Your livestock are a crucial part of your agriculture business — and a precious investment. Here are six tips you can use to protect your livestock from predators.
1. Get a Guardian Animal
Not only do guardian animals — such as dogs, llamas and donkeys — help protect your livestock, they can also help relieve the stress that the herd feels. Less stress typically leads to weight gain — so while you’re protecting the animals you’re also padding your bottom line.
The correct guardian animal depends on your livestock, your farm/ranch and the predators you are struggling with. Do some research to ensure that whatever guardian you decide on will work well with your livestock and is the correct breed (i.e., not all dogs are fit to be guardian animals). You will also have to acclimate the animal to your livestock in the correct way.
There are also non-guardian animals that can help protect your livestock in indirect ways. Barn cats can help keep rodent populations down, which protects eggs that the rodents might otherwise eat. Roosters can help alert you to danger in your chicken coop.
2. Invest in Fencing Solutions
Keeping your livestock in areas that have predator-proof fencing is incredibly difficult. Many predators — such as coyotes — can squeeze through small gaps or go over fences. Birds of prey attack from above. However, there are some alternative fencing methods that may help protect your livestock.
When you’re putting up electric fencing, consider mesh wire. It typically requires less maintenance and provides a better barrier than single- or multi-strand fencing.
Although they require more time and energy to create, living fences can not only provide a solid barrier to predators but can also provide windbreaks and prevent soil erosion.
You might also consider motion-activated lights and/or sounds around the edges of your property to help scare away ground predators. Though predators will likely become used to this over time, it may be a good solution around the time when your livestock are giving birth and are most vulnerable.
Create a web of fishing line over the top of the area where you keep your chicken or fowl and hang reflectors (such as old CDs) to deter birds of prey.
3. Try New Agricultural Practices
Changes to the way you run your agriculture business can help protect your livestock. For example, the smell of pigs, especially on the edges of your property, remind predators of wild boar and can scare them away.
Changing up your grazing schedule or moving livestock to new areas can throw predators off, keeping your animals safe. If you have multiple types of grazing animals, such as goats and cows, let them graze together; cows’ size can be a deterrent to predators that would target goats.
Teach your cows how to bunch, which is a natural protective behavior. Keep a few older and more experienced animals in your herd (especially your cow herd) to help teach younger animals how to protect themselves. Finally, cull animals that routinely lose their young to predators.
Ensuring that your livestock are giving birth around the same time as wild animals in your area means that the young livestock will be less threatened. You could also try to time livestock births so that they do not coincide with when a predator will be feeding its own young. If a predator can feed itself and its young without coming onto your farm/ranch, it will likely do that.
4. Provide Housing
Most predators are nocturnal, so having a safe, secure location for your animals at night is critical. It can be especially helpful if your animals roam a large area during the day that makes predator-proof fencing too costly or difficult. Bringing them to an area that has electrified fencing at night can help protect them when they are most at risk.
Young and weak animals are prime targets of predators, so keep these animals close to the house or in a building when possible.
5. Disrupt the Predator’s Schedule
If you’ve experienced an attack, move your livestock and/or keep them safely locked up for a few days after the attack. The predator may move on after a series of unsuccessful hunts.
If you can, find and block entry points predators are using to get onto your farm/ranch. For example, repair any holes in the fencing (coyotes can squeeze into a hole just 4”x6”!) so that they have to find a new way to reach your livestock. Even if they do, every hole you block off can keep them out for a few days.
6. Maintain Healthy Prey Population in Your Area
If there is abundant wild game in your area, the predators are less likely to feed on your livestock. You can help maintain a healthy prey population by creating an area away from your livestock that is great for rabbits by planting food plants, letting grass grow tall and creating brush piles.
The ultimate goal is to make preying your animals so difficult that it’s not worth it for predators, steering them toward wild game instead.
Your agriculture business revolves around making the best decisions about protection that you possibly can. Is your whole farm/ranch protected? Talk to a Farm Bureau agent today.