DOG PROOF FENCE: Alastair Costello and his dad, Andrew, hope new cluster fences will make it easier to control wild dogs at Thanes Creek.
DOG PROOF FENCE: Alastair Costello and his dad, Andrew, hope new cluster fences will make it easier to control wild dogs at Thanes Creek. Chris Lines

'We have shot more dogs than we've had millimetres of rain'

WHILE $1.7 million in funding has been allocated to go towards cluster fencing to dog-proof struggling sheep farmers' properties, questions remain.

Farmers are still waiting for the money to be released and there is yet to be an explanation about how and when the fences will be implemented.

Thanes Creek grazier Andrew Costello, alongside other landowners, played a fundamental role in securing the funding by submitting applications through Southern Downs Regional Council.

"We are one of the last areas to receive this funding for cluster fencing," Mr Costello said.

"This region has more complications than the bigger properties out west."

These complications Mr Costello talks about are the abundance of smaller properties adjacent to big producers, which he said made it difficult to create a proper fence line to keep out dogs.

"Around here there are many lifestyle properties and not as many producers, we have had to change the rules to get the project going," he said.

"The further you get away from the rabbit proof fence, the more smaller blocks and intersecting roads you have to contend with," he said.

Even for landowners who owned a small block with sheep or goats, Mr Costello said cluster fencing was not an option.

"Unless the money from your produce makes up more than 50 per cent of your income, you are not eligible for the funding."

Farmers applying for funding also need to have a management strategy in place and be running sheep or goats.

Work together

Head of the Southern Downs Region Wild Dog Management Group Clive Smith said the key to success for the cluster fencing project would be farmers working together.

"Most landholders running sheep want to put up exclusion fencing but it costs too much for them and that's why we need to work with our neighbours to put up cluster fencing," he said.

This call for a united front will prove difficult when having to work around the abundance of smaller properties and roads adjacent to bigger producers.

Major problem

Mr Costello said wild dog infestations had become a major issue for his property.

"We get some sheep killed by the dogs and, at the same time, others are dropping dead from the conditions out here," he said.

"We have trapped and shot more dogs this year than we have had millimetres of rain."

Constant wild dog attacks have led Mr Costello to stop running sheep on certain parts of his property and cut down on the quantity he can run.

He said it was a problem which had only worsened in the years.

"We have more bitches in the area now, these are not stray male dogs any more," he said.

"I have found two litters of around eight puppies in my area. It does not take long for those pups to start growing and causing mischief."

"If those litters go unchecked, there could be an even bigger outbreak of dogs."

Still, Mr Costello said the project was in its early days and a fence had been approved for the Karara area.

"The fences are going to make it easier to get the dogs into an area we can control," he said.

"We cannot take our eyes off the goal once it is built, we need to keep patrolling our properties and making sure they are not getting in."