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Livestock Guardians Protect the Flock

Predation is the leading cause of death in American sheep flocks, but there are a number of actions producers can take to prevent this loss.

A good fence can help and is an essential first step. Powerful electrified wires may deter dogs and coyotes. However, savvy predators may figure out how to avoid shocks, and once they do, the fence will not be sufficient protection.   Also, a fence cannot protect from avian predators, such as eagles or turkey vultures.

Penning livestock near the house at night can help if predators are wary of humans. This leaves animals more prone to “little predators,” however, as internal parasites become a serious problem where manure builds up.

This is where livestock guardian dogs, donkeys, or llamas can show their value. By using livestock guardian animals, you can give your animals 24-hour-a-day bodyguards, and allow the animals to stay out grazing and spreading manure on the land. Effective guardians prevent injuries and deaths, and give the farmer peace of mind. They are well worth the cost.

On the other hand, not all livestock guardian animals are effective, and when they are not, they can cause losses and strain neighbor relations. So, how can you increase the odds of getting a good protector and not another problem?

Once these basics are in place, livestock guardians can be fairly trouble-free and real assets to the farm. They make it possible to raise small ruminants in a wildlife-friendly way, and to protect the livestock (and profits) from harm.

Learn more about livestock guardians from the following sources:

Predator Control for Sustainable and Organic Livestock Production
Livestock Guarding Dogs: Protecting Sheep from Predators, USDA Bulletin 588

Langston University’s Web-Based Training Courses:
Predator Control  and Livestock Guarding Dogs

For more information and free, online publications about sheep and goats and other agricultural topics, visit Specialists can be reached by calling 800-346-9140.

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