Monday, 14 January 2013

Donkeys guard sheep from predators

From ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia.

More and more farmers in Australia and North America are using  donkeys to protect their livestock against predators.  In Australia, the villains are dingoes, wild dogs and foxes, which attack sheep, calves and poultry. In America, coyotes, aka the American jackal,  brush wolf, or prairie wolf, are the farmers’ enemy.


Ironically, coyotes are protected in 12 US states,  and hunting is regulated in most of North America.


“Darling Downs grazier Bruce McLeish and his wife Angela turned to ‘guard donkeys’ after losing 300 sheep worth $110,000, to wild dogs in 2007” says a story on an  ABC website.


“As well as shooting, trapping and baiting the dogs, the McLeishes – who run 4500 sheep on Warahgai, near Karara, in the traprock country west of Warwick – got the donkey idea after hearing about a Toowoomba woman who ran free-range poultry with a donkey and found a fox which had been kicked to death.”


“The latest weapon in the war against wild dogs is not bullets or bait, but  floppy ears and a deafening call,” Karen Hunt wrote  in an ABC website four years ago.


“Guard donkeys are being used successfully in southern Queensland to guard sheep against attack from rapidly increasing numbers of wild dogs. In some cases losses from dog attacks have been so severe station owners have been forced to sell all their remaining sheep and switch to cattle.


“Warwick station owner Bruce McLeish says he discovered guard donkeys were commonly used in the US for protecting livestock, but it was the hardiness of the animals which finally persuaded him to try them out. ‘The donkeys eat the same as sheep, are easy on fences, and if you’re in harder country like we are, you don’t have to do anything with their hooves, and they naturally live in the desert.


‘’’The donkey is a very inquisitive animal; and they naturally live in the desert so they are very hardy, even in our droughts.’


“Although donkeys were initially hard to source, once released with the sheep, Mr McLeish says their natural instincts took over.


“’The couple we’ve got are bonded with sheep. If anything goes into the paddock, they go out to the edge of the mob.  If it’s something like a dog they will actually  chase after them, trying to bite and kick them.’”


Graziers in Australia, the US, and western Canada  have successfully used donkeys as guard animals. The Ontario Predator Study  reported that about 70% of the donkeys used were either excellent or good at protecting sheep from wolves, coyotes and dogs.



Thursday, 3 January 2013

They're Eating World's Oldest Living Thing!

From ERIIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia.

What do you do if  scientists discover that you are living on top of one of the world’s oldest living thing?  You start eating it.  That’s what the people in the small US town of Crystal Falls, Michigan, are doing.

 Several years ago a ‘humungus fungus” (a gigantic mushroom) was discovered in the Crystal Falls area.  It weighed about 11 tons and covered 37 acres. Scientists estimated that it was more  than 1500 years old. (California’s giant sequoia (redwood) trees are more than 3000 years old, but no one eats them).
“It’s hard to believe that this monster mushroom is growing in Michigan and  not Texas,” travel and food writer Maxine Sommers (a Texan) commented in 2003.

“For three days each August tourists and locals alike celebrate the giant fungus phenomenon ... There’s an extensive assortment of activities such as a Buckboard and Horseshoe Tournament; a Tube Float  - here’s your chance to float down a river on an old tire tube; or register or the Volley Ball or Golf Tournament.


“if your tastes run to a more sedentary pastime, you can begin the day at the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ Hall for a Pancake Breakfast, then view the  Fungus Fest Parade, watch the softball game, or gobble up ice cream at the Ice Cream Social, then toddle off over to the Pie Social for home made  pies.


“If you are still able to walk, the Salad Luncheon at St. Mark’s Church offers tasty culinary selections. At the end of the day, pull up a chair and view a fabulous fireworks display event."