Dingo baiting did not reduce fetal/calf loss in beef cattle in northern South AustraliaGreg Campbell A N , Andrew Coffey B , Heather Miller C D , John L. Read E F , Anthony Brook G , Peter J. S. Fleming H I , Peter Bird J K , Steve Eldridge L and Benjamin L. Allen C M
A S Kidman & Co Ltd, 183 Archer Street, North Adelaide, SA 5006, Australia.
B Mt Bryan Veterinary Service Pty Ltd, Burra, SA 5417, Australia.
C South Australian Arid Lands Natural Resource Management Board, Port Augusta, SA 5700, Australia.
D PO Box 283, Wilmington, SA 5485, Australia.
E Ecological Horizons Pty Ltd, Kimba, SA 5641, Australia.
F School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia.
G Cordillo Downs Station, via Port Augusta, SA 5700, Australia.
H Vertebrate Pest Research Unit, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Forest Road Orange, NSW 2800, Australia.
I School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.
J Biosecurity SA, Primary Industries and Regions SA, Waite Road, Urrbrae, SA 5064, Australia.
K 5B Kingston Avenue, Seacombe Gardens, SA 5047, Australia.
L Desert Wildlife Services, Alice Springs, NT 0870, Australia.
M Institute for Agriculture and the Environment, Division of Research and Innovation, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Qld 4350, Australia.
N Corresponding author. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Animal Production Science - https://doi.org/10.1071/AN17008
Submitted: 6 January 2017 Accepted: 31 October 2017 Published online: 21 February 2018
Beef cattle production is the major agricultural pursuit in the arid rangelands of Australia. Dingo predation is often considered a significant threat to production in rangeland beef herds, but there is a need for improved understanding of the effects of dingo baiting on reproductive wastage. We experimentally compared fetal/calf loss on baited and non-baited treatment areas within three northern South Australian beef herds over a 2–4-year period. At re-musters, lactation was used to determine the outcomes of known pregnancies. Potential explanatory factors for fetal/calf loss (dingo baiting, dingo activity, summer heat, cow age, seasonal conditions, activity of dingo prey and selected livestock diseases) were investigated. From 3145 tracked pregnancies, fetal/calf loss averaged 18.6%, with no overall significant effect of baiting. Fetal/calf loss averaged 27.3% for primiparous (first pregnancy) heifers and 16.8% for multiparous (2nd or later calf) cows. On average, dingo-activity indices were 59.3% lower in baited treatments than in controls, although background site differences in habitat, weather and previous dingo control could have contributed to these lower indices. The overall scale and timing of fetal/calf loss was not correlated with dingo activity, time of year, a satellite-derived measure of landscape greenness (normalised difference vegetation index), or activity of alternative dingo prey. Limited blood testing suggested that successful pregnancy outcomes, especially in primiparous heifers, may have been reduced by the livestock diseases pestivirus and leptospirosis. The percentage occurrence of cattle hair in dingo scats was higher when seasonal conditions were poorer and alternative prey less common, but lack of association between fetal/calf loss and normalised difference vegetation index suggests that carrion feeding, rather than calf predation, was the more likely cause. Nevertheless, during the fair to excellent prevailing seasons, there were direct observations of calf predation. It is likely that ground baiting, as applied, was ineffective in protecting calves, or that site effects, variable cow age and disease confounded our results.
Additional keywords: livestock production, predator control, rangelands.
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