Gallagher Westonfence keeps Dorpers in and neighbour relations strong

Phil Larwood can have a beer with his neighbours now, “and I don’t have to worry about any flack from having sheep on their place that shouldn’t be there”. Because while Dorpers are easy care, it’s not always easy to keep them where they’re supposed to be.

Phil and his wife Chris run “Bunnerungie Station” at Wentworth in the far south west of NSW. They sell up to 150 rams a year from their Bunnerungie White Dorper stud, plus have a commercial White Dorper flock, turning off organic prime lambs. Fully stocked, they run 4,500 sheep across the enterprises.

Phil says, “We had nearly all woolgrowers around us initially and used to spend a bit of time going back and forth, picking up stragglers, which was a bit of an issue. It’s a waste of time and annoying, and always when you try and do something you get a phone call to say ‘you’ve got sheep here’. And fair enough, they weren’t always happy about it, but since we’ve had the Westonfence, life’s been good.”

Change away from wool

“Bunnerungie Station” is 16,200 hectares (40,000 acres) of predominately bluebush and saltbush vegetation, with a 225-millimetre average annual rainfall.

The family originally came from the South Australian Mid North, where Phil’s father ran a Merino stud. They moved to Wentworth in 1978, changing to commercial and stud Dorpers in 2005 on the back of inconsistent wool prices.

“Also, we bred some medium fine wools, but our country had a lot of burr, so we received large discounts. None of our kids were at home at that stage, so we thought we’d back off a bit and went for the Dorpers because they’re easy care. But then it created a few issues keeping them in, because if they got hungry they wouldn’t stay, they’d get out on the road.

“We initially tried a couple of barbs on the fence, but that did worry them, they just went straight through it. A little bit of wool gets on the barbs and then they just keep coming back to the same spot and go backwards and forwards. They’d go through on to the road or into the neighbours’ places. Most of them came back to where they were supposed to be, but that wasn’t what we wanted them to do — we wanted to keep them on the farm. So that’s why we went for the electric fencing, and it was the best thing we ever did really.”

Searching for a solution

The Larwoods began by using some pinlock insulators on posts.

Phil says, “It was a quick fix as far as you could pull two wires out of the fence and put those insulators in and then run them back through and insulate your strainer posts and strain them up.

“They were good to initially get going, but there’s a little bit of maintenance on them and the roos knock them around a bit. We don’t have regrets doing that — other than the Westonfence is much superior, and is maintenance-free once you’ve got it up.”

Deciding there was still a better solution, Phil and Chris kept looking for options.

“I’ve re-fenced this place once, because when we came here there was nothing really, only one good fence — and that was each side of the bitumen. We re-fenced it with traditional plain five-wire fencing, but now we’ve upgraded all that by putting steel strainers in and making long strains.”

Phil saw Gallagher Westonfence at several different places.

“One of our neighbours about 20 kilometres up the road has got a rotation grazing setup for Merinos with a three-wire Westonfence that’s electric. That sort of got me into it. I looked at it — and googled it of course — and after a look at a few others, thought ‘we’ll give that a bit of a go’.

“It’s easy to put up, and I think it’s quicker to put up. Any fence here that is a Westonfence hasn’t had a broken wire on it. It’s just been really good.”

Electricity the difference

The Larwoods have used 810mm tall Gallagher Westonfence D5 Insulated Suspension Posts, running five wires with the bottom wire a heavy-gauge 3.15mm. Post spacings vary from 10m to 15m. Being remote, the fencing is predominantly solar powered, with only one close enough to a power point to run on mains electricity.

Phil says training the Dorpers to electric fences “made all the difference”.

“Once they know that the fence is electric and they’re trained to it, even if the fence is not on we don’t have any issues. That’s where we really made our first mistake: we didn’t have any electric fencing to train them with; we just thought ‘she’ll be right, no worries’, but it was a bit of a hassle. But they’ve been trained now, they know what’s going on, it’s really good.

“Even the fence I pulled two plain wires out to run two barbs — which didn’t work at all when we weren’t running electricity — now that fence works because they’re trained on the electricity.”

Fencing variety

“Bunnerungie Station” has a variety of fencing: with 45km of pure Gallagher Westonfence, 10km of lean-to, 35km of pinlocks and 16km of three plains and two barbs.

Phil says, “We left the fencing with all pinlocks as it was, but any new fence or new subdivision we’ve put up, we’ve used Westonfence. We did that purely because it’s maintenance free and we get long strains.

“On one boundary fence that’s not Westonfence we’ve got quite a few droppers and the posts are fairly close together. We don’t have any trouble on that though because the Dorpers are trained to the electricity and they don’t look to go through.”

Highly effective

In 2005, “Bunnerungie Station” was among the first in the area to look at drought-excelling, South African-originating sheep; now “nearly everybody’s got Dorpers”.

Phil says the Gallagher Westonfence is a far superior option to what they had before: to control the Dorpers, and also to slows up the kangaroos and feral goats.

“If you draft your lambs off and put them in a paddock, it’s nice to know that when you want to get the truck in that they are there. And the maintenance on the Westonfence: there’s just no maintenance. Westonfence is our first choice now, and with electricity, it’s so good. I just can’t believe how good it is.”

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