Guard dogs can be an effective deterrent against coyotes as they bark, urinate, and poop in the area where the sheep and goats reside to alert predators of their presence.
Photo by Teresa Clark
Goats with horns and wireframe boards do not mix. Inevitably, the goat will stick its head through the plate to get a tasty morsel on the other side, and when it pulls back its horns will keep it from pulling its head out.
During a talk on keeping goats and predators, Reid Redden, sheep and goat specialist at the A&M extension in Texas, offers some fencing tips for goat producers.
When looking at wire or mesh fencing for goats, Redden said that manufacturers need to choose something less than 4 inches wide so that the goat cannot poke its head through the fence and get stuck. “When choosing one type of fence for goats, keep in mind that they are not all created equal. Mesh fences can be prohibitive if you plan on fencing in many acres. It’s a little more expensive than a normal fence, ”he said.
Some manufacturers have successfully kept goats with electric fences. Redden said it was a lot cheaper for the materials and cheaper to assemble. The key is buying the right electric fence charger with the right voltage. “The trick is to get the fencing right. They require no less than five wires and will keep it extremely hot. As soon as the goat gets a sharp bite from the fence, it learns to respect it. This also applies to predators. As soon as they are bitten, stay outside, ”he said.
In many areas, ranchers are choosing traditional barbed wire fences. Many of the fences are four or five wires, but Redden recommends at least five wires for goats and notes that seven wires would be even better. “You could even add some electrified wires,” he said. As the fence gets older, Redden can add the smooth wire or poly wire to the fence.
A more temporary option is the electrified network. “It’s not necessarily a long-term solution because it’s getting worse,” said Redden. “It may only take 10 years, but it’s easy to take. You can just get in. “
Hire a shepherd
Keeping goats and predators outside can be a challenge, but producers have other options besides fencing. “When you grow into a bigger business where you don’t want to own all the land or build a fence, you can hire a shepherd to stay with the sheep and goats all the time,” Redden said.
Redden shares his experience with shepherds and goat herders after traveling to Kenya a few years ago. He noted that they have practically no fences and the shepherds stayed with the goats and sheep 24 hours a day, training the animals into flocks wherever they wanted to go without the help of dogs.
“The problem here is that you can afford to hire someone to do it,” said Redden. Even with the government-run H-2A program that allows sheep and goat producers to hire contract shepherds from other countries, Redden estimates that producers will pay $ 1,500 to $ 1,600 per month, or $ 12,000 to $ 15,000 per year. He assumes that producers must have at least 500 goats and realistically 600-800 goats in order to be able to afford a shepherd.
PREDATION KILLS PROFIT
Robbery can cost producers more than 10 percent of the child’s harvest each year. Coyotes are the biggest culprit, followed by domestic dogs, bobcats, eagles, vultures, and mountain lions. “Coyotes are very good at killing sheep and goats. They will eat everything from newborns to adult animals. You’re a threat all year round, ”Redden said.
Finding a method of control that works can be a challenge. Calling coyotes isn’t really effective in Texas as the Varmints have gotten used to it and won’t get on the call, Redden said.
Snares are effective for catching coyotes, but it does suggest that good fencing is required for success. Manufacturers can also use lethal control methods, containment traps, air shots, live traps, M44 cyanide guns, and 1080 collars. Each method has advantages and disadvantages, emphasized Redden, and recommended that manufacturers enlist the help of a good trapper or someone who specializes in combating predators.
One of the most effective ways to combat predators can be to prevent predators from occurring in the first place. Redden said that guard animals such as donkeys, llamas, and guard dogs can be very effective. Donkeys and llamas were successful guard animals because of their aversion to canines, Redden said. They are low maintenance and eat what the sheep and goats eat. They only need limited training, but if one animal cannot prevent predators, adding a second animal is not recommended. “If you add a second donkey or llama, they will wander off and form their own herd, leaving the sheep and goats unprotected,” he said. Donkeys or llamas may not be effective against a pack of coyotes as one coyote can lure the shelter away while the other attack the goats or sheep.
If a producer plans to use a donkey or llama as a shelter animal, Redden said they should make sure they pick one that can tolerate goats or lambs.
Redden finds that welfare dogs are more effective at protecting sheep and goats, and more than one welfare dog can be added to protect the animals. The dogs are effective because they mark their territory by barking, urinating, and defecating in the area where the sheep and goats are. “They keep letting predators know they are there,” Redden said. “A good watchdog will keep the animals together too.”
Guard dogs can be very maintenance-intensive. Redden said they need food on a daily basis, although feeding stations can be set up. They don’t respect fences and some dogs may venture out to the neighbors and kill their chickens and eat their cat food, he said.
Redden urged producers to do their research before they get a watch dog. “The best way to get started is with a puppy. When you raise a dog from a puppy, it gets used to you, your surroundings, and your animals. If you buy an adult dog from someone else, there is less than a 50 percent chance you will exercise, ”he said. ❖
– Clark is a freelance livestock journalist based in western Nebraska. She can be reached by email at [email protected].
Because of their “curious” presence, llamas can be effective protective animals for sheep and goats. However, only a single llama can be used to protect sheep and goats. When another llama is added, the animals migrate to form their own “herd”, leaving the sheep and goats unprotected.
Photo by Teresa Clark