Livestock Guardian Donkeys

Learn how Donkeys can protect your smaller livestock such as goats and sheep from predation as guardians of the farms.

| April 2019

Photo by Pixabay/WenPhotos

Donkeys as Livestock Guardians

On guard! Some of you probably picked up this book because you’re thinking about getting a livestock guardian for your sheep, goats, alpacas, Miniature horses or donkeys, or some other type of small livestock. You’re wondering if a guardian donkey would fill your needs — and the answer is a qualified “maybe.”

If you keep small livestock, predation is an issue. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, in 1999 alone some 273,000 lambs and sheep were killed by predators to a monetary tune of $16,502,000. At least 165,800 of these unfortunates were dispatched by coyotes, a species now found in burgeoning numbers throughout the 48 continental United States and in every Canadian province. Another 41,300 were killed by dogs. Combined, coyotes and dogs account for more than 75 percent of the sheep predation in America. Donkeys are effective against both species, but not all donkeys will protect another species. Selecting the right donkey is important.

Who Uses Guard Donkeys?

In 1989, Murray T. Walton and C. Andy Field of the Texas Department of Agriculture presented a paper, “The Use of Donkeys to Guard Sheep and Goats in Texas,” at the Fourth Eastern Wildlife Damage Control Conference; after conducting two surveys and talking to numerous farmers and ranchers who use donkeys to guard small livestock, these were their conclusions:

Based on the results of the first survey an estimated 2,400 Texas sheep and goat producers tried guard donkeys and 1,800 were currently using them. Most respondents used guard jennies, some used geldings, and a few used a jenny with her foal.

Twenty-two percent of 275 sheep and goat producers who responded to the second survey reported guard donkey use, and 16 percent indicated that donkeys were being used at the time of the survey (for a total of 133 donkeys). Forty percent reported that their donkeys did a good or better job (ratings were excellent, good, fair, poor, failure, and unknown) of protecting livestock from coyote and dog predation. One responder indicated that his donkey killed more goats than predators; another said that his donkey was observed successfully fending off three coyotes trying to attack a group of sheep bunched up behind the donkey at a fence corner.

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