Rangelands account for over three quarters of the Australian landmass. They are biologically diverse and economically important. However, livestock production in the rangelands faces several significant challenges.
The current situation in the southern rangelands of Western Australia is representative of issues in small stock production rangelands across Australia. The presence of wild dogs and artificially enhanced populations of native and introduced herbivores act to limit production and enterprise choice.
This is of particular concern in the southern rangeland of WA where there are few other enterprise choices other than small stock. Landholders are currently investigating and implementing options to allow them to develop sustainable enterprises. These include: wild dog fencing from paddock (~20,000ha) to large cell (88,000km2) scale; manipulation of water availability to direct stock; and implementation of established and new pest control measures at landscape-scale.
This project first aims to understand the relationships between active predator management, cell-fencing and water availability on native herbivores, introduced herbivores and introduced predators.
Second , it aims to assist landholders by assessing viability of increasing small stock production through manipulating predation and herbivores using active predator control, fencing and water availability. To address these aims the project will determine changes in density of introduced predators (primarily wild dogs and cats), native and introduced herbivores in response to fencing, predator densities and water availability. It will also identify how changes in predator and herbivore density in can be practically utilised by landholders to improve small stock production and native biodiversity
To address these aims the project will determine changes in density of introduced predators, small stock, native and introduced herbivores in response to fencing, predator management and water availability. It will also assess the economic implications of these landscape-scale management approaches on the economic viability of individual livestock production enterprises..
February 2020 update:
Small stock productivity assessments in the small hub are on-going. One full year of camera trap monitoring has been completed- small paddocks within the hub are fully fenced and small stock productivity seems to be improving. Few dogs have been seen inside the fenced areas.
Also, one full year of tracking small stock has been completed and collars have been sent off for analysis. The second year of tracking sheep and goats within the hub will commence when new collars arrive.
A post-doctoral researcher has commenced, and the PhD student is scheduled to begin field work in April 2020.
August 2019 update:
Investigations into livestock productivity in relation to wild dogs within the Murchison cell hub as it is being built is underway. Management options for wild dogs (CPEs) and monitoring livestock and wild dog abundance at all water points will be analysed. As the cell-fencing is completed, small stock will be tracked, and their activity monitored.
A journal article is currently being prepared based on the findings of a completed honours project, focusing on camera trap surveys for both predator and prey species.
A PhD candidate has begun their tenure, including planned field visits and completion of a literature review and project proposal in January 2020. The candidate is also assisting with CISS project Behaviorally effective wild dog management. A possible second honours student may also be recruited examining bait uptake by wild dogs in a small-scale, established fenced enclosure on the Nullarbor.