Organic producers keen on wild dog management 1080 change

Organic producers keen on wild dog 1080 guidelines change

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Stuart Mackenzie, Plevna Downs has welcomed the National Wild Dog Action Plan's new guidelines for organic properties. Picture- Sally Cripps.

Stuart Mackenzie, Plevna Downs has welcomed the National Wild Dog Action Plan's new guidelines for organic properties. Picture- Sally Cripps.

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Eromanga organic producer Stuart Mackenzie has seen successive drought years make wild dog management get harder than he's ever seen it but changes to guidelines for 1080 use could be set to make things a bit easier.

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Eromanga organic producer Stuart Mackenzie has seen successive drought years make wild dog management get harder than he's ever seen it but changes to guidelines for 1080 use could be set to make things a bit easier.

Running Merino sheep and predominantly cattle on the 112,000 hectare Plevna Downs, it's not just an increased number of wild dogs causing the difficulties, Mr Mackenzie said, but changes to the social and economic landscape.

"A lot of family farms in the region have sold to corporate entities investing in carbon trading," Mr Mackenzie said.

"These properties are deserted, there's no business activity, they sit there like national parks and any money generated is invested elsewhere, creating an economic downturn here.

"Many of them have major problems with dogs - they don't fence, they don't bait and they don't care."

Mr Mackenzie and his son, Sandy, have welcomed the National Wild Dog Action Plan's launch of new guidelines, which allow producers to use 1080 baits on their properties in areas excised from organic certification.

The changes mean even producers accredited with the stringent United States Department of Agriculture National Organic Program can now bait around watering points and other strategic locations on their properties, to minimise wild dog impacts on livestock.

Mr Mackenzie said being able to excise strategic pockets of land from their organic certification program and bait inside those areas will give him, and other organic producers, more effective management tools.

"This will give us another alternative control measure," he said.

"Dogs naturally gravitate to water so it's a logical place to trap but sheep and kangaroos also using the same watering point make trapping problematic.

"If you have to have fenced off areas, that could make it a challenge, but if you already have fenced off watering points, that could work well.

"It might also mean if you have a paddock that you're spelling, then you can bait in that area temporarily."

Mr Mackenzie estimates that dogs can reduce his lambing percentages by up to 10pc but 1080 has been a big help in controlling losses.

"Thanks to our cooperative neighbours, we're able to bait along our boundaries twice a year to try and keep those attacks to a minimum," he said.

"We also use exclusion fencing, inside the wild dog barrier fence, to help protect the sheep."

Mr Mackenzie, a keen conservationist, also believes that 1080 is a winner for native wildlife by helping reduce introduced pests such as foxes and feral cats.

"We used 1080 for years since the 70s," he said.

"We wiped out all our foxes twenty years ago and you see far fewer cats as well."

How it will work

Under new guidelines released by the National Wild Dog Action Plan on the use of 1080 on organic-certified properties, producers will be able to be able to use 1080 products on fully fenced parcels of land.

Organic producers will be able to apply to remove portions of land from their organic footprint, allowing them to undertake baiting in that area against feral animals.

Areas excised from organic certification could include sites such as fenced watering points, with operators obliged to notify their certifying organisation of their plains before they can receive approval.

After baiting, the land cannot be brought back into the organic operation for three years.

The process will include providing an organic management plan to the certifying organisation, setting out details of when baiting is to occur and how livestock will be excluded from baited areas.

Producers will be expected to use best practice information on feral animal ecology, behaviour and management techniques to maximise the effectiveness of the program and minimise the amount of bait used, working with local community groups where possible.

Baits must be secured to prevent them being moved by animals to areas outside of the non-certified parcel of land.

Aerial baiting may be considered under extreme circumstances where the areas of non-certified land is large enough, the impacts of predators are significant or the non-certified land is inaccessible for an effective ground baiting program.

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