Homesteading, Organic Gardening, How to Farm, Preparedness, Self-Reliance
Ok, here is a predator control scenario for y'all:
- Home on one side of a road, land and pasture on the other side of the road across a large field...about 700 yards as the crow flies. Crops and pasture enclosed by a woven wire perimeter fence. Serious coyote issues within a two mile radius. Planning on having chickens, pigs, and possibly goats/sheep on the pasture this year. All livestock will have protable electric strands or netting around their paddocks. Debating livestock guardian options.
1. Are livestock guardian dogs sufficient deterrent/defense against troublesome packs of coyotes? Or would donkeys be a better option?
2. Is is ok to have livestock guardian dogs patrolling the farmland enclosed by the perimeter fence without there being a human at "home" there? Obviously, we will be on the land daily, but will be 700 yards away across a field and line of woods at night.
We want to get out livestock up and running, but won't be building a home on the farmland for at least 2-3 years. Would us having a home on the land even be any deterrent to coyotes? We don't want to be irresponsible about it and leave the dogs and livestock without us in the vicinity if that puts them at more risk. Any thoughts or similar experiences? Thanks much!
Yes, LGDs (I'd run 2 or 3) will work. Problem will be getting them. It's almost impossible to buy a good LGD (adult), and puppies take 18 months to be good working LGDs. Puppies (even from working parents) between a 66 / 33 to 80/20 if they will turn into LGDs. Without an adult to teach (actually its reenforce instincts) odds are much worse. Secondly (without a teacher) it's also much easier to make them into porch ornaments. They aren't like any other dogs (working or house dogs both). They have to be independent (all LGD breeds rank at the lowest for bedience trails), and must bond with the animals they are guarding.
I ruined my first 3 pups (then was able to buy an adult from a couple that changed from goats to sheep, but kept a couple of goats for their own milk. She only guarded the goats.). After I bought her, I was able to her train a couple pups.
I sold all my animals, so had to sell them also, then after a year got back into sheep. Because I had hard won experiece with LGD pups, I've been able to get 3 (out of 4) to almost a year old (and working mostly). During the process I also lost 3 of the 9 sheep I bought, and still am having problems with them and my free range poultry. (but, as I said, they aren't old enough).
Personally, when I have a litter, I plan on keeping them until they are 6 months old before sellinig so I have a better idea if they will make LGD or just pets.
Note, my first set of LGDs may have come when I called them... they'd never respond to me if they were dfending the flock (or poultry). Mine (both 1st and 2nd sets ) have 1 that takes the flock to the corral area to protect them, the others go to investigate / attack / defend. (first time I had 4 ((1 in training, and 1 "spare" for whelping), now I have the 3 pups, and will keep the best of the litter for training.
Do everthing possible to keep other dogs (including yours if you aren't with them) out of that pasture. Around here (and it's common a lot of places) the biggest "true" predator is your neighbors (and your) dogs that run loose at night, and pack up. They'll run your sheep (I've never had goats) until they drop. If you show your pups that other dogs aren't allowed, then they won't allow it. If you don't, then, being pups will allow it (and may even join in the chase).
As soon as I had bought my sheep, I bought 2 pups (you can't have the pups first... nothing to bond to.) To me they are as important as the fence around the animals... and worth every effort (including losing a 3rd of my flock unfortunately) to protect the flock (in the long run... I looked at it ((even though it hurt badly)) as an investment actually for the life of the farm.) Unless you find someone like me (selling all my flock ((because of health reasons only)) or like when I bought my adult ((from somone that converts from one animal to another but not fully)), buying a good working adult LGD is going to be very expensive ((and you are still buying a cull)).)
I'll be interested in reading about your experiences, and will offer advise as to what worked for me. Primarily remember they aren't a pet, but other tool (like a chain saw), and should be treated as such. They must bond with their animals, and want to stay 24 / 7 with them if they are to do their job.
I can't speak for the guardian dogs, but I have a mixed flock of chickens and ducks that free range during the day. We see fox and coyotes, but never on our land, (We have only 2 acres). I do have rather large dogs, Mastif and Rotty's. I believe that their presence is a deterrent to the land based predators. All of the dogs are confined at night and a electric fence, the buried type with a receiver on the collar, keeps them on my property at other times. I worked Rotty's in Search and Rescue so I,m a bit biased on the breed. The livestock guardian dogs are a great idea. I would just be a bit worried about anything on two legs crossing your property line when you weren't around. Truthfully though I'd worry about any dog that I had not trained and left alone. Perhaps someone with guardian dogs will comment.
My big white dogs always bark first... warning any predator away... most 2 legged will turn and go the other way when they hear them. LGDs are not attack dogs that are silent until the actual attack. They bark before anything is into my paddocks (I have my 14 acres broke down into 3 paddocks so I can manage them better). I've got 1 direct neighbor, and 1 neighbor with a small acreage neighbor inbetween us with young children. I'm sure the direct neighbors children have been in the adjacent paddock, but I've never heard any complaints from them. I think my LGDs (both the current set, and my first set) view children like they view small puppies, and just "put up" with them.
If it was an adult, the barking should have them turning the other way (or if they are trying to take my sheep, the Dogs would protect them).
Why not double down until your LGD pups are up and running full force? Get a donkey or llama to protect the livestock until your pups get some size and experience on their side. Keep them in the fence, feed them and house them there, etc. Give them some good training around the smaller livestock, some basic socialization to humans during the process~ but always leave them with the livestock.
For maximum efficacy, you might also keep one of one breed and one of another as each breed seems to have a different style of guarding. An Anatolian keeps closer to the core group of livestock, whereas a Great Pyr likes to roam a little. I've heard that keeping both forms a good partnership.