Click or flick across for photos of the donkeys.
NINETEEN feral donkeys have been trucked from central Australia to the Riverina to stem attacks on sheep by wild dogs.
The donkeys, which form part of an estimated wild population of up to five million, will be used as guard animals to protect sheep on properties near Holbrook, Tooma, Tumbarumba, Woomargama and Wymah.
They have been recruited by Hume Livestock Health and Pest Authority ranger Michael McFarlane, who has overseen a successful trial of three donkeys on a cattle and sheep property named Ardrossan, east of Holbrook, since January.
Fifty sheep were killed in two wild dog attacks in December, but Mr McFarlane said there had been no maulings since the trial began with the hand-reared donkeys from Warrnambool.
That is despite howling from wild dogs living in the hills above the property being heard.
“I’ve been trying to get some more but it’s hard to source a number of donkeys at once because we don’t have any real commercial breeders of donkeys in Australia,” Mr McFarlane said.
“The alternative was to catch some wild ones from central Australia out in the bush and bring them back and that’s what we’ve done.”
Each donkey cost $500 to buy and $180 to transport with a Department of Lands wild dog control grant funding the deal.
They arrived from Alice Springs on October 5 and since then Mr McFarlane has been doing health checks and preparing them for distribution.
“Over the next couple of weeks I’ll continue to handle them and quieten them down,” Mr McFarlane said.
“They’re remarkable animals, they’re super intelligent, they’re not like horses.
“They look like a horse with big ears but I’ve found it’s best to train them like they’re a dog with big ears.”
Mr McFarlane will host a field day at Ardrossan on October 30 to outline the benefits of donkeys, however he warns against seeing them as a cure-all.
“The whole idea of guard animals is not to stop the attacks but minimise the damage,” he said.
“We’ve got to look at wild dogs as something that we’re always going to have, we’re never going to get rid of them completely.
“If we have another attack at Ardrossan and lose two or three that’s a success.”
To book for the field day phone the authority’s office on (02) 6040 4210 or Mr McFarlane directly on 0427 362 703.