Choosing a Livestock Guardian

One of the best ways to protect against predators is to keep a livestock guardian or two.

| March 2016

  • Donkeys are considered to be the most effective livestock guardians.
    Photo by Elayne Sears
  • Llamas are most effective when dealing with smaller predators such as foxes or dogs.
    Photo by Elayne Sears
  • "Storey’s Guide to Raising Miniature Livestock,” by Sue Weaver, is a comprehensive guide to owning and caring for your herd.
    Cover courtesy Storey Publishing

Storey’s Guide to Raising Miniature Livestock (Storey Publishing, 2010) by Sue Weaver, is your comprehensive handbook covering all aspects of raising, caring for, and enjoying miniature livestock.  This book contains detailed information on fencing, shelters, feeding, health, transportation, breeding, and milking as well as on running a successful business with miniature livestock.

You can purchase this book from the GRIT store: Storey’s Guide to Raising Miniature Livestock.

Livestock Guardians

Livestock owners everywhere agree: It’s a heartbreaking, financial disaster when predators raid your flocks and herds and kill your animal friends. Predators are everywhere, from free-roaming suburban dogs to packs of

ubiquitous coyotes to mountain lions in up-country meadows, and they all pose a threat to miniature livestock. One of the best ways to protect against predators is to keep a livestock guardian or two.

USDA Statistics Tell the Tale

Consider losses among full-size sheep and goats. The United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) keeps track of what kills American sheep and goats and periodically publishes findings in a report titled “Sheep and Goats Death Loss.” According to the report, predators killed 280,000 sheep and goats during 2004, accounting for slightly more than 37 percent of each species that died of all causes that year! These sheep and goats were killed mainly by coyotes (more than 60 percent of the total) but also by dogs, mountain lions, bears, foxes, eagles, bobcats, and other species (among them wolves, ravens, and black vultures).

Predation is a serious problem, and one you’ll have to address in order to raise small livestock anywhere in North America — even in relatively populated areas, where dog predation poses a serious risk.

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