A local sheep producer is urging dog owners to ensure their animals don't get out overnight, after recently losing 80 ewes and lambs that had been killed in a manner reminiscent of working dogs not being directed to stop.
Ben Campbell made the grisly discovery one morning after the sheep had been in a paddock around 2km from the house. Only two lambs were saved.
"We're feeding everything at the moment and I went down to check the stud ewes and lambs. They didn't come to the feed, so I went around the paddock and found there were 42 ewes and 38 lambs piled up in a corner," he said.
"They'd been forced in by, I assume, a couple of dogs. They weren't eaten as in a wild dog attack, but they were worked into a corner which is usually domestic or working dogs.
"And it would have to be a couple of them to be able to contain that many sheep.
"It's pretty heartbreaking. We've been breeding those stud sheep for 40 years and it's not just the loss of the animals - it's the genetics that have been built up over that time.
"All of your time and effort goes into keeping them alive - we're hand-feeding everything - then something out of your control like this comes along."
With the dog(s) that carried out the attack long gone by morning, identifying them is next to impossible. Mr Campbell has since moved all of the ewes as close to the house as possible, just in case, and has been out spotlighting and checking every night.
He said it's all he can do and that dog owners need to do their part as well.
"It's negligence on the part of dog owners, because if they're contained they can't possibly do that," he said.
"Hunters get a bad rap for their animals, but they're generally good at containing their animals because they know what they can do. But domestic dogs or a working dog that gets away - and don't have their owner telling them to stop - will keep working until [the sheep] stop moving.
"It's a very simple thing to keep your dogs secure and it's a very damaging thing when you don't."
All of your time and effort goes into keeping them alive - we're hand-feeding everything - then something out of your control like this comes along.Ben Campbell
State Rural Crime Co-ordinator, Detective Inspector Cameron Whiteside, said, "farmers are already going through tough times with the drought - without needing the further impact of stock losses due to these dog attacks".
"It can be heartbreaking for our farmers to face heavy stock losses, as well as having to euthanise further stock due to severe injury, as a result of dog attacks which can often decimate a significant portion of a flock in one night," he said.
"Numerous attacks have been reported to the NSW Police Rural Crime Prevention Team and other Government agencies. We are currently working together to come up with strategies to catch these dogs and hold owners responsible.
"It is up to us as people to make sure our dogs aren't put in a position where they can cause injury to livestock."