A MUNGALLALA sheep producer says landholders should be looking to remotely monitored electric fences rather than exclusion fences to combat wild dog problems.
John Ford operates the 1600 hectare property, Dreamland, outside of Mungallala where he runs about 1000 SRS Merino adult sheep and lambs.
Wild dog attacks on Dreamland reached their peak a few years ago.
Breaking point for Mr Ford came when a dog attack left six sheep dead in a night, prompting him to spend the next three weeks shepherding his flock.
Realising the move was unsustainable, the situation galvanised Mr Ford’s resolve to build an electric fence to protect his stock.
He had learned about the Dingo brand fence, which uses aluminium posts and insulators, at a Leading Sheep day in Charleville in 2015.
Unfortunately Mr Ford struggled to find an appropriate energiser for the fence and by chance came across JVA Technologies.
“I said to them, there should be a system that can tell me from my telephone what is going on with the fence,” Mr Ford said.
“This fellow from JVA, he does quite a lot of work in South Africa where they are looking after wildlife parks and keeping people out, and he said he could set me up a system where if anything touches the fence I will know. I monitored it and they made adjustments until they got it to run.”
Mr Ford initially built a 14km fence but has since gone on to create his own version – adding another 10-12km.
He gets live updates from his phone of any faults and hasn’t had any dog attacks since the fence went up.
Mr Ford is the only one within the area with a remotely monitored electric fence and said he firmly believed it could outlast exclusion fences currently being constructed.
“I think the other exclusion fences, for the time being, they are going to be more effective but over a period of time it is going to be an interesting test as the fence gets older and the animals wear holes in it and bash things about,” he said.
“This fence here is very stable because I’m monitoring it, whereas with a netting fence you don’t know and it has got to stand the test of time as to what damage is going to be done.
“Now while it is all very new, it’s all very good but we get a wet season and a big flood, it might take a bit of managing. All this sort of stuff, it’s in the experimental stages.”
The remotely monitored electric fence cost Mr Ford $4000/km and another $3500 for the monitoring unit. The fences have six to seven wires. He said he wasn’t promoting electric fences, but the benefits of monitoring systems.
“The thing about life today is to keep up with technology, it’s advancing pretty quickly,” he said.
After receiving a few millimetres from Cyclone Debbie, Dreamland is in need of rain and Mr Ford is sprouting barley in his on-farm fodder box to feed out to his sheep.
FACE RECOGNITION FENCE CAMERAS
WORK is continuing in New South Wales to fine tune a prototype combining facial recognition cameras with remote communication to notify landholders the moment a wild dog has entered their property.
The Wild Dog Alert Project, launched in 2015, features an app allowing a producer and neighbours to receive information of dog movements to act together.
Project Leader Paul Meek said the technology they had incorporated had never been done before and remote monitoring was a vital part of the longevity of these fences.
“We know that no matter what fence you put in place you have got to maintain the structure. Monitoring your fence either automatically or manually is going to give greater efficiency of keeping animals in or out, stopping what might be a minor problem today from becoming a major problem tomorrow.”
MESH FENCES ARE STILL YOUNG BUT HOLDING UP
WITH exclusion fences only about a decade old, time will tell how strong they really are.
Remote Area Planning and Development Project Manager Morgan Gronold said exclusion fences up to 10 years ago were showing signs of success.
“Most of the feedback we are getting from producers is they will get 40 to 50 years out of an exclusion fence,” he said.
“10 years in, they still look as good as the day they went up. The enormous investment people are putting in, it’s more than a fence, it’s about their future and their kids’ future.”