'Heartbreaking' mass killing of sheep

By John Cousins of the Bay of Plenty Times -
Some 200 in-lamb merino ewes were stolen from a station in Otago. Photo / file
Some 200 in-lamb merino ewes were stolen from a station in Otago. Photo / file

A farmer is heartbroken by the Western Bay of Plenty's biggest slaughter of sheep and lambs for years.

Roaming dogs ripped out the throats of 19 romney stud ewes and three lambs owned by David Blackley of Summerhill Farm in the Papamoa Hills.

"It's heartbreaking,'' the 81-year-old said after the terrible discovery yesterday morning.

The dead stock were scattered throughout a picnic spot named Camp David after the US President's holiday home.

The stench of the sheep was so intense that a farm hand and a cadet both vomited.

Dog attacks have become so frequent in the area that many owners of lifestyle blocks at the back of Welcome Bay had stopped grazing sheep.

The latest attack happened on a 400ha mixed forestry and grazing farm which has become synonymous with outdoor sporting pursuits and youth training. The farm features a golf course and trails for runners, walkers, horse trekkers and mountain bikers.

It was also the base for the Summerhill A1 Youth Academy.

The sheep had been dead for about two days when they were found by a weed control team. The carcasses were scattered so far and wide around the paddock that it took almost all morning to gather them up.

The attack has left about 10 motherless lambs and because they were so difficult to bottlefeed at that age, Mr Blackley rated their survival prospects as 50/50.

"Lambs are wandering around without their mothers - this sort of thing really upsets us.''

The paddock was not far from the farmhouse but Mr Blackley and his wife Cloie heard no dogs barking.

"They are silent killers,'' he said.

It was Summerhill's second dog attack this year. In the first, about two months ago, about a dozen sheep received throat injuries but most recovered.

Western Bay District Council animal control team leader Bruce Wills was incredibly frustrated that there were no clues or sightings of the killer dogs.

Snares were set on the property last night by a dog expert who had been very successful catching dogs on Department of Conservation bush land.

Mr Wills said it was definitely the biggest attack for a couple of years. There had been a spate of killings mainly around Rocky Cutting Rd and most lifestyle farmers in that area had stopped grazing sheep.

"Lifestylers with a pet sheep and goats get incredibly traumatised. It is hard for farmers and it is even harder for lifestylers.''

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