The dogs aren’t the only ones that put a winter coat on, and yes, it does make a big difference! Shorts all winter, long shorts would’ve been nice one day, -23 degrees Celsius at Wedderburn. The rabbiting dogs have noted spring has sprung, the birds are singing, lambs all over the place, daylight saving has kicked in, the extra hair has all come off. And there is young rabbits all over the place. The best thing to see those young rabbits? The dogs! There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING they love more than ratting those little rabbits out because they are a very tasty wee treat for the dogs. I call them snackpacks just because well, that’s what they are, two mouths full for the dogs and they are gone.
The rabbits are all pregnant, and most of them are on their second litter. In some areas I’d take a calculated guess and say they are on their third litter which isn’t bad considering we are at the end of September, of course the “isn’t bad” depends on how you look at it. All the rumours are true about them, they are eating rooting machines.
The ferrets are away on Monday for a week or two as a mate has a lot of that work to do and is a bit short on ferrets at the moment himself, so between mine and his he’ll have a nice wee squad.
There is certain areas that benefit greatly from using ferrets, areas where you’ve got numbers down via other methods and use them as a type of mop up tool or areas were you can’t use some methods, like built up areas or lifestyle farms where there is houses all over the place.
Shooting and poisoning around those places is often not possible or is frowned upon, then the ferrets really come into their own…
Ferrets, and more so rabbits, are cropping up a lot more in the Otago Daily Times of late. One can only assume it’s because there is a lot more of the later appearing in the last few years. Reporter Mark Price got in touch a few days ago wanting to do a piece on using ferrets as a form of rabbit control, so out we went with all the gear plus a photographer from the ODT Craig Baxter.
A very effective tool in a spot like this is getting ferrets into the warrens. Open paddocks with a lot of rabbit warrens had ferrety boys on a killing rampage underground while pushing a lot out for me and the brothers, Bolt and Tom (on the left) to keep us busy.
Life of a rabbiter
Started the day at about 2100 with the spotlight, rolled into bed about 05:00 Then got the dogs out at 0900 till lunch.
This afternoon it was out with ferrety boys and the long net, and an offsider which is novel.
216 rabbits have gone to the dark side. Good thing there isn’t much to do when it comes to rabbits in Otago!
A long net in action, great tool around warrens.
The above is a picture of a longnet, put that around a warren and let the ferrets in then stand back for a few minutes. The action will come soon enough.
The team hard at work on Andrew Farms in Hyde, Otago. We’ve put a lot of work into this place and it looks very different now to when the rabbits were there in big numbers. Now it’s a case of a quick going over every so often just to keep it right. They got the rabbit out and it didn’t take long. Hard country on the dogs but they love it and this one got nailed.
I just checked the dog diary today to see some ages, looks like there will be one retired mid 2015 as he is getting to the age of seven. For a working rabbit dog this is a good life span, one in particular is starting to slow down. Old Rua (Ru for a working name) but the old bugger is sneaky and still catches more than his fair share. Bit of a grumpy bastard with the young pups, but still has a play with a few of the other dogs when he is in the mood which isn’t often.
The older retiring dogs I put on Trade Me, a local auction site. Always for free, but I like them to have a few cruzie years once they’ve finished rabbiting. A lot of people prefer an older dog so it works out well for everyone.
All of the dogs in this photo apart from the white English Pointer on the right are two years old or younger.
Hard at work.
A critical part of owning land, from the holiday home in Ida Valley through to the big stations is having a good rabbit control plan in place, or Pest Management Plan. Everyone hates spending money on them, but they are here and have to be controlled. It might be something very simple/basic or it might have to be relatively detailed, that depends on a series of factors including the numbers involved, type of country etc.
With every property being different, they each require some thoughtful planning to get the most benefit from any program put in place. This is why an individual plan is needed and should be stuck to with maybe a six monthly to annual review to check and make sure everything is working for you and your property and if needed adjustments to the plan should be made. This of course can happen throughout the year, like if a hotspot appears. Obviously there is then a plan change and the problem area dealt with.
A good way to do this might be as simple as doing your own monitoring, driving around the property once every month or two with a spotlight to see what is happening and whether the numbers are under the required Modified McLean Scale 3 (MMS 3, you can see the scale here), or if it is feasible to get them well below that. Anything over the MMS 3 and work pretty much has to be done, if you don’t then expect a letter from the local regional council with a compliance notice which always involves poison if left to the council to organize. Their preferred method even in this day and age.
A big thing to remember here is the lower the rabbit numbers are the cheaper it is to do control, but somewhere in there is a big multiplier. The more rabbits there is the longer it takes to do an area, but also ammunition costs go a way up.
One of the easiest thing’s to understand is rabbits hate long grass. They don’t like to feed or live in it. Long grass when wet causes a lot of health problems so is in essence it’s own form of control. So the lower the rabbit numbers, the longer the grass….
Breeding: Wild rabbits in New Zealand can start breeding at the age of two to three months old. Their gestation period is 28-30 days. They are pregnant within 12 hours of dropping a litter.
The saying breed like rabbits didn’t come from nowhere.
Food: They eat approximately .1kg of grass per day, love garden type bushes and vegetables.
An old English saying on the food intake; three rabbits to a hare, three hares to a sheep.
So going by that, for every nine dead rabbits there is the food for another stock unit…
This is by far the biggest job, namely keeping good food up to them that they will eat. Sounds simple, but it’s not. Story below…
The GWP – German Wirehaired Pointer whose main job is deer and pig control
The main problem I have is getting food that is high enough in energy levels to keep weight on them but doesn’t cost silly money.
The variety in dog size throughout the pack is where it gets tricky, dogs from 5KG through to just over 25KG means one size doesn’t really fit all. If you buy any working dog food it’s normally targeting large dogs, as that is what most farm dogs are being that those dogs are heading dogs (Strong eyed collies) and Huntaways. They tend to start at around 30KG and go up from there.
This lot can’t just survive on fat and trim from the butcher, although they do enjoy it a few times a week. But they become bored with it quick if that is all they get and go backwards on that too. They LOVE a feed of rabbit, but I try to keep that to a maximum of once a week. Rabbit is such a lean meat that the dogs lose weight and very fast if that is all they get, and it only takes 3-4 days if they are working before you start to see this happen.
I was using Eukanuba and had reasonable results, but they choose to rip me off. I bought 36 bags of it at over $4000 dollars, a lot of money in one lump, but that was meant to give me the best discount possible. Then a mate went in at the same time to a different supplier and bought 6 bags for a lot less. I hate getting ripped off!!
So they can get bent.
Just three days ago I got onto a New Zealand made dog food manufacturer/retailer, MightyMix I’m trying out the MightyMix Nourish but after a couple of feeds some of the dogs don’t seem to keen on it. However I will be trying their MightyMix Frozen Concentrate as apparently this is the bees knees (Really good!!) I also much prefer to support local business whenever possible.
Waiting for me to stop mucking around and let them out, but the pups aren’t so sure about all this
Then they learn, team time with nothing to chase but each other is some great fun!
The big and little team waiting to get out.
The old crew of ferrets, Cut and Blue.