Ongoing government support for the Queensland grazing fraternity’s efforts to protect its livestock and rebuild rural economies would be very welcome, especially in the face of two recent fencing material price rises, according to Augathella’s Glenn Roberts.
It’s only five years since sheep were last run on Gladys Downs, close to the western Queensland town’s northern outskirts, and Glenn is keen to bring their diversity back to the property’s operation.
As attention begins to focus on where state and federal governments will distribute the money in their budget coffers, AgForce has emphasised the multiplying effect that dollars spent on wild dog control has on the economies of rural communities.
The lobby group’s sheep and wool president, Alan Rae, this week called for continued government investment in wild dog exclusion fencing to help revitalize the industry, create jobs and boost regional economies.
AgForce would like to see another $5 million a year from each level of government, matched by landholder contributions, so that the exclusion fencing roll-out continues to protect more sheep operations throughout the state.
Glenn was supportive of AgForce’s call but said a relaxation of the rules accompanying the money would also be welcome.
“We were applying under one of the South West NRM rounds but others in the group pulled out, especially when they heard it had to be done within 12 months,” Glenn said. “Apart from it being so hot for four months, there are times when scarce financial resources really need to go somewhere else.”
Upgrading internal laneways is on the work agenda at present for Glenn and his staff, and the cost of fencing is at the front of his mind.
He estimates that recent price rises, in the wake of shortages, have put the cost up to $7500/km, without taking line clearing or labour into account.
“You could be looking at $10,000 a kilometre,” he said. “A willing neighbour makes it cheaper, but not everyone can afford to do it.”
The impressive results achieved by one neighbour, Mac Drysdale, in increasing his grass species after four years behind wire, have given Glenn the incentive to try the same for Gladys Downs owners, brother and sister Kelvin Schmidt and Judy Bowles.
“Others have told us about lambing percentages going through the roof,” he said.
It was the experience of coming across lambs being torn to pieces by wild dogs that brought about the decision to replace sheep with cattle on the 20,000ha property, which ran up to 14,000 sheep.
“We like the diversity offered by sheep,” Glenn said. “We might not go back into them on the same scale, and we might go more into meat sheep, but it’s tempting to have both meat and wool.”
Under-pinning this was a recent injection of funds to keep the shearers’ quarters in good condition.
Gladys Downs has a six-stand shearing shed currently standing idle, and an estimated 80km of boundary to encircle with exclusion fencing to make it safe for sheep again.
“At $10,000 a kilometre, that won’t happen overnight if we have to finance it all by ourselves,” Glenn said.
He thought that doubling the government subsidy to $4000/km would tempt more people into adopting the fence philosophy.
Each cluster fence funding offer in Queensland has been well oversubscribed to date.
In the RAPAD region, over 600km of cluster fencing has been completed so far.