Landholder’s Stories

David Pollock – Wooleen Station Murchison WA

We don’t kill Dingoes on Wooleen. It’s not a popular management strategy amongst an almost entirely pastoral community, many of whom have only recently (in the last 20 years) changed from sheep to cattle. We only made that change in 2006. The most important task I have as a pastoralist is to manage the grazing pressure. But for most of my life that task has seemed to be an impossible one. It’s not that difficult to manage the grazing pressure exerted by the sheep or cattle, we have much infrastructure and many procedures for that.

The problem in our area has been the unmanageable grazers, chiefly goats and kangaroos. But since the Dingoes returned roughly 9 years ago, things have changed. Such has been the efficacy of the Dingoes in removing the kangaroo population, I estimate that the grazing pressure of the kangaroos on Wooleen has been reduced by 90%. The reduction in goat numbers of has been even greater, to the point where I would be surprised if there was a single goat left on Wooleen. We have removed 90% of the unmanaged grazing pressure on Wooleen, simply by not taking the time and effort to kill the Dingoes.

Angus Emmott – Noonbah Station Longreach QLD

We run a 50,000 hectare cattle station in Western Queensland and have found that Dingoes help our bottom line by eradicating feral goats, reducing wild pig numbers, and especially by keeping kangaroo numbers down. We get better returns and the country is healthier. We realise that for sheep and goat producers especially that co-existence is difficult. But we think we need more discussions of solutions that work for landholders long-term.

We have found a number of benefits in leaving the Dingoes to do their own thing on our place.  By leaving the pack structure intact, the adult male and female maintain control and train their offspring. This leads to less bites to calves, and also less breeding of the dingoes. This occurs because in an intact group, only the alpha female breeds.

We have no wild dogs. An intact group of dingoes vigorously protects their territory, driving off or killing wild dogs or other dingoes. We have significantly reduced macropod numbers as roos are the Dingo’s main prey. We have much more stock feed retained due to the lack of grazing pressure by macropods. We have greatly reduced numbers of foxes, feral cats and pigs.

There are greater biodiversity outcomes – ecological systems do their own things without physical or economic outputs by us. We realise that this management method does not work for sheep and goat producers, but in our situation, our bank balance is better, and the condition of our stock and our country is improved. We get better returns and the country is healthier. I realise that for sheep and goat producers especially that co-existence is difficult. But I think we need more discussions of solutions that work for land-holders long term.

Images copyright to Angus Emmott

Read Angus’ recent article in Australian Zoology: The Dingo as a management tool on a beef cattle enterprise.

Gill Campbell, Claravale Station, Mitchell, QLD

Gill Campbell owns and manages 13,000 hectare Claravale Station, north of Mitchell in south-west Queensland. Claravale has been owned by Gill’s family for four generations.  Gill has been managing it since 1983. Claravale runs a self-replacing breeder herd of around 700 cows. 

Dingoes were persecuted at Claravale until 1995 when Gill stopped routine killing. When Gill was growing up and a young man in the 1960s and ‘70s, Dingoes were shot and trapped, with around 20 Dingoes killed a year on Claravale.  However, calf losses remained high, with around ten percent of calves killed or injured in attacks.  

From the 1970s onwards, 1080 poison was used extensively to kill Dingoes. When 1080 was first used, Dingo numbers collapsed in the whole district, before later recovering. There was a resulting explosion in numbers of kangaroos and wallabies. Feral goats, which had been absent from the property, moved in. 

Since Gill stopped indiscriminately persecuting Dingoes, incidents of killing and injury to cattle has greatly reduced. Gill believes this is because Claravale now has stable Dingo families with experienced ‘alpha’ males and females, who are more skilled at taking adult kangaroos, pigs and goats, and less likely to attempt to attack cattle. The alpha animals work hard to keep their territories clear of other Dingoes, and Claravale now has less Dingoes than previously. 

The stable Dingo packs now at Claravale eradicated the feral goats that had invaded the property.  Feral pigs are still present but are now in low numbers.  Foxes were once commonly trapped, but now appear to be absent, with tracks not seen for many years. Feral cats are in much lower numbers than previously.  

Eastern Grey Kangaroos in family groups of 3-7, and wallabies are now in much lower numbers than when Dingoes were persecuted. These appear to be the main food source for the Dingoes, with very young and very old animals being targeted by the resident Dingo families. Grey kangaroos, wallabies, wallaroos and rock-wallabies are now in stable numbers. The low numbers of kangaroos, wallabies and feral grazing animals means that paddocks can be properly rested from grazing when cattle are moved around the property.

Having Dingoes in the landscape has meant more and better-quality feed for cattle and allows management and resting of total grazing pressure in individual paddocks. Gill has also seen better outcomes of native wildlife – with rare native birds and animals that would previously have been feed for foxes now being more abundant at Claravale. 

Gill Campbell believes that cattle producers throughout Australia should always work with the land and nature and consider the advantages of maintaining Dingo family groups. This allows for better long-term landscape health, which results in better financial returns. The benefits of reduced grazing by kangaroos and feral animals at Claravale far outweighs any stock losses. 

Images copyright to Claravale Station and the Campbell family

Jason Hastie, Pingandy Station, Meekatharra, WA.

I’m the previous owner of Pingandy Station, 178,000 hectares in the upper Gascoyne of Western Australia. When I bought the station in 2007 it was severely over-grazed. As well as the cattle, I was overrun with kangaroos and euros (wallaroos).

I didn’t have strong views on Dingoes when I got the station. I went along with the cultural convention of killing Dingoes by baiting. Later though, I began to question this convention when news items appeared in the media challenging the efficacy of baiting and dingo control in general, and then, through local administrative oversight, I missed out on annual aerial baiting for two years in a row. Things didn’t go backward so I decided to give up on Dingo control.

A year later I began to notice small packs of Dingoes at all my watering points, with cattle often looking very relaxed around them. I also started to see a lot of kangaroo carcasses around these same water points and a lot less kangaroos in the landscape. From being in high numbers, both species of kangaroo are now sparse, to the extent that I take notice when I see one. Also, I see much fewer Dingoes now and have suffered only negligible calf losses.

My take is that once baiting stopped, the Dingoes were able to form stable packs and then start hunting their preferred prey, kangaroos. Once roo numbers went down, Dingo breeding decreased, and predator and prey now exist in low numbers and in balance.

Total grazing pressure across the station is now much lower, so the outcome for the cattle operation is greater production and greater drought resilience, as there is always more feed on hand.

Images copyright to Angus Emmott

Garlone Moulin and Jamie Gordon – Mt Pleasant North QLD.

GM and HG

Mt Pleasant is a 13,000 hectare beef cattle property near Bowen, North Queensland that focuses on managing the environment for long-term ecological improvements, as well as producing quality and healthy beef.

We have just branded one mob of calves with 430 cows there were only 10 less calves than pregnancies counted in August. That is a very small loss from preg test to brand. We do not attribute this loss to Dingoes.

We do not try to control Dingoes on our property in any way.  It was a bit of a tough end of year nutritionally, although we had ample feed for the stock until the wet, the quality was not so good, so cows were not as fat as they sometimes are at calving. We did have half a dozen calves with small dingo bite scars and a few nicked ears which we have not seen for a year or two, but nothing more. We see our Dingoes regularly when moving the cows, they are just part of the landscape for us.

Learn more about Garlone and Jamie’s land management strategies in this RCS case-study: Striving for symbiotic systems at ‘Mt Pleasant‘.

LH & centre images copyright to Angus Emmott; RH image copyright to Alamy

Simon Gedda – Central QLD

I lived on a 55000-acre family cattle property running 1250 breeders in Central Queensland for 50 years, and my thoughts and actions on the dingo have evolved over that time.

I started to think very deeply about dingo baiting after having seen some of my working dogs poisoned from 1080 30 years ago. I actually stopped baiting from that time on to see what would happen.

Over time I started to realize the importance of the dingo as an apex predator in keeping the balance. 

I witnessed dingoes chasing feral pigs through cattle taking out the piglets one by one. Over time I saw them chasing kangaroo’s, rabbit’s, wallabies, emu’s and once a feral cat. I once came across some dingoes feasting on a brumby foal that they had chased down one morning.

I have observed dingoes mingling with unconcerned cows and calves around dams –   week after week when all the natural waters had dried up – and came to the conclusion that if the mothers aren’t worried, then “why should I?” 

We did have the odd calf killed and a few bitten over time, but in the whole scale of our operation it was miniscule and did not warrant retaliation.

I feel the reason we didn’t have an issue with losses is that we became better managers at keeping cows and calves in good order, so that they weren’t an easy target. Creating a healthy environment for all species. Also culling cows that had lost a calf for whatever reason was all part of the management program.

I feel that our property was well balanced and not dominated by any one species, including livestock.

I used to see dingoes on our property all the time, mainly reds, black and tans, the odd black, and I have never seen a “wild dog” – an animal that looked like it had domestic dog breeding in it.

It took a lot of years for me to respect them as a major predator, and my fear would be to see the balance shift to the point that I walk outside one day to see fifty thousand kangaroos eating all our grass, as I witnessed on a property in Western Qld years ago.

Not trying to be an expert on the subject, as I’m just reflecting on what I saw on our property over 50 years.