Control of predators against livestock

Carol Sanders | UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences

PixforFBPINE BLUFF, Ark. – With colder weather, prey becomes harder to find making small livestock such as lambs and goats prime targets. Controlling predators is not easy, says Dr. David Fernandez, Cooperative Extension Program livestock specialist at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

All organisms (predators) need three items for survival – water, shelter and food. Eliminate any one of these, and the organism (predator) will leave or perish, says Dr. Fernandez. Water is not possible to eliminate since your animals need water, too. You can attempt to disrupt predator denning locations (shelter), but that may violate state or federal wildlife laws.

Dr. Fernandez advises denying predators access to food, namely your livestock. Good fences are an important key to keeping livestock safe. Electric fence is especially useful against dogs, coyotes and hogs. Place a hot wire about 6 inches off the ground around the perimeter. You may have to add an offset hot wire at the top of the fence to keep coyotes and dogs from jumping over. Additional electric wires may be needed to prevent predators from slipping through the fence. Four-inch square wire can prevent predators from entering property.

Trapping, shooting, poisoning and harassment are common methods of controlling predators. But all of these methods are coming under increasing public scrutiny and regulation as the general public’s sentiments about animals evolves beyond pets and begins to encompass wildlife. Be careful to closely follow state and federal laws when using one of these methods.

Serious consequences can result from killing protected species or out-of-season game animals. For example, crows, which can injure or maim young livestock, are considered migratory game birds and are protected under state and federal game laws.

Guardian animals help deter predators. Equids, such as donkeys and mules, can be effective against dogs and coyotes. Use equids singly since they will often herd together with other equids leaving the sheep and goats to fend for themselves, advises Dr. Fernandez. Llamas have been used to deter canine predators. Some llamas will attack canine predators, but they serve primarily as something too large to attack, discouraging the predators.

Livestock guardian dogs have a long history of successful use. Use guardian dogs in pairs at the very least so they can protect each other in a fight, or so one can remain with the livestock while the other intercepts the predator. Three or more dogs are better, since one will stay with the livestock while the other two attack the predators.

For more information about protecting livestock against predators or related questions, contact Dr. Fernandez at fernandezd@uapb.edu or (870) 575-7214.

The Cooperative Extension Program offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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