Photo by Nicolette Hahn Niman
Farms and ranches are home to abundant wildlife. For the most part, these animals are very welcome and their presence adds to the enjoyment of farming. But when you're raising livestock, predators are a constant concern. These days, most ranchers are trying to keep predators away from livestock without killing or injuring the predatory animals.
To accomplish this on our ranch, we have come to rely on guardian animals, whose mere presence offers a significant deterrent to potential predators of our animals. Because of the significant advantages of using guardian animals, they are becoming increasingly common in the United States, according to the Department of Agriculture.
In our part of the country, the main predators are coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats, raptors, and domestic dogs. Young calves and birthing mother cows are at risk from packs of coyotes or wandering dogs as well as mountain lions. But these predators rarely attack cattle because in doing so they put themselves at risk. Like the cape buffaloes we've all seen on the TV show Nature, mother cows will aggressively defend their young if attacked.
Much easier prey are young goats and turkeys, for whom predator protection is absolutely essential. To safeguard them, we've been using guardian dogs. "The guarding dog is not a herding dog but rather a full-time member of the flock," USDA's website explains. It also notes that no amount of training will make a dog good at this task--they must do so instinctively.