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Wild dogs kill lambs and livelihood

DEVASTATING: A lamb after being attacked by wild dogs at Meandarra.
DEVASTATING: A lamb after being attacked by wild dogs at Meandarra. Cheryl Brown

FINDING 12 lambs, barely alive after being attacked by wild dogs, is not how anyone wants to start their morning.

Unfortunately this is what happened to Meandarra sheep and cattle farmer, Ross Brown.

"I go out there and there's these poor little lambs that have been bitten in the middle of the back and it's broken their backs, and they're alive and they're just there bleeding and kicking with their front legs trying to get up and they can't," he said.

"They (the wild dogs) chased them around and killed them, it's grabbed them in the back of the shoulder. It's bloody cruel, the poor little buggers.

 

"I've had to go and hit them on the head.

"In another paddock the dogs had killed four ewes that were in lamb, one of them had had the lamb ripped out from its side.

"The dogs go in and pull out their entrails, their kidneys and liver and all that sort of thing. And here's this little lamb lying there, obviously dead, still in the bag."

 

DOG DEVASTATION: Cheryl and Ross Brown have been devastated by wild dog attacks, killing 12 merino lambs.
DOG DEVASTATION: Cheryl and Ross Brown have been devastated by wild dog attacks, killing 12 merino lambs. Hayley Maudsley

Mr Brown said after a recent muster they came up 140 sheep short.

"We should have had 560 and we came up with 383," he said.

"There were some old ewes in there and I think about 20 of them may have died from natural causes.

"Given that about 20 ewes might have died from natural causes, the wild dogs must have killed the balance."

Mr Brown lives with his wife Cheryl on their property, Belmont Park. He is a fourth generation farmer who's family has been on the property for over 100 years. They have had Merino's on the property, since the 1950's.

Mr Brown said finding so many lambs dead really got to him, but he's not giving up the fight just yet.

"I'm a pretty resilient sort of person and in all honesty, people go on about things getting in their head. Not a lot really bothers me," he said.

"Say the engine in the tractor blows up, well I just get on and rectify the problem. I not the sort of person to dwell on problems like that.

"But this time, this really got to me. Yesterday morning, to see all those little baby lambs, that's your next year's income, that's your whole livelihood. It takes a bit of a toll on you.

"It's gotten to the point where I've really had enough of it mentally. But you've just got to keep going and do the best with what you do.

"We run about 800 ewes and we talked about getting rid of them,

"But next thing you know the dogs will breed up and we'll have a pack of them killing our calves.

"You can't just stick our head in the sand.

"We just have to get on top of it.

"There's no point in selling all my sheep and saying 'stuff that' and letting the dogs win. I'm not about that. I'm about putting up a stand and fighting them."

 

SHEEP PROTECTOR: Maremma dog minding Merino sheep.
SHEEP PROTECTOR: Maremma dog minding Merino sheep. Hayley Maudsley

Mr Brown said he could empathise with sheep farmers out west who struggle with the wild dogs.

"You hear about all these farmers out west struggling with the dogs and drought. I can understand how some poor farmers on a big sheep place out west, he's gone out to check his water and finds something like this. That would really affect them," he said.

"Particularly if they're in drought as well and they're feeding the things and then the dogs are killing them. It doesn't matter how strong or resilient you are, it's going to have an effect on you.

"It really did frustrate me. It's the first time it ever has. I dare say if there were a couple of ewes killed it probably wouldn't have had the same effect on me as these little lambs.

"Or had the lambs been dead it may not have had the same effect on me.

"But to see them there, poor helpless little buggers, it does get to me a bit."

 

The remains of a lamb after the attack.
The remains of a lamb after the attack. Cheryl Brown

 

The Brown's have 1900 hectares spread across three different properties. Exclusion fencing has helped them fight the wild dogs.

"On and off we've been having trouble with dogs for several years," Mr Brown said.

"We've been proactive with exclusion fencing. We have 16 kilometres of exclusion fencing on the western side of our property that we share with our neighbour.

"That alleviated the problem for a time but all our eastern country is still open to the elements.

"We have the fencing ready for the eastern side we just have to get time to set up.

"After we put the exclusion fence up we didn't have a problem for six to eight months and now it's all happening again.

"Either we've fenced dogs in or they've come around the end of the fence."

Mr Brown praised the government for helping to provide farmers with funding for exclusion fencing in the fight against wild dogs.

"We're not eligible for funding because we're not in a recognised sheep area.

"But I'd like to congratulate the government for continuing their support for the people out west who are doing cluster fencing."

Topics:  belmont park meandarra ross and cheryl brown sheep farming wild dogs