World first: Gallagher 10,000i solar fence protects Outback property
After major damage to stud stock, fencing and fodder by feral and wild animals, electric fencing is giving this family back its farm. And all being powered by solar, means the efficient, cost-effective benefits of electric fencing are a solid option in the Outback.
For years, Kym Thomas, her husband Greg Dunsdon and son Tony Reid have watched their precious grass be eaten away by roos. Then several years ago, they began copping increased pressure from wild and stray dog encroachment, which severely impacted their Dorper fat lamb operation.
The trio runs more than 33,615 hectares (83,000 acres) comprising two properties near Cunnamulla in South West Queensland, including “Curragh” and “Kahmoo Station”, which has been in the Thomas family for five generations.
It had reached the point, says Kym, where they had to change something.
“Overpopulation of kangaroos on the land saw more than 30,000 of them across the properties. Here, one kangaroo eats the same as 1.5 sheep, so not only were we suffering those huge losses of fodder, but also severe damage to the fencing as well. We just weren’t able to control stocking anything.
“Then there was the wild dog and stray domestic dog issue that had caused loss of income — in one instant: $25,000 in stud stock.”
Kym says pigs also roamed freely, and the family wanted to be able to stop their migration from the river onto the property, after shooting and using 1080 to try to manage the pests.
“Pigs ate lambs at a cost of low lambing and then the follow-on impact of us not having that income down the track; one paddock was down 50% after scanning ewes for pregnancy. Also, when we needed to feed stock due to drought times, the pigs were still there, eating considerable amounts — again, lots of dollars.”
One of the areas they looked at was electric fencing.
“We had spent many years patching and putting up netting and combinations of barb and plain wire, which was a financial and time cost, but it was only when we put power to the plain wire did we have an impact on the destruction of the fence, which then it helped to maintain control of the country and its sustainability.”
And so began the relationship with Gallagher.
“We chose to work with Gallagher because they actually expressed an interest in our enterprise, and turned up on-farm. We don’t get a lot of service out here; people just don’t come out because we’re so far away. We felt so grateful that we had someone who had time to teach us, as it was so foreign to the fencing out here we were used to.
“This has then meant we have a meaningful result to our bottom line — and on future out in this area. It is an awful thought to think that you were the one who lost, after your forebears started in 1911.”
The initial project was installing an MX 7500 Energizer to power 25 kilometres of multi-wire fence of varied design on the home block.
Several years later, the family now also runs three 10,000i Energizers and a 5800i, powering 100km of multi-wire, all-earth-wire-return fence. The 5800i is solar powered, and, says Gallagher Territory Manager Rob Doro, so is one of the 10,000i Energizers, which the family installed in late 2015.
“This is a world first to run the 10,000i Energizer — such a big unit — on solar.
“I worked with the family in conjunction with a solar specialist from Mount Isa. We’ve based the system on a 24-volt design, which has kept down the number of solar panels needed and battery requirements, compared to if it was a standard 12-volt solar system. That size would have needed a lot more solar panels and a much bigger battery capacity to be able to continually maintain the system.
“When Gallagher released the 10,000i Energizer, we didn’t necessarily think of firing it up as a solar system, but Kym, Greg and Tony said ‘how good would that be if we could do it solar?’. So we did. It really is a unique and remarkable project. But when you look at that Outback world, and how big it is, this system is also very cost-effective.”
This system is located remotely from the homestead, so has been fitted with an SMS Data Controller.
Kym says, “One day, zone 2 went into alarm. I know that is back towards town, so knew straightaway what direction on the property to go looking for the problem. This will be a vital part of our property's feral-animal and livestock-production program.”
Rob says, “The larger i Series units with their remote monitoring and performance capability have truly changed the future of electric fencing, and the way in which electric fencing can deliver a sustainable, viable and cost-effective solution to producers on larger-scale, remote areas. We’ve really redefined what is possible.”
Kym says, “We wouldn’t be able to do this, on this scale, without the electric fencing.”
As well as keeping out most of the kangaroos and feral dogs, Kym, Greg and Tony can now really start to rotational graze and manage their property internally. Kym says this happened once they were able to go around the whole area, and not leave a gap to funnel feral animals in. Spelling country previously was impossible, because paddocks without sheep or trading cattle would be decimated by kangaroos.
Greg says, “This is the first time we’ve been able to control our Dorper sheep. We put sheep and rams in a certain paddock, and when we mustered them out, they were actually still in there, whereas in the past they pretty much had free reign and wandered wherever they wanted to. We’re now able to actually manage the property according to the way we want to manage it.”