Conservation Media's presentation on LGD's
When we began our sheep venture, we determined that we wanted a maternal breed that could raise a lamb on its own, on pasture, with little or no assistance from us. We were very opposed to an intensive lambing operation with the accompanying labour and capital costs and felt that we should return to a system of ranching that is more natural, and in sync with nature. Our lambs are born in a large, grassy paddock in June. Their mothers are in good shape and their milk production matches the spring flush of fresh green grass. The lambs do not have to struggle against the elements to survive and with the aid of the warm sun have no difficulty getting up and nursing very quickly. This scenario mimics nature and leads to healthy ewes/lambs, and happy producers!
Unfortunately, wolves, cougars, bears, coyotes and foxes also dearly love the taste of our lamb- if we did not have Livestock Guardian Dogs we would not be in business. Very simply, when dealing with serious predator pressure, llamas, donkeys, fences and horses do not work. We also do not have the time or desire to shoot and trap every predator on our land. Our Holistic Landscape Goal encourages biodiversity; this encompasses predators as well. Problem predators are killed by our dogs. Predators that learn to avoid the sheep and hunt traditional prey can coexist. Coyotes and wolves teach their offspring hunting habits. Therefore, one that kills a sheep must be eliminated before the problem grows. However, predators that learn to avoid sheep also pass on this behavior and the population of 'trained' predators continues.
It is important to note that running LGDs successfully requires two things: the right types of dogs and the right number of dogs. Any deficiency in one of these areas will lead to stock losses. Regarding the right type of dogs, we have found that a mix of breeds works best. Our white dogs never stray from the sheep and will herd them up if a threat is sensed. They prefer to bark. In contrast, our tan dogs patrol a large perimeter, staking out territory. If a predator is sighted they will leave the paddock, often running some distance until the predator is caught and killed or they grow tired. They are a more primitive breed and are the alpha breed. To our dismay, three of our dogs were killed by predators. This led to the introduction of a larger breed, the Kangal- which is likened to an Anatolian on steriods. We determined it was unfair to bring a knife to a gunfight and although our white dogs have a role, they are simply no match for packs of coyotes or wolves. This is also the reason for the spike collar. In addition to keeping inter-pack disputes from becoming fatal, they also provide a small edge to our dogs in predator fights.
Running the right number of dogs is also key to keep your dogs working optimally and not burning out or becoming exhausted. You must match the dogs to the type of terrain (hilly or treed requires more dogs), the number of stock, and the predator pressure. A small flock confined to a farmyard may require one dog. Sheep facing a pack of five wolves will require a MINIMUM five dogs, more is better. Having sufficient numbers will often convince an opportunistic predator(s) to find an easier meal and avoid conflict altogether. A large paddock will require more dogs to physically patrol and mind all the sheep, especially if your sheep have a low flocking instinct.
Every ranch is different. By evaluating your needs, you can create a system where your dogs, and ultimately your livelihood, will experience success. Predation is often THE limiting factor for sheep producers.
An Excellent Resource regarding LGD's