A new study into the impact of predator–friendly farming practices on an Australian cattle station gives an inside view into the causes of livestock mortality over a two year period.
The researchers found that husbandry practices, not dingoes, were most likely the primary cause of preventable deaths for cattle on Evelyn Downs, a large landholding in northern South Australia.
The study concludes that transitioning from killing dingoes to improving husbandry practices, such as dam maintenance, is likely to increase survival and welfare of cattle significantly, as well as improve economic outcomes on large stations.
University of Technology Sydney researcher Dr Arian Wallach and Adam O’Neill, from Dingo for Biodiversity Project, spent two years managing Evelyn Downs as a predator friendly property where the killing of wildlife and carrying of guns was banned. Dingoes were also proactively protected by maintaining bores so that dingoes had uninterrupted access to water.
“Stopping dingo deaths on Evelyn Downs did not result in high or increasing predation rates… the main cause of deaths was the drying of silted dams,” Dr Wallach says.
“Our results are in line with other studies from around the world that show that killing predators for livestock protection is generally unnecessary and counterproductive,” she says
Dr Wallach said that the Dingo (Canis dingo), Australia’s apex predator, lives in extended families led by a single breeding pair.
“When you kill socially complex species like dingoes you disrupt their social groups.Our research shows that when you end lethal control, even on the vast stations of the Australian arid zone, it’s possible to reduce livestock losses as the predator’s social structure stabilises, ‘ Dr Wallach says.
The research is published in a special edition, in the Journal of Mammalogy, on predator control where an interdisciplinary group of wildlife biologists and social scientists present new evidence on the impact of predator friendly farming practices. As well as the research on dingoes, the feature edition includes and analysis of a seven-year program that successfully minimised wolf-sheep conflict in America using non-lethal methods, and a study providing evidence of the growing intolerance among Americans for lethal control of predators.