TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION

New management tool to track wild dogs

A WILD dog recording and management tool, FeralScan, is helping a Northern Territory station to streamline wild dog control and reduce calf losses.

Staff writer
A new management tool records wild dog activity and baiting.

A new management tool records wild dog activity and baiting.

Located 500km south-west of Katherine, Mt Sanford Station lists wild dogs as a primary threat to its cattle enterprise and uses a proactive and integrated program of strategic ground baiting, aerial baiting and trapping.

Mt Sanford managers Paul and Kate Watts said around 150 calves/weaners were coming through the yards each year suffering wild dog bites.

"The calves killed due to wild dogs are on top of those numbers, we don't see them  but we do at times witness a pack of wild dogs pulling calves down, so we know when it happens," Paul Watts said.

Mt Sanford Station is part of the Heytesbury Cattle Company and covers 249,914 hectares, running 22,000 cattle including 8500 breeders.

Heytesbury runs six stations spanning 2.7 million hectares across the Northern Territory and eastern Kimberly regions of Western Australia.

As Heytesbury Wild Dog Management Group coordinator, Watts said calf losses and bite damage to hides was costing Mt Sanford around $252,000 each year.

Heytesbury station managers participate in broader district wide control programs in WA and the NT, with aerial and ground baiting programs estimated to cost the company's five NT stations alone $100,000 a year across 1.698 million hectares.

The estimated direct cost in control and calf losses across all the Heytesbury properties including WA is around $1.5 million a year.

Watts said there had been a spike of bite marks and calf loss in the first round of this year's weaning on Mt Sanford.

"Any calves with bite damage to the hide were unsaleable for live export and eventually slaughtered for use as wild dog bait," he said.

"If they have a tail or more than half an ear missing, they are very hard to sell.

"We get around 150 dog bitten calves or weaners coming through the yards each year resulting in quite a cost as a feeder weight export animal is worth $4/kg or $1400," he said.

Mt Sanford employs professional pest animal controller, Adam Bowen, of Katherine, to carry out bait injection and collect DNA to determine content of dingo in the wild dogs.

Station staff were introduced to the pest animal recording and monitoring app, FeralScan, in March at Katherine by National Wild Dog Management Coordinator Greg Mifsud and Adam Bowen, who is also the Northern Territory Cattleman's Association representative on the National Wild Dog Action Plan Committee.

FeralScan enables users to record and upload wild dog impacts such as images on animals mauled or killed as well as information on wild dog activity, including tracks and sightings.

Since the Katherine workshop in March, FeralScarn has been introduced across all the Heytesbury stations to track baiting effectiveness and calf loss.

The project is being developed by Greg Mifsud and the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions and is seeking funding from Meat & Livestock Australia's Northern Breeding Business Program to improve calf survival across northern Australia.

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