When faced with the on-going threat of predation to your flock some proactive steps can be implemented. It should be noted that even with the best prevention strategies in place, predation can and/or will still occur. When considering prevention practices, it is important to consider the level of predation (for example, the dollar value of loss), time of year, location, past history, cost of each predation prevention strategy, and the amount of protection offered.
Results of an Ontario survey conducted in 2011 to determine current use of predation prevention tools found that the majority of respondents (153/169) indicated they were currently using predation prevention tools. Some respondents who indicated that they were not using prevention tools did however state the use of prevention methods in other parts of the survey. Certain husbandry methods, like night enclosures, may be a routine for other management reasons and not specifically used for predation prevention. Figure 1 shows different predation prevention methods reported in the survey. (Nixon, 2013)
In Figure 1, the top three prevention tools and techniques used were night time enclosures, guardian animals and hunting/trapping. Few producers indicated that they were using lights or sounds as deterrents. (Nixon, 2013) It should be noted that night time enclosures are not feasible for large flocks, grazing flocks rotated over a large land base or on rented land.
Figure 1. Use of different predation prevention methods by 181 survey respondents. Respondents were able to choose more than one option. (Nixon, 2013)
Other management techniques to minimize predation not contained in Figure 1 include appropriate deadstock disposal in accordance with the regulations, lambing in protected or enclosed areas, avoiding the placement of small lambs on pasture (this is not possible for large pasture flocks) and fencing for predator control. Below is a brief summary of some predation tools.
Several options exist when looking to build a new fence or adding to the current fence for predator control measures. In the 2011 predation survey of Ontario lamb producers, 70 percent (110/157) of respondents indicated they used electric fence (Nixon, 2013). It should be noted that no fence is 100% effective in keeping predators such as coyotes out.
From the Predation Management with a Focus on Coyotes Manual published by the Alberta Lamb Producers, it is recommended that fencing to deter coyotes must have the following features:
- Coyotes cannot travel through the fence – ensure that fence openings in non-electric fences are no larger than 15 cm x 15 cm (and smaller if woven wire is not high tensile)
- Coyotes cannot crawl under the fence – place the bottom wire of the fence as close to the ground as possible with appropriate tension to prevent “pushing under”.
- Coyotes cannot jump, or climb over the fence –make the height at least 1.70 metres (five feet six inches). Consider brace assembly designs to minimize toe-hold opportunities.
- Coyotes cannot get through gateways – ensure gates are as high as the fence and that bar or wire spacings prevent coyotes from squeezing through. Keep traffic ruts levelled out and the clearance between gate and ground to a minimum.
(O’Brien & Alberta Lamb Producers, 2014)
Electric fences can be effective for predator control; however some coyotes may have learned how to get through the fence in areas where electric fencing is extensively used. Perimeter fences must be at least 5 strands of electric with alternative live and ground wires. Anything less is not effective in deterring coyote predation, especially if predation has already occurred on the farm. An electric fence that was found to be very effective by Alberta farmers is the nine-wire, anti-coyote electric fence (O’Brien & Alberta Lamb Producers, 2014). The nine-wire fence should be constructed using 12.5 gauge high-tensile, smooth wire. Wires should alternate between charged and grounded. (Alberta Agriculture, Food & Rural Development, 2005)
Another effective fence is a modified net-wire fence. Galvanized 12.5 gauge high-tensile mesh wire should be utilized with spacings in the mesh no larger than 15 cm by 15cm. Add electric strands to the top of the fence to make the overall height 1.70 meters. When constructing the fence, it is essential that the fence is tight to the ground to prevent ‘squeeze under’ spots (see Figure 2). If coyotes are digging under the fence, consider adding a 12.5 gauge high-tensile hot wire outside of the fence 10 to 15 cm above ground and 10 to 20 cm out from the fence (Alberta Agriculture, Food & Rural Development, 2005).
Electric net fencing may be an alternative option for some situations such as grazing on rented land, grazing on hay-aftermath or cover crops. This fence is available in different heights and can be effective at reducing predation since the sheep and fence are continuously moving to different locations and fields. The frequent changes offer some degree of protection as it may delay habituation to the fence. However in some reports, coyotes have learned to jump the electric net fences as no digging under was found and good voltage levels were maintained. (O’Brien & Alberta Lamb Producers, 2014)
Figure 2: Modified Net Wire Fence.
For more information and construction details on fencing for predator control please refer to: —OMAFRA factsheet, Sheep – Fencing Options for Predator Control, http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/livestock/sheep/facts/02-053.htm
-Alberta Agriculture’s Agri-Facts Protecting Livestock from Predation with Electric Fences, http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex888/$file/684-7.pdf
–Predation Management with a Focus on Coyotes Manual, http://www.ablamb.ca/images/documents/management-modules/Predation-Management.pdf
Livestock Guardian Animals
Results of the 2011 Ontario predation survey found that 57 percent (103/181) of respondents were using at least one type of livestock guardian animal. 37 percent (68/181) of producers were using guardian dogs, 21 percent (38/181) used llamas and 14 percent (26/181) used donkeys. 46 percent or 84 respondents used only one type of guardian animal, while 8.3 percent or 15 used two types and 2.2 percent or 4 respondents used all three types of livestock guardian animals. Alternative guardian animals were listed as cattle and horses. (Nixon, 2013)
Livestock guardian dogs are the most popular choice for predator protection. The major benefit to having livestock guardian dogs is that a producer can have multiple dogs to monitor the flock, which can assist with keeping losses in check. Donkeys and llamas can be effective as a predator control means and can either be utilized in conjunction with livestock guardian dogs or as a stand-alone if dogs are not an option for a particular operation.
Before choosing a livestock guardian animal it is important to note the advantages and disadvantages to each and select a protection method that is best suited to your farm. Cost and annual expenses of a guardian animal also need to be taken into account. Initial investment costs, annual feed, de-worming, vaccinations and hoof trimming (if applicable) are all items which have to be considered. Livestock guardian animals will not solve all predation problems, but will help to reduce predation losses. Guardian animals combined with good fences and management strategies will help in the constant struggle against predation.
Hunting & Trapping
From Figure 1, 38 percent of respondents (69/181) in the 2011 survey allowed hunting on their own property for predators while 12 percent (22/181) hunted on their own property. 11.6 percent (21/181) only hunt when there are livestock losses and 6.6 percent (12/181) hired trappers.
One new tool that was recently approved as of January 1st, 2016 is the relaxing cable restraint for use by trained trappers and producers on their own property to address problem coyotes and wolves. Certain seasonal and geographic restrictions apply to the use of this tool. There are also technical specifications guiding the design of this restraint to help avoid capture of non-target animals.
For areas where relaxing cable restraints can be used in Ontario, regulations, components of a relaxing cable restraint and best management practices please refer to the “Best Management Practices for Use of Relaxing Cable Restraints in Ontario” at http://ontariosheep.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=BveHfieeHKs%3d&tabid=97
For full details on the amendment to Ontario Regulation 667/98 of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997 around the use of relaxing cable restraints please visit: www.ontario.ca/environmentalregistry and search ER# 012-4735.
Non-lethal deterrents can include a variety of items or tools. Some commercially available devices include Foxlights, Nite Guard Solar®, and motion-activated ultrasound deterrents. Other solutions include fladry (flags, caution tape or aluminum pie plates tied or hung on the perimeter fence), radio, lights and objects which are moved around the field such as scarecrows and vehicles. Combinations of these techniques can also be utilized.
Fox light Nite Guard Solar®
Coyotes and other predators can quickly adapt to devices and overcome their initial fear of the novel object. Changing and moving deterrents frequently will assist in not allowing coyotes to become acclimatized to a set pattern. (Acorn, 1998) In general, it has been found that non-lethal deterrents can be effective for up to 60 days; however some tools are only effective for considerably shorter durations (O’Brien & Alberta Lamb Producers, 2014).
Non-lethal commercial deterrents are often cost prohibitive for use over a large land base however they may assist during vulnerable periods. Deterrents offer focused protection for a short time, so for example, could be utilized when ewes are lambing on pasture.
For more information on some commercial non-lethal deterrents please refer to the September 2012 Sheep News Magazine or http://www.ontariosheep.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=uOYSW-rHugg%3d&tabid=112 The Livestock Predation Study Report includes information evaluating certain commercial deterrents and can be found at http://ontariosheep.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=XEpw-0oP3gQ%3d&tabid=113
In the Event of a Kill
In the event of a confirmed predator kill, producers are eligible for compensation under the Ontario Wildlife Damage Compensation Program. Complete guidelines for the Program can be found at: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/livestock/predation/owdcguideFeb15.htm If you do not have access to the internet, please call the Agriculture Information Contact Centre at 1-877-424-1300 for more details.
In order to be eligible for the program, the livestock/poultry owner must take reasonable measures to prevent predation. The producer’s valid Farm Business Registration (FBR) number or alternate, (6-7 digits, issued by Agricorp), as well as the Premises ID for the property on which the injury or death occurred (normally ON + 7 digits, issued by Provincial Premises Registry, www.ontarioppr.com) must also be provided.
For more information on predation tools and preventing losses please refer to the OMAFRA predation page at www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/livestock/predation.htm and to the Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency predation page at www.ontariosheep.org/SHEEPPRODUCTIONINFO/Predation.aspx
Acorn, R.C., and Dorrance, M.J. Coyote Predation of Livestock. Edmonton: Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, 1998.
Bourne, J. and Merrill, P. “Protecting Livestock from Predation with Electric Fences.” Factsheet Agdex 684-7, Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, 2005. http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex888/$file/684-7.pdf
Nixon, K. “Livestock Predation Study 2011 – 2013.” OSMA Predation Project Report, 2013. http://ontariosheep.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=XEpw-0oP3gQ%3d&tabid=113
O’Brien, A. and Alberta Lamb Producers. Predation Management with a Focus on Coyotes. Alberta Lamb Producers, 2014. http://www.ablamb.ca/images/documents/management-modules/Predation-Management.pdf
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. “Best Management Practices for Use of Relaxing Cable Restraints in Ontario.” 2016. http://ontariosheep.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=BveHfieeHKs%3d&tabid=97