Our holistic landscape goal encourages biodiversity, and this includes predators. Predators that hunt traditional prey and learn to avoid livestock can co-exist. Coyotes and wolves teach their offspring hunting habits. One that kills livestock must be eliminated before the problem grows. Problem predators are killed by our dogs. However, predators that learn to avoid livestock also pass on this behaviour and the population of "trained" predators continues.
We've learned that preventing stock losses with LGD's requires two things: the right type of dogs and the right number of dogs. A pack of several breeds has proven the most effective.
Our 'white dogs' (Great Pyrenees, Maremmas) never stray from the sheep. If a threat is sensed they will bark and herd them together. In contrast, our 'tan dogs' (Anatolian Shepherds and Kangals) patrol a large perimeter, marking their territory. If a predator is sighted they will leave the pasture in pursuit. As our flock grew and predation pressure increased we found our LGD pack evolving. To our dismay three of our dogs were killed by predators. We introduced a larger breed - the Turkish Kangal - which is likened to an Anatolian 'on steroids'. Since the introduction of Kangals and spike collars we have experienced a dramatic improvement.
Running the right number in the pack is key to dogs not becoming overworked. Appropriately matching pack numbers to terrain (hilly or treed requires more dogs), the number of stock, and the predator pressure is vital. A small flock confined to a farmyard may require one dog. Sheep facing a pack of five wolves will require a minimum of five dogs, more is better. Having sufficient numbers will often convince opportunistic predators to find an easier meal and avoid conflict altogether.
All of our dogs wear spike collars. Collars provide protection in predator conflicts and keep intra-pack disputes from escalating. Spike collars save trips to the vet and keep our dogs healthy and working!
Predation is often the primary factor affecting a producer's bottom line. Every ranch is different. By evaluating your needs, you can create a system where your dogs, your livestock and you experience success.