Mount Mee Ramblings – June 2014 – Ian Wells

WILD DOG MEETING REPORT

There is still grass about but it will be a tight winter. Here’s hoping for an early spring! If you are lucky enough to have fat cattle, and if you are lucky enough to have them booked for slaughter, then your prospects are good. If you will need to reduce numbers by selling store cattle then God help you, the store market remains awful.

It has been hard for many of us to fit in much woody weed control since the rain and the window for that has now been closed by the onset of cool weather. But doesn’t the multicoloured Lantana blossom look beautiful this year, the yellow has been just brilliant!

I have just spent a couple of days conferencing – for me it was just like a jump backwards in time to a previous existence – (which I don’t miss a bit!) At short notice, the Australian Veterinary Association asked me to represent our profession at a national gathering organised by the Australian Wool Producers.

Wild dogs are the bane of Australia’s grazing industries, and the problem is rapidly getting worse. Wild dogs are an especial problem for sheep and wool growers, and the depredations of wild dogs have played a big part in shifting people out of that industry. For instance, sheep numbers in Queensland alone have dropped in recent years from 25m to less than 4m.

The meeting came about because Wool Producers sought federal help with dog control and were told to go away and form a nationwide action committee. They formed a steering committee that did a wonderful job in developing the bones of a plan and bringing our meeting -.a gathering of about fifty people representing key stakeholders from all States and Territories – governments, pastoral industry peak bodies and state organisations, research bodies and organisations with animal welfare interests. The task of the meeting was to flesh out the bones of that drafted plan.

The outcome will be a National Wild Dog Action Plan an overarching national body combining the resources of Commonwealth, State, Territory and local governments with the various grazing industries, aiming to reduce the impact of wild dogs in Australia. It will run in conjunction with the new National Landcare programme, and will very likely absorb the current National Wild Dog Management Action Group (NWDMAG) that is presently funded by the Invasive Animals arm of the National Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) Association. This CRC activity runs the livewire National Wild Dog Facilitator Greg Mifsud, who will be familiar to many of our readers who have attended local wild dog meetings. And in answer to the key question, yes! There is some confidence that Commonwealth government funding will become available for the housekeeping needs of the new Committee. State and local governments will of course continue to fund activity on the ground.

It was all heavy weather for this deaf old –timer with his shortened attention span, but we did resolve the format – to be a seven person executive or “Implementation Committee”, supported by a very inclusive “Stakeholder Consultative Group”. The aim is to have it all up and running by July 1st!

I attended with a particular interest in the animal welfare aspects of wild dog control, but this proved to not be an opportune time to discuss that sort of stuff – we were into structure and communications issues. But that time will come, and the AVA will be pushing hard for better baiting tools and for the use of ‘best practice’ trapping methods. There are promising new bait toxins on the horizon, but plenty of work is needed to bring them to a point at which they might be used in the field and that work must be accelerated. Not so with traps though – the better modern traps are light years ahead of the traditional in terms of welfare, as well as in selectivity and efficiency. We must focus on those!

The pastoral rangelands have challenges differing from those of our periurban landscape, but the plan will take both on board, and you will hear about it. But remember, you read about it first in the Dayboro Grapevine!

The Mt Mee Public Hall held its AGM during May – with a good turn-out including Cr Adrian Raedel and Council ‘Halls Facilitator’ Janelle Springall. We saw some significant changes to Hall management. There were the well- earned retirements of Joyce Knight OAM after almost forty years of service – first as Secretary and later as Booking Officer, and of Kay Wells after 14 years as Treasurer, during which she successfully negotiated the shoals of a new GST and increasingly complex bookkeeping to keep in line with changing Council requirements.

President Denton Webster and Vice president Anne Pedwell were returned unopposed, Jeanette Stone replaces the retiring Neil Cook as secretary, Vanessa Mead replaces Kay as treasurer and Rebecca Skilling is the new booking officer.

The elections were followed by a very civilized supper complete with a quiet drink or two – and it was all over until next year!