Tips offered for managing livestock predation
Extreme weather, disease and predators, such as coyotes, bears and wolves, claim countless livestock each year. Despite producers’ best efforts to protect their livestock, thousands of sheep, cattle and goats fall victim to these predators.
In a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) news release in February 2023, Wyoming sheep and lamb producers lost 42,000 animals to weather, predators, disease and other causes in 2022.
According to statistics compiled by the USDA and NASS, U.S. producers lose more than $71 million annually from losses attributed to predators. NASS surveys found coyotes account for 65 percent of all cattle and calf losses to predators and 61 percent of sheep and lamb predation.
Producers can select from lethal and nonlethal methods to deter predators, including some unique methods of keeping predators away from livestock.
A variety of deterrents can include noise-making apparatuses, flashing lights, pyrotechnics, guardian animals, ultrasonic devices or lethal control methods. Regardless of the method to stop livestock loss, producers should focus on damage prevention and control.
Predator management tips
During the fall, scavengers – including coyotes – appear. Wyoming livestock producers have been dealing with coyotes for decades and have utilized various methods to remove them from their land.
According to a 2019 research study from Michigan State University (MSU) to address coyote damage, a variety of control methods need to be implemented, as no single method is effective.
“Fencing is a great option for small pastures and crops, but utilizing devices to create a frightening stimulus can be a successful option for producers who have larger areas to protect. However, they should not be used for extensive periods of time,” MSU Extension states.
Instead, producers can increase the degree and duration of effectiveness by varying the position, appearance, duration or frequency of frightening stimuli or by using them in various combinations.
The 2020 Wildlife Damage Management Technical Series composed by USDA suggests, “Human activity and electronic devices have been shown to reduce coyote damage in some cases. Lights, whether left on constantly or automated to turn on when motion is detected or at random intervals, are most effective. Loud sounds produced by sirens, propane cannons and pyrotechnics will also disperse coyotes.”
A 2019 USDA Wildlife Services study showed fladry made with a top-knot design and flags spaced 11 inches apart was the most effective at preventing coyotes from crossing a fladry barrier.
The study also discussed the successful use of electronic guards (EG) when protecting sheep. EG’s consist of a strobe light and siren, controlled by a variable interval timer activated at night with a photoelectric cell.
MSU outlines additional predation options for livestock producers, such as utilizing guardian animals in pastures or out on open ranges to prevent predator attacks. Guardian animals include dogs, donkeys, llamas and mules.
Livestock guardian dogs have a natural protective nature, while llamas and donkeys have developed an instinct to dislike coyotes. When donkeys are approached by coyotes, they will bray, bare their teeth, kick and bite.
Llamas deter coyotes because of their size. Llamas also have a natural “flocking” instinct and have proven to be beneficial as guardian animals in livestock production systems.
USDA’s Agricultural Research Service tested the bonding of sheep to cattle as a method of protecting sheep from coyote predation in 1996. It concluded there was some protection afforded to sheep which remained near cattle.
The study revealed whether this protection resulted from direct action by the cattle or by the coyotes’ response to a novel stimulus is uncertain. Still, later studies with goats, sheep and cattle confirmed when either goats or sheep remained near cattle, they were protected from predation by coyotes.
Melissa Anderson is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.