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Wild dog controls and a 100km-long fence will bring sheep back to south-west Queensland

By national rural reporter Caitlyn Gribbin, Saturday November 16, 2019 - 09:17 EDT
ABC image
Cathy Truss (third from right) and her family members built the dog fence that saved her property. - ABC

The Truss farming family has renewed hope they will run many more sheep on their property after successfully controlling wild dogs with a 100-kilometre fence.

Bare, red dirt underneath an empty, blue sky is the place Cathy Truss has called home for most of her life.

Being a farmer in western Queensland means using this outback landscape to your advantage.

But over the past decade that has almost been impossible for Mrs Truss and her family.

The lengthy drought has been made even worse by a significant wild dog problem.

Warning: Some images may be distressing.

"The dogs were just eating us out. They were just beating us," Mrs Truss said.

Mrs Truss' Boran Station, a 12-hour drive west of Brisbane, sits in what is considered to be sheep country — a place where locals fondly remember when their economy was riding on the sheep's back.

But sheep numbers are historically low on the property south of Quilpie, and estimates are that the flock in the district has decreased by more than three quarters since the start of the millennium.

It is a demise Mrs Truss mainly blames on the wild dog problem.

"I love sheep and it's just heartbreaking to see your nice sheep getting eaten. When you see lambs ripped open and things like that. It's very hard," she said.

Drought brings time for a solution

In Quilpie, local livestock agent Sam Bartlett has seen the town and surrounding district tough it out for years as graziers have fought the dog problem.

But he believes change is coming.

"Oh, they've [the dogs] definitely knocked our numbers down a hell of a lot," Mr Bartlett said.

"If you want to bring it back to a dollar value we value our lambs at $100 a head, the ewes at $100 a head.

"So if they're taking $200 of income away from a person and they could be doing up to $1,000 a year, there's quite a bit of income [loss] from our local economy, as well as the graziers' back pockets."

But those who have stuck with sheep could soon be rewarded thanks to a massive dog fence.

The drought has given them the unexpected leg up by providing plenty of time to come up with, and execute, the solution to the dog problem.

"I don't ever believe you're beaten," Mrs Truss said.

"You can always bounce up and think of something — and that's when we came up with the fence."

Mrs Truss, her husband, son, and daughter-in-law have used the dry times to build a 106km fence around Boran Station at a cost of about $600,000.

"It's an absolute lifesaver for us. If we didn't have the fence we wouldn't be here now," she said.

"It gives you something to look forward to because you know, at the end of it, you've got a good fence, you're not going to have dogs, you can sleep at night.

"It's just plus-plus all around."

Sheep numbers could triple

Mr Bartlett said others in the district have done the same thing, which means sheep are finally returning to Quilpie.

"With these fences going up we could possibly see the sheep numbers around our local area if not double, probably triple, which would be great to see.

"In these dry times if you can achieve a few little, and a few big ones as well, that's definitely good morale to get through the drought."

He said the town's economy would also benefit.

"If we can get a shearing team back in Quilpie, well, that's a boost to our local economy," Mr Bartlett said.

Mrs Truss is confident the investment will be worthwhile and will pay for itself when the drought finally breaks.

"It's getting closer to good seasons and sheep coming back," she said.

"It'll be so easy with the fence,. You won't have to worry about dogs any more.

"In the meantime we just tighten our belt and wait for the rain."


© ABC 2019

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