Sheep that can eat Fireweed



Photo 1 & 2: Reg Grieves with QT reporter Joel Gould
Photo 3: Dead Fireweed that Reg had sprayed
Photo 4: Picture of the Dorper Sheep


INTRODUCING the breed of sheep that looms as a proven solution to the fireweed problem that is costing farmers thousands of dollars. The QT has published several stories on the winter weed that harms crops and livestock and spreads like wildfire. But Tony Wonka has contacted this newspaper to offer a solution that works. “I used to breed dorper sheep, a black-headed meat sheep from South Africa, and they eat fireweed. They really go for it,” Mr Wonka, a former journalist, said. “I had a big 100-acre property out at Ripley and ran the stud out there. “Fireweed is all over the place out there now. “The paddocks are yellow with it.”

An ABC report revealed how fireweed “was a poisonous weed that can cause liver damage in livestock and in some cases can kill cattle and horses”. “But sheep and goats are less susceptible to the toxin and seem to actively seek out the weed for grazing,” the report said, before going on to talk about the success of the dorper sheep in controlling it and saving farmers money on spraying.

Mr Wonka said his own experience in Ipswich showed how the sheep actually seek the weed out. “When you’d put these dorpers into a paddock that had fireweed in it they would actually run to the fireweed,” he said. “They would push each other out of the way to get it.  “They rush to the yellow flowers and eat it. “It hurts horses and cattle but not dorper sheep. “Even crossbred dorpers will do the job. “They are the solution to fireweed.” Farmers are finding spraying costly and ineffective and Cr David Pahlke has backed Mr Wonka’s call to utilise dorper sheep locally.

BATTLE: 87-year-old Haigslea farmer Reg Grieve is concerned about the spread of fireweed on his property. Cr Pahlke took the QT to 87-year-old Haigslea landowner Reg Grieve’s property recently after he had spent $6000 spraying the weed in the past two years. “If Reg Grieve on his Haigslea property could have a few sheep in there they would eat the fireweed, what a great solution,” Cr Pahlke said. “Spraying with chemicals is usually a last resort, because of the environment, and it doesn’t really work. “But put some dorper sheep in there and chomp, chomp chomp… it is gone. “This is well worth investigating.”





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