Friday, June 02, 2017

AgriLife livestock guardian dog study numbers are in

In January 2016, six cooperating ranchers across West Texas agreed to take part in the experiment. None had any previous experience with livestock guardian dogs, but all had significant predator issues and operate large pastures ranging from 500 to 2,500 acres. Each rancher received two to four livestock guardian dogs purchased from 5R Stock Dogs of Billings, Montana. The dogs were 6 to 12 months old at the start of the experiment and had been bonded with sheep. Redden said livestock guardian dogs have been used for thousands of years in other parts of the world where sheep are herded, but less is known about how to use them or their effectiveness in sheep and goat producing West Texas. Some work was done in the 1980s in the area, but interest soon waned, possibly from lack of knowledge of the dogs. Redden said livestock guardian dogs are not herding dogs, but rather stay within the proximity of their sheep and/or goat charges, thus creating an effective and constant predator deterrent. Redden said unlike other parts of the sheep and goat producing areas in the U.S. and world, West Texas ranchers don’t often see their animals on a daily basis, meaning the dogs must rely on their own intuition and instinct to remain effective. So were they effective? “Half the ranchers reported the dogs were having a significant positive impact resulting in improved lamb crops within the first year,” Redden said. “Averaged across all the cooperating ranches, the livestock guardian dogs improved lamb crops by an estimated 25 percent.” However, the livestock guardian dogs were not foolproof. In the first year, two of the dogs went missing, three were removed for predating upon livestock and four were relocated due to neighbor conflicts...more

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