Goat Pastures Predators

Goats June 29, 2012 Print Friendly and PDF

Predators and predator control

Contrary to popular belief, the most common predator that the majority of goat producers face is their neighbor’s dog and/or errant dogs running in a pack. A pack of dogs can kill 20-30 goats in one night because they do so for sport and will attack hind legs first. In certain regions, eagles,coyotes and bobcats represent the major problem. Foxes can prey on weak, just born kids. Predators generally only kill one animal every 2-3 nights, kill by strangulation (throat marks), and feed on the carcass.

Dogs, donkeys (preferably jennies because male donkeys are too aggressive with the animals they are supposed to protect), and llamas and alpacas can all serve as full-time guard animals, but the effectiveness of any of them will also depend on the bonding, training, instincts, and temperament of individual animals. All guard animals require an investment of time and money, and there is no guarantee that they will be successful. Dog breeds specifically developed for flock protection (for example Great Pyrenees) should be used. Sometimes a single guard animal will not be enough to protect the livestock. Several guard dogs may be necessary to patrol larger areas or to better protect against packs of predators. A llama and guard dog combination can be trained to work cooperatively, but donkeys or llamas will not properly bond to livestock if more than one of their own species is present with the livestock. Rotational grazing can sometimes help, because the livestock are confined to a smaller area, allowing guard animals to be more effective.

In addition to guard animals, a highly powered electric fence having the first two bottom strands 6 and 14 inches from the ground is an additional strong deterrent. These should be placed on the exterior of the fence and are most effective against climbing predators if offset from the wire fence by 18 inches. Because many predators, including coyotes, are usually active between dusk and dawn, confining goats at night in predator-proof pens located close by the goat owner’s residence can reduce losses. Kidding in sheds or on a pasture lot located close to where humans live can reduce losses to predators. Coyotes have their pups in spring, so kidding can be timed to avoid this high-demand time.

Luginbuhl, J-M. 2006. Pastures for Meat Goats. In: Meat Goat Production Handbook, ed. T.A. Gipson, R.C. Merkel, K. Williams, and T. Sahlu, Langston University, ISBN 1-880667-04-5.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.