If you are a rancher, you understand the risk predators pose to your livestock. Wildlife attacks are the primary threat to farms in the countryside, while those in urban areas are prone to predation by domestic dogs. While killing the predators can protect your animals, legislations ban this practice. Moreover, killing wild predators erodes conservational efforts.
So how then can farmers protect their livestock? There are ways you can protect your animals. While there is no single method that can fully protect, a combination of several methods will do the trick.
However, predators tend to become aggressive during the drought periods when food is scarce. During this time, they will attempt to attack healthy and mature livestock. Predators are intelligent and adaptable.
Therefore, as a livestock farmer, you need to use different protection techniques and change your strategies regularly. This article will explain several strategies that farmers can combine to protect their livestock.
Fences provide a physical barrier for predators. The disadvantage of fencing is the cost, especially when fencing a large area. There are three types of fences.
Build fences come in various designs to help keep out predators. However, ordinary fences do not offer full protection against predators. Erecting a predator-proof fence is very expensive.
The fence should have smaller spaces of less than 6 inches to prevent predators from squeezing through. Adult coyotes can climb fences of less than 6.6 feet in height and squeeze through 4 by 6-inch spaces in a woven wire. To increase the effectiveness, some farmers opt to add electrified top and tripwires while others increase the number of wires in their fence.
Predators can dig under the barrier to prey on your livestock. To avert this, use hot rings to attach a woven-wire apron (at least 24 inches) on the outside of your farm’s fence. Smaller animals that predate on livestock can sneak in through most types of fencing. They can squeeze through, dig, or climb over the fence. The best approach is to keep your birds inside their shelter at night. Smaller predators as weasels can force their way through small openings or grab your chicken by reaching through openings. Ensure you secure every opening with hardware cloth.
The electric fence is the best at deterring many predators from your ranch. Ranchers can improve efficiency by combining electric fences and baiting practices. The combination works well against smaller predators like weasels.
Electric fences are relatively cheaper to build and their action is instant. Farms away from supply sources can use solar energy to make the fence. Electric fences are not as durable as the built fences, and they demand regular inspection and maintenance. The effectiveness of the fence falls during winter. Electric fences come in an array of designs, including mesh, single-strand, and multi-strand models. The mesh design requires little maintenance but provides a better barrier than the stranded designs.
Living Fences (hedgerows)
A living fence consists of a tight, often thorny, wide edge species of shrubs (or trees) that is impossible to penetrate. Hedgerows can create an excellent barrier against coyotes, wolves, and other predators. The fence is very durable and has ecological advantages. Although cheap, hedgerows take a very long time to develop than other barriers. To cater to the growing time, you can have an electric fence until the
hedgerow establishes. Alternatively, you can grow the fence along a wire fence. Hedgerows require little maintenance, an occasional trim depending on the weather and species (black locust, Osage orange, hawthorns, honey locust, and blackthorn).
SheltersAn animal shelter is the most basic form of livestock protection (it also protects your animals from the elements of weather). There are numerous designs for shelters depending on the type of livestock and predatory threat. When choosing one, ensure it is secure against animals that can dig under walls. For example, you can prevent digging animals by using an apron or by building a suitable floor.
Guardian AnimalsGuardian animals will not offer sufficient protection against large predators such as wolves. Such a scenario will demand many dogs and other guardian animals. To protect against large predators, keep your livestock in a predator-proof enclosure (pens or shelters) during the night. Guards animals are alert during the night when the risk of predation is high.
Dogs are the most popular guard animals. Dogs will chase away likely intruders and bark to alert you of threats. Not all dog breeds are ideal for livestock protection. Maremma, Great Pyrenees, Akbash, Kangal, and Anatolian Shepherds boast an excellent reputation with regards to protecting farm animals. A good intelligent dog should not prey on livestock that it is supposed to protect.
Dogs react toward intruders by barking, aggressively pursuing, and chasing the intruder away. Training of dogs should start when they are pups around eight to twelve weeks old. The puppies should be raised alongside livestock to allow them to bond more with the animals than humans. Dogs, unlike donkeys and llamas, are not limited to protecting in a fenced area; they protect even in the open range.
For protection, livestock keepers enclose donkeys with the more vulnerable animals such as goats and sheep. Donkeys show aggression towards canine predators. They are brilliant and can detect predators thanks to their exceptional eyesight and hearing. Donkeys are very territorial and can alert the farmer of intrusion by their noisy brays. They charge against intruders and attacks by kicking and biting. You can improve their capacity by training them as protectors.
Llamas are naturally herding creatures. They bond and blend well with herds and flocks of ruminant animals. Llamas are aggressive; they charge, kick, and spit on the intruder: Llamas can strike and tramp predators to death. Llamas do not require much training, and you do not have to raise them within a flock. You only need to introduce them to a herd until they bond. Consider llamas that are eighteen months old or more. Castrated males or females are ideal.
Aside from the above-mention animals, farmers use ponies and mules for livestock protection. Geese, too are handy in dealing with wild domestic dogs but ineffective with wild animals. Cats provide the best protection against rodents. Remember, rats can harm your birds – they eat eggs and young chicks. If rodent threat is imminent, you should consider having two or more barn felines.
Donkeys, ponies, mules, and llamas have the advantage of a longer life than dogs. Feeding them is easy as you can feed directly on pasture and forage on your ranch.
Improved husbandry and management
Basic husbandry entails keeping your animals in their enclosures during the night. Keep your animals close to your homestead, so you hear any disturbances and respond quickly. Young animals are more prone to predation than adult animals. For this reason, you should keep the young animals and their mothers closer to your residence all the time. If possible, protect them using a predator-proof fence.
Predators are often opportunistic, targeting weak animals. Healthy and strong animals are less prone to predatory attacks. With this in mind, maintain proper feeding and healthcare practices to minimize the risk of predation.
Another good practice is that minimizes exposure to predators is to keep your pastures free from dead animals.
Dead animals can attract predator scavengers to your herd. You want to reduce such dangerous incidents.
Train your poultry birds to return to their pens in the evening on their own. If you do not want the hustle of opening and locking them each day, you can install and automatic door that opens during the day and shuts automatically in the night.