NSW Minerals Council have each pledged $10,000 to the LHPA for wild dog control.

Mid Coast LHPA general manager Jo McGoldrick said the money would go a long way in providing relief to landholders dealing with increased wild dog activity.

“We are very satisfied with this outcome, which demonstrates just what you can achieve when you have a united approach to a problem,” she said.

The aerial baiting will occur in Divisions E and F of the Mid Coast LHPA region this winter.

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