By Robtn Ainsworth
Goat poachers cashing in on the high demand for the meat have been active in the Darling River police command.
Police expect to see an increase in the criminal activity this long weekend.
The Darling River local area command is the second largest in the State, covering 19,000 square kilometres.
Sergeant Dave Wheatley, Brewar-rina, said the increase in goat prices correlated with a rise in poaching.
“With the increase in goat prices we’ve seen poachers and expect to see another spike on the weekend,” he said.
“Landowners are struggling to cope with the season and now there’s an increase in trespassing.
“With the increase in the price per head upward of 70 cents a kilogram to 95c/kg, poaching is fairly attractive as the feral goats are not fenced in and farmed.
“We’ve had a fairly dry patch so farmers are relying to some degree on the added increases for goats.
“The perpetrators are often from outside the district but we’re not foolish enough to believe there aren’t local people involved.
“On long weekends we see an increase in poachers and trespassers who add to the costs for additional fencing, cut locks, cut fences.”
The day Heather McMullen came face to face with goat poachers early last month is etched in her memory.
Mrs McMullen and her husband Greg and son Ryan farm 24,000 hectares at “Myall Park Properties” south of Brewarrina and 13,400ha at “Fairlight”, 20 kilometres further south near Gongolgon.
While Ryan runs 1000 head of sheep on “Fairlight”, the property is also home to rangeland goats.
“I got a tip-off from a neighbour that people were being suspicious out at “Fairlight” so I jumped in the car and found the only place they could leave the property and waited for them,” Mrs McMullen said.
“I could hear the dogs and the goats.”
Mrs McMullen said she saw two men in a ute with a concealed crate on the back and unleashed dogs between the cabin and the crate.
She said such a crate could carry as many as 20 goats.
When the ute took off, she took photos of the number plate and rang the police.
Sgt Wheatley said goat poaching was an ongoing investigation and machinery and motorbikes were often stolen in the region.
Sgt Wheatley said he had just had a report of 500 ewes stolen from a property between Brewarrina and Coolabah.
“Times are hard for farmers up here,” he said.