At over 5,600 kilometres long, the world’s biggest fence was meant to keep dingoes away from farms – but more than 140 years after the first paling was laid it’s no longer doing its job.
Built in the 1880s, ‘The Dingo Fence’ cuts through South Australia, New South Wales and into Queensland – stretching the equivalent distance of London to New York.
Constructed to keep the wild dogs away from prime sheep and cattle grazing areas, it costs nearly one million dollars to maintain annually.
But in recent years the fence has become a thorn in the side of remote farmers who say dealing with dingoes gets harder due to the ageing barrier falling apart.
The longest structure in the world costs nearly one million dollars to maintain each year in order to keep dingoes away from livestock
The fence cuts through South Australia, NSW and up to Queensland, and was built in the 1900s
‘The numbers keep increasing and there’s two main reasons for that. Dogs are breeding inside the fence and dogs are getting through the fence. They’re getting through because of the age of the fence and the pressure kangaroos and emus are putting on it,’ Orroroo sheep producer Geoff Power told The Advertiser.
However there is hope in sight for struggling farmers in the south-east, with a rebuild of the Dog Fence starting next year.
The 2019-20 State Budget set aside $25 million for the rebuild, in a bid to breathe new life into the livestock industry.
Mr Power will have a large role to play in the restoration, through his role as chairman of the South Australian Dog Fence Board.
He says around 1,600 kilometres of the 2,150 kilometre fence on the South Australian side needs to be replaced.
But the hundred-year-old fence has become a thorn in the side of remote farmers who say dealing with dingoes gets harder every year due to the ageing barrier
At over 5,600 kilometres long, the world’s largest fence was once built to keep dingoes out of fertile land
‘Now that the funding is in place, we want to create an oversight committee to traverse the fence and work out what needs to done, and how it’s going to be done,’ he said.
Him and fellow farmers who are also board members plan to go to Queensland to check out what exclusion fencing they’re using up there, to see what would work on the Dingo Fence.
While the exact formation of the fence hasn’t been decided yet, Mr Power said including foot netting would play a vital role in the construction – to keep dogs from burrowing underneath.
If everything goes according to plan, the rebuild is on track to start by March 2020, with the work to be finished within three years.
Mr Power said not only wild dogs create financial hardship for farmers – they also have grave environmental impacts and cause the loss of wildlife.
Dingoes are currently being guarded and managed by dog trappers coupled with a complex baiting program.
Brian Gill, a former trapper, said some cattle stations had lost 5000 sheep due to the drought and the wild dogs.
‘It’s not just dogs killing sheep that’s the issue, they’ll also chase ewes, so then they leave their lambs behind,’ he said.
The 2019-20 State Budget set aside $25 million to rebuild the ageing fence in a bid to breathe new life into the livestock industry
While the exact formation of the rebuilt fence hasn’t been decided yet, Mr Power said including foot netting would play a vital role in the construction – to keep dogs from burrowing underneath
Mr Gill said the section of fence in South Australia’s north east is in the worst condition.
But even in parts where the fence isn’t too damaged, dingoes are still managing to wreak havoc for farmers.
Sheep farmer Rick Miller, from west of Penong in SA, has already trapped five dogs so far this year, saying there’s a higher amount around than usual.
Mr Miller has been lucky to not lose too much of his stock, but keeping track of his sheep hasn’t been easy.
‘I’m monitoring all the time, looking for tracks and keeping my eye on the sheep. So far, I’ve been lucky enough to get the dogs pretty much as soon as they arrive on my property,’ he said.