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Four Gallagher Westonfence wires save 5th generation farmers

“There were 830 ewes in the mob and we tailed 16 lambs. We had to do something, otherwise we may as well walk away.”

Malcolm Healey is a fifth-generation farmer at “Box Hill” in Turondale, NSW. Along with wife Jodie and his parents Mike and Joy, they run nearly 7,000 superfine Merinos. Mal and Jodie’s six sons are the sixth generation on the 1,530-hectare (3,800-acre) Central Tablelands property, which has been in Mal’s family since the 1850s.

But a jump in the pressure from wild dogs nearly forced them off the land.

For five years until 2017, wild dogs became such a problem that the operation struggled to achieve around 30% lambing – less than a third of what it had been. Then, of course, were the just 16 live lambs tailed.

“We lambed the sisters to those ewes at the front of the place, and tailed 105%.”

Mal says, “It’s not just the financial aspect; it’s the mental side, the effect of wild dogs can have a big impact on family and relationships. We had to do something.”

Highly effective

What they did was meet with the Central Tablelands Local Land Services (LLS) wild dog co-ordinator, Paul Gibbs from Mudgee. Paul suggested electricity as the cheapest option, and along with Karen Miller, Branch Manager of Bathurst Agriwest, they met with Gallagher Territory Manager for Central NSW, Brendan Ryan.

Mal says electricity turned out not just to be the cheapest option, but a highly effective one.

“Paul got it up and off the ground with the LLS; about 20 landholders received funding for feral fencing because it had become such a problem. Karen orchestrated the whole thing for us, but Brendan has just been terrific.

“We looked at other fencing, high fencing, but it was going to cost us too much to run a dozer along the fence line.”

After seeking advice and seeing different fencing options in action, the Healeys chose the 660mm Gallagher Westonfence Insulated Suspension Post Leaning Offset to attach to existing fencing.

“Talking to LLS landholders in Tumbarumba and looking at some of the work down there, it amazed me how good it was: it’s terrific. Four wires, a foot and a half off the ground, stop everything.

“I actually started off on the dozer trying to clear the line, but my 18-year-old son told me to stop because I was making too big a mess in the original fence – too many rock bars.”

Simple installation in rugged country

Mal says installation was not hard.

“I should emphasise that we put it in some pretty horrible spots – some pretty rugged areas. Brendan helped us set up the first energizer, then it was a full-on family effort: basically, the kids, Jodie and me. There is no rocket science to doing it – my seven-year-old son was wiring wires up. So it’s pretty easy and simple.”

Mal says the drought held up progress a bit, with their focus turning to feeding out. “But by then we’d already seen the results by having that back half fenced, so we were doing it. It was either that or we may as well walk away.”

Stops everything

The family has now put up 20 kilometres, going round the entire breeding property. Two Gallagher M5800i Energizers power the fence, one on solar, and one on mains.

“Dogs were the main thing, but the impact that it’s had on stopping the kangaroos is unreal, too. There were paddocks where we used to drive out and see a hundred kangaroos; now you battle to see one. And it stops the pigs. We actually have some feed in our paddocks. The Tumbarumba fellas say it also stops the deer. Eight months previous to putting up the Gallagher Westonfence, we would have had eight different dogs on cameras. Not now.

“It’s amazing, all wires down low, done properly, it’s a great product.”

Removed stress

For Mal and Jodie, perhaps the fencing’s biggest impact on the day-to-day management of their farm has been it means they can sleep at night.

“It removes the stress out of things. Like I said, at times it can really have a big impact on family and relationships – the mental side is huge. Then there’s also the financial side: two years ago – just some rough figures that I had done – we’d lost nearly $600,000 worth of sheep. People don’t realise that it’s the impact down the track that costs as well; the dogs meant we haven’t got the old sheep to sell while the money market’s as good as it is.”

Easier than traditional

Mal says the Gallagher electric fencing system with the i Series Fence Monitors “makes life so much easier”.

“If there’s a problem, it lights up. It’s wonderful; because we’ve got the fence in sections, we only have to check that section. Previous to putting this up, everyone said electric fencing is a lot of work, but the electric fence is actually better than the existing fence. If a tree falls over it, we know that morning. Whereas with the existing fence, the tree could be over it for 12 months before we go near the fence. When we put up the Gallagher Westonfence, there are spots on this place that it’s probably only the second time I’d ever been there.

“We are that impressed with it. We’ve got a few old fences up on another block; we’re going to pull the existing fence down there and just put Gallagher Westonfence up.

“To realise that these four wires, a foot and a half off the ground, can stop pretty much everything makes this a wonderful tool. I just can’t fault it.”

“To realise that these four wires, a foot and a half off the ground, can stop pretty much everything makes this a wonderful tool. I just can’t fault it.”

Mal Healy