In traditional agriculture, one of the biggest concerns facing livestock producers is predation of the flock. In ancient times, as today, one of the methods used to protect the flock was livestock guardian animals. From the common to uncommon, we’ll take a look at some of the animals used on the farm to protect the Angora herd of Pure American Naturals.
At least as far back as 6,000 years ago, the shepherds and goat herdsmen of what is now known as Turkey have been using dogs to protect their precious flocks. From that time gone by, the Anatolian Shepherd has been developed to safeguard his flock from bears, roving dogs, and wolves. Other breeds developed with the purpose of safeguarding livestock include the fluffy white Great Pyrenees and Italian Maremma, but don’t let those puffy coats fool you; these dogs are all business. While Collies and Australian Shepherds are commonly known to drive herds and flocks for the stockman, Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGDs) are bred with the sole intent of protecting their furry or wooly charges from predation, whether two-legged or four. In my own experience with LGDs I have seen two adolescent female Maremma, weighing a stout 80 pounds each, drive off a pack of coyotes with single-minded efficiency. At PAN we have employed Great Pyrenees guardians with great success.
In more recent years, research has shown that using lethal force (guns or traps) against predators, and particularly coyotes, has a staggering reverse effect on the population. While the immediate drop in numbers provides a momentary lull in predator attacks, the wild dogs themselves rapidly reproduce to fill the void in the ecosystem. For this reason a small but rising number of producers throughout the United States have turned to less commonplace means of protecting their stock and livelihoods. Among the less common livestock protection animals to see a rise in popularity are llamas and donkeys. These two animals have an instinctual hatred of dogs and will not hesitate to drive off a pack of coyotes in order to protect their smaller herd-mates. When our last elderly LGD passed on, Glen researched and brought in two rescue llamas; Ms. Scarlet and Mr. White. Since joining the herd, they’ve done a phenomenal job of patrolling and protecting the herds and remain ever vigilant in their duties.
From a home front standpoint, we also employ a rather odd looking creature as guardian of the gate. Guinness the Guinea, who seems to have experienced an identity crisis, roosts with the Peafowl and will raise the alarm like the best guard dog at the approach of cars, delivery trucks, and errant falling leaves. If his stunning good looks don’t attract your attention, his screech of alarm will most certainly turn your head.
From dogs to dodos, nee guinea fowl, we have employed a host of livestock guardians at Pure American Naturals to ensure the safety and sustainability of the herd. As stewards of the land, we also take the guardians’ care very seriously. Just as we provide the highest level of caring for the herd of capricious goats they protect, we provide the fowl and llamas with the same level of holistic care. If you are interested in learning more about livestock guardians, feel free to contact Christina or check out the following links.