Getting kangaroos off the farm without fences or guns

Moving the maremma hotel

Moving the maremmas' home

Our farm shares kilometres of boundaries with state forest and, unfortunately, tonnes of its feed with hundreds of kangaroos and wallabies. While animal activists quote research carried out in semi-arid lands that found no competition between livestock and macropods, nothing could be further from the truth here.

The kangaroos and wallabies decimate luscious dairy pastures and crops. Last year, an oat crop adjoining the forest was cropped to just four inches high near the bush and grew to around a metre tall on the other (inner) side of the same paddock.

Our neighbours have installed massive fences in an attempt to keep the kangaroos and wallabies out, with mixed success. The other alternative is to shoot them and I do have a licence to cull 40. I haven’t used it because I hate the thought of it.

Instead, I’ve been looking at ways to deter them from the farm. A promising study used dingo urine but this seems to have come to a premature halt due to staffing issues. Many researchers have found ultrasonic deterrents ineffective.

I’m hoping we’ve found the solution. We’ve been bonding two maremma livestock guardian dogs, Charlie and Lola, to our calves and teaching them to respect the boundary fences. Fluffy white 35-kilogram bounders, these gentle dogs have a formidable bark and presence. They are also very protective of their “family” – us and the calves.

The only hitch to date has been getting them to roam far enough from their charges, so we’ve moved them and a couple of bovine mates to join a much larger mob living by the forest. Charlie was happy to go but Lola hung behind in her more familiar paddock. Fingers crossed they make the transition!

Charlie and Lola the maremmas

Charlie and Lola love their bovine friends

We’ve had Charlie and Lola since they were just 10 weeks old but, while they love us, we’re not their real family. The calves are. Now nearly two years old, they’ve slept, played and eaten alongside calves ever since they arrived.

The idea is that these beautiful Maremmas, bred as paddock-dwelling livestock guardians, will protect our calves from foxes and chase kangaroos and wallabies from the paddocks.

You see, I am a bit of a softie. Although I have a permit, I can’t bear to shoot at the 200 or more kangaroos and wallabies that visit us every day even while they’re decimating our fodder reserves and quite literally eating us out of house and home. The solution? I’m not sure I’m onto a winner yet but bonding the maremmas with the calves has been a two-year training phase in a grand Milk Maid experiment in macropod control. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been training Charlie and Lola to respect the 4km boundary fence and will soon let them out of the calf paddock to roam their 200-acre domain. I can hardly wait to see how they, the livestock and the wildlife respond and am practically twitching with excitement. Will keep you posted.