An electric wild dog exclusion fence design versatile and adaptable enough to cross gullies and steep rocky areas is under evaluation in the Southern Downs region of Queensland.
The Pikes Creek demonstration electric cluster, the first of its kind in the region to be completed, provided a group of three landholders with a financial subsidy to build a demonstration electric exclusion fence to trial its value in reducing the impacts of wild dogs on the sheep and wool industry in the Traprock region.
The project was partly funded through round 2 of the federal government's Communities Combating Pest and Weed Impacts During Drought Program provided to Southern Downs Regional Council.
A 45km long cluster has been constructed and a monitoring system established to measure its effectiveness, compared with non-electric fencing.
There has been significant investment in standard exclusion fences but the landholders in the Traprock area were interested to see if electric fencing was more versatile in steep, rocky and heavily timbered terrain.
These new systems monitor the fence 24/7, instantly identifying faults and notifying the landholder via a mobile phone app, meaning less time required checking the fence manually.
The project seeks to answer questions around the cost of construction, time spent on maintenance and repair, and whether the fence is effectively excluding wild dogs.
One of the participating landholders Mark Davey said the impact of predation by wild dogs during the 2019 drought on his own and neighbouring sheep flocks pre-empted the installation of the cluster.
Mr Davey uses livestock guardian dogs in conjunction with baiting, trapping and shooting, and considers the exclusion fencing as an additional tool in wild dog management.
He said the predation had taken a mental toll on all three producers in the Pikes Creek cluster.
"It is very rugged and undulating country - trying to pin the fence down in the gullies and going over the rises was challenging. It was easier doing it with single wires as opposed to netting," Mr Davey said.
"We have trapped three wild dogs inside the cluster since closing it - they were fenced in during construction.
"Since completion, I have noticed total grazing pressure has reduced.
"I'm certain electricity will work, and we obviously want our bottom line to increase by getting rid of the wild dogs so we can all stay in sheep, increase our numbers and profitability.
"The voltage and ampage of the whole fence is monitored remotely and if there is any intrusion or problem with the fence, we receive an SMS alert on our phones - that is a big plus."
Mr Davey said the project would generate data and information for landholders in other regions interested in erecting electric exclusion fences.
The fence is based on the Westonfence design, is 1.35m tall, contains 10 high tensile wires in total with graduated spacing, and wires closer together at the bottom.
Four of the wires are electrified, six of the wires are earthed, and the bottom earth wire aims to be 50mm off the ground.
The distance between the upright posts is no more than 10m and the distance between droppers is no more than 3.3m.
The fence is powered by high series energisers that deliver 100 joules - one landholder has installed a solar powered system while the other two are accessing mains power.
So far, the total cost of construction is just over $296,000, which averages out at $7500 per kilometre (range $5000/km to $11,000/km) with construction starting in July 2020 and completed in December 2021.
The landholders are optimistic the wild dog exclusion fence will protect their livestock, make their enterprise more viable and provide them with peace of mind.
Monitoring of the fence performance has started with landholders keeping fault logs and supplying data from the energisers.
Southern Downs Regional Council said it was committed to maintaining the Stanthorpe wild dog spur fence and Killarney check fence and works with community groups to obtain external funds to run broadscale, coordinated pest control projects such as 1080 baiting for wild dogs and exclusion fencing projects.
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