the stories behind the fences
On your travels around Wyandra be sure to take a closer look at the variety of fencing you see dotted across the landscape. Unless floods take them out, fences tend to accumulate and map out the storylines of a farm's ongoing development.
The very existence of a network of fences for example speaks to a place likely to be sheep country as cattle can get by well enough on the open range. Then imagine how the old post and rail timber fences made from mulga, gidgee and yapunya would have worked well to keep the sheep penned in while doing nothing to stop wild dog attacks.
With the arrival of the railway into the Warrego in the late 1890s, it became easier for pastoralists to import building and fencing materials rather than having to rely purely on what they could source from local supplies. This opened the way for products like spring coil fencing to be introduced with a view to making fences a two way barrier - one that kept the livestock in and the pest species out!
One of the problems inhibiting a broad scale solution to the dog problem was the fact that not all landholders were equally affected.
As an informative article from 1932 explained:
One of the main difficulties in solving the problem is that the sheep and cattle districts are interspersed throughout the State, and while the sheep owners are sorely tried by dogs the cattle owners are not seriously, affected — in some places they welcome their presence as a means of minimising kangaroos and wallabies. Thus the policy of making each owner responsible for clearing his own country [of dogs] will never be effective.
What was needed the article argued was for the ...
erection of dog netting fences as the sole permanent method of bringing relief to dog infested districts.
While the first efforts at feral proof fences in the late 1800s had been devoted to keeping rabbits out, this was of limited value. In the 1930s some rabbit fences were adapted to make them dog proof by adding 2 feet to their height. Elsewhere across private holdings the scale of the dog problem facing pastoralists is reflected in a 1933 article describing how in Queensland alone over 20,000 miles of dog proof fences had been installed on properties.
From there on, the government policy of largely passing the burden of feral dog control over to the landholder played out unsuccessfully over the next twenty years. It was not until 1954 that Queensland passed a Barrier Fences Bill to establish a dog proof fence around Queensland's sheep lands. Over the next decade this led to the construction of the world's longest fence – a 3500 mile long venture enclosing 135 million acres of country.
sheep farming and modern exclusion fencing
Unfortunately however, the devastating impacts wild dogs can have on sheep farming ventures have never gone away. It remains a very modern problem and one that continues to threaten the very future of sheep farming across districts like the Warrego.
As a WoolProducers Australia report noted in 2017: