The fence erected must meet certain criteria to be eligible for financial support. Basically the minimum height is stipulated along with the need to have a skirt at the bottom. Other than that not much more is laid down.
Historically, much of western Queensland was sheep country but now most farmers no longer have sheep because of the havoc wreaked by wild dogs. Wild dogs include dingoes, but the majority of animals that cause the damage is dog/dingo hybrids. The hybrids are usually bigger and stronger than dingoes and can therefore cause a lot more damage to animals. Whole swathes of Queensland are now free of sheep.
It is important to remember that sheep and lambs attacked by wild dogs suffer extreme pain. They are either killed in very inhumane ways or are left to die in the paddock having had parts of them eaten.
The main concern is in relation to the effect the fencing has on wild animals who share the country. The fence is a barrier to larger wildlife such as macropods and it is poorly understood whether fences disrupt macropod normal movement through the landscape. Access to waterholes has also been raised as a concern.
Farmers see fences as one of the tools that can be used in the fight against wild dogs. Baiting, shooting and trapping must continue as well. They view fences as life-savers as they allow sheep to be farmed again.
Much of the Queensland landscape is huge, flat and dry. The clusters take up a tiny part of it. Therefore, the impact on wildlife is potentially minimal although insufficient research examining this aspect of fencing has been conducted. If farmers use cluster fencing as a tool and do not treat pest animals poorly (i.e. they shoot kangaroos and dogs inside the fence humanely; don’t harass kangaroos or emus to run at fences) the fencing adds minimal negative welfare to a situation where the land has already been cleared and farming has been occurring for over a hundred years.
The biggest threat to wildlife is land clearing and we need to work to reduce the amount of Queensland that is being cleared annually. The latest figures suggest that just under 95% of land clearing is for pasture and millions of Queensland animals are being killed every year - read more on land clearing in Australia and how it is affecting wildlife.
As RSPCA Qld’s Principal Scientist, Mandy provides expert advice on all animal welfare issues and policies, oversees research which furthers animal welfare, and represents RSPCA Qld on several external Government and Industry committees.