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.




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