Counting the cost of wild dogs in WA

04 January 2016

A recent report published by MLA, Assessment of the impact of wild dogs on the Western Australian rangeland goat industry, identifies wild dogs as the major factor currently contributing to a precipitous decline in rangeland goat production in Western Australia. The report estimates goat losses from wild dogs are worth about $11 million in lost total annual farm gate income for Western Australian rangeland goat producers. This is based on an estimated stable and sustainable rangeland goat population of 900,000 head, with a modest harvest rate of 35%, or 315,000 head annually.

The current annual rangeland goat harvest is approximately 65,000 head.The rangeland goat industry in Western Australia is focused in the southern rangelands, comprising the Gascoyne and Murchison River catchments from Exmouth to Geraldton and east to Newman and Kalgoorlie. This pastoral area was traditionally used to graze sheep, with the opportunistic harvesting of rangeland goats to supplement farm incomes starting approximately 30 years ago.

The sheep industry has also suffered losses in foregone income as a result of the wild dogs in the order of $14 million, making a collective loss to Western Australian rangeland sheep and goat producers of $25 million annually. The rangeland goat population has declined from approximately one million head in 2005 to 150,000 head in 2011 (the most recent estimate) and the number of goats harvested is now at a critically low level, according to the MLA report.

Current efforts to control wild dog predation appear to be well resourced, but are in need of overall coordination across the southern rangelands. An objective process for evaluating these control measures is also lacking and the report recommends improved evaluation to better guide control measures.

The report recommends that, if the rangeland goat industry is to be a key industry in the southern rangelands, alone or in association with other commercial grazing livestock, overall grazing pressure should be regularly and consistently monitored to ensure the long term sustainability of production and biodiversity outcomes.

It is also recommended that goat populations and harvest rates be monitored to ensure growth and sustainability. Recent harvest rates are relatively high and current harvest numbers are increasing. More recent goat population data would provide a sound basis for industry planning.

The MLA report concludes that the significant investment of time and effort in wild dog control which has recently occurred is delivering results; however, in Western Australia, a state badly affected by this problem, there is no system or metric to objectively monitor the results of this control. The report recommends local implementation of the National Wild Dog Action Plan, which provides guidance to reliably and demonstrably achieve the required control.

The National Wild Dog Action Plan was developed by industry peak bodies, research organisations and Commonwealth, State and Territory governments to provide a consensus approach to managing the threat of wild dogs. This plan aims to help address the issues identified in the report by:

  • providing effective leadership, governance and coordination for the management of wild dogs
  • increasing awareness, understanding and capacity building of stakeholders
  • developing tools and methods to mitigate the negative impacts caused by wild dogs
  • monitoring, evaluating and reporting to improve wild dog management.

Further information

Read the full report

Access the National Wild Dog Action Plan and read about proposed new tools for the control of wild dogs.

Interested in learning more about using exclusion fencing for dog control and managing total grazing pressure? Check out the short webinar from MLA.

Get in touch with your local government department, biosecurity group or catchment group for more information about what control activities are in place in your region and how you can get involved.

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