FRUSTRATED by "irresponsible" dog owners, Stanthorpe prime lamb producer Graham Greenup has taken to sleeping in a swag in the paddock with a rifle.
The irate landholder began his night-time vigil after losing 45 commercial and stud lambs in a dog attacks on his Maryland's poll dorset property in February. He believes the attacks were the work of domestic dogs, given the type and extend of wounds inflicted on his stock.
The sheep weren't all killed outright by these dogs, but their injuries were horrific. I've been in the bush a long time and I am fairly tough, but it disturbed me.
He's not the only one in his neighbourhood to have suffered extensive sheep losses in the past eight weeks. Two other producers have also spoken out about livestock attacks by what they describe as "unrestrained, domesticated dogs" in the Cottonvale region.
Wool buyer and grazier Rose Pugh lost 46 sheep, including a $1000 merino ram, as well as high quality ewes and weaners in a series of dog attacks in February.
"The sheep weren't all killed outright by these dogs, but their injuries were horrific," she explained. "I've been in the bush a long time and I am fairly tough, but it disturbed me.
"One lamb was still alive but her front leg and back leg had all been eaten. I mean, you can't shoot them fast enough when they have injuries like that, can you?
"The last thing you want to do is have them suffer more."
Further down the road, Mick Larkin also had his heavily pregnant poll dorset ewes attacked by dogs.
"We lost 10 ewes and their unborn lambs and these were really good quality breeders," he said.
"Conservatively speaking, if we have to replace just the ewes alone, we will be looking at around $800.
"That's without taking into consideration the value of the lambs we lost, as well."
Mr Larkin said he reported his stock losses to the Southern Downs Regional Council and made inquiries about what was needed to identify the canine culprits, as well as their owners.
"It is very difficult to prove what dog was involved, but we have seen a maremma-type dog wearing a collar leaving our property after the attacks," he said.
In the wake of the attacks, the Larkins erected dog-proof mesh around their sheep paddocks and now shift ewes and lambs into the house yard each night.
But fencing and moving stock into safer territory is neither an economical nor practical option for commercial producer Graham Greenup.
"I lost about $4000 worth of sheep in these attacks and there's a drought on and prices are pretty ordinary, so I can't afford to lose any more," he explained.
"So I have been sleeping out in the paddock. What
those dogs did to these lambs was really disturbing.
"Wild dogs will normally tear up a sheep from behind and then maybe eat the kidneys, whereas these sheep had their faces torn off.
"They'd had their throats ripped out and they'd been eaten alive."
The night after discovering the slaughter, Mr Greenup opted to camp in the paddock and arrived under the cover of darkness in time to interrupt yet another attack.
"One of these dogs was definitely a maremma, wearing a collar," he said.
"It sickens and angers me that dog owners could be so irresponsible."
Ironically, Mr Greenup runs mareemas on the eastern side of his property to protect his flock from wild dogs.
"I thought that was the area most vulnerable, but it would seem the western part of my property, which at its closest is just 2km from Cottonvale, is the most at risk."
Landholders who experience stock losses to dog attacks should report incidents to the council on 1300 697 372.