Friday, September 27, 2013

Predators On The Sheep Farm


Many farmers experience high and costly livestock loss every year from farm predators. It has become unpopular to use poison and traps so many alternative solutions have been introduced.
If a farm has had predator loss it will more than likely have repeat offences this is why good farm management is needed in order to eliminate predator loss.

If you find a dead sheep or lamb on your land you first need to understand weather it was predation or scavenging. Was the sheep killed by a predator or did it die off something else and was scavenged.
You need to become an amateur  CSI detective and look for clues to deter weather  it was predation or scavenging.
The key clue is the blood on the carcass and the kill site. Bleeding can only occur before or shortly after death. Hemorrhaging and subsequent bruising will not appear on a sheep that has been scavenged. In extra woolly sheep you may need to shave the neck to check for tooth punctures and bruises.
In relation to a new born lamb if you want to deter weather it was killed by a predator or stillborn you will need to figure out weather it breathed, walked or drank before it was eaten.

Did the lamb walk? The soft membrane on the lambs feet wears of quickly if the membrane is intact then more than likely the lamb was still born or died shortly after birth.

Did the lamb breath? If the lamb has breathed the lungs will be pink, light and spongy and will float in water.
The lungs of a stillborn lamb will be a dark purple red colour and will sink when placed in water.

Did the lamb drink? There will be milk in the lambs stomach if the lambs drank. You can also check to see if the plug is still intact on the ewes teat.

Another  indicator of a predator attack is if the flock are  more nervous that usual.

Are there signs of a struggle, drag marks, predator droppings or hair.





Sheep have many predators coyotes dogs, mountain lions, bears, bobcats, lynxes, eagle's foxes wolves ravens vultures. In Ireland the main threat are dogs and foxes and of course the knackers who steal other peoples sheep what you might call sheep rustlers. Your sheep may be taking a trip up north.You will know that the predator was of a human kind when you see an empty field.

Here are some tips on who the culprits are.
If a dog has done the killing here are some tell tale signs.
  • Wounds to numerous live sheep on areas other than the neck and head.
  • Clumps off wool strewn around the field.
  • Splintered bones may be left behind and torn ragged tissue.
  • Usually skin and muscle will be ripped from the flank, hind quarters and head.
  • Sheep will be very nervous after a dog attack as the dog attack will be long in duration usually more than 1 dog with alot of chasing and fooling around.
  • Dog attacks are usually long, drawn out and are inefficient.
  • Dogs usually attack from the side or rear with wounds on other parts of the body.
  • If there are more than 2 or 3 sheep killed then it is more than likely a dog attack. Dogs attack usually for fun not for food they enjoy the chase and harassment of the attack therefore there are more injuries and deaths to the sheep over a larger area.
  • Dogs will attack sheep of any age.
  • Dogs rarely eat or move their kill they may chew on the carcass if they do eat it will be from the outside in.
  • Droppings may also give clues to who did the kill.

LIVESTOCK GUARDING DOG
The Fox on the kill
  • The fox is not hunting for fun like the dog he wants a good meal from his efforts. The fox enjoys small prey such as young lambs and kids but if it has to it will go after larger prey like sheep. 
  • Foxes attack the throat of their prey but sometimes kill with multiple bites to throat and back.
  • The red fox is more likely than the gray fox to kill lambs
  • Foxes do not have the strength to hold down larger animals so repeated bites are what are used to subdue larger animals
  • Foxes prefer the viscera and start feeding behind the ribs
  • Many prefer the tongue and nose and eat the head of small kills
  • Foxes may bring the small lamb to their den to feed their young
  • Foxes rarely cause severe damage to bone of the kill



Predator Control

Non lethal predator control is the most humane system to protect your livestock and reduces the risks of harming your own pets and stock.

Fencing
A fence can act as a system to keep your stock in and the predators out. The problem is that many predators can jump dig squeeze their way past your fence.
You can use woven wire fences and electric fences.

Frightening devices
Frightening devices are used to ward off potential predators. Usually predators are fearful of  sudden noises and this will deter them from entering your field.
There is the electronic guard which uses two scare tactics, light and sound.

Life stock guardians.
Life stock guardians are becoming more popular. There are life stock guardian dogs, donkeys and llams.

Translocation
This is the capture of the predator and the release of it in an area where it can do no harm.

Farm Management
If you have new born lambs its best to keep them in a shed for at least 24 hours as they are easy prey for the fox and other predators.
You have a risk of losing newborn lambs if they are left out to pasture too early.
You should bring the lambs and ewes in at night to the shed or nearby.
Don't have your new lambs in areas where the predators can hide and stalk your prey. Such as wooded areas, hills, creeks etc.

Pet lambs are at more of a risk of predation as they are more trusting and not as nervous.

There needs to be regualar inspection of the sheep.

Take note of your sheeps behaviour are they broken up into groups, are they nervous.

Check on your sheep at different times of the day

Bells on a number of the sheep in the flock

Ensure that you discard of any dead animals on the farm as the carcass will attract unwanted predator attention to your farm.

Plastic collars
The collars cover the sheep or lambs cheek and underside of the neck. This protects the neck where most predators do their kill from.

Prevention is very importenat as if the predator gets one kill it will come back again and again.

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