DONKEYS are the latest weapon being used by Queensland graziers in the fight against wild dogs.
In an initiative described as a win-win situation for traditional owners overrun with wild donkeys in central Australia, and Queensland landholders in need of a wider arsenal to fight wild dogs, Landmark Queensland wool area manager Bruce Lines organised a shipment of 128 donkeys, which arrived in the state last week.
They have been purchased by producers from as far apart as Hughenden, Aramac, Blackall, Surat and Millmerran.
Mr Lines said interest in the project had been huge.
"When I first put out an expression of interest, I filled four decks in three days," he said.
The initiative came about as a way of helping growers get more sheep on the ground.
"Every day I sit down with them for a coffee and hear their concerns with wild dogs," Mr Lines said.
"They are struggling. With Landmark's support I just decided we needed to show the industry we are there to help."
Once investigations began into sourcing the animals, the ability to help central Australians find a purpose for the feral animals became apparent as well.
The Anangu people from the APY Lands, which take up 103,000sq km in the far north of South Australia, have used donkeys for transport since they were introduced by missionaries and pastoralists in the early 1930s.
They became obsolete and were turned out to graze when motorised transport became popular, and a reluctance to cull them has seen their numbers increase to a stage where they are now regarded as a pest.
A spokesman said the Anangu people were delighted to assist graziers in sourcing protector animals, as it also protected the environment and provided a small economic benefit.
In response to concerns that the move may be importing a new feral pest to Queensland, Mr Lines that he was confident they would become domesticated through handling.
"Producers have got to do a bit of work with them to get them to bond with their sheep, so I think the chances of them going wild here are slim.
"These people have good stock sense."
He said a fact sheet was being prepared by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, and he called on people who were already using donkeys as guardian animals in Queensland to come forward and share their experiences.
AgForce president Brent Finlay said donkeys were being used successfully in his home area of Warwick as another tool in the battle against wild dogs.
"No one thing is the solution," he said. "I think donkeys appeal because they are on duty in the paddock 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"The size of the problem is massive and we need to help people who are tiring from fighting dogs for years."
According to Barcaldine sheep producer David Counsell, they have a good track record of warding dogs away from stock.
He has bought 10 for his property, Dunblane, west of Barcaldine, and said he also liked the fact that he could continue to use 1080 as a management tool.
"I don't think the pressure I am getting from dogs will change," he said.
"I see donkeys as part of the obstacles I'm assembling to make Dunblane unpalatable for dogs."
Mr Counsell has also put up five-wire offset fencing internally.
"Dunblane will be a shot duck if I can't use the paddocks south of the highway, close to the Alice River, to lamb in, because of the distances to water," he said.
"I now feel confident that I'll still be in sheep in five years time, because of the range of strategies I'm using."
Mr Lines said last week's shipment had raised national awareness of donkeys as a management tool and generated a large number of inquiries.
"I think what we need to do is see how this shipment works out on the ground and give it time before we undertake anything further," he said.