One of the major issues faced by all livestock producers is predation. This is more of a concern for sheep, goat and poultry producers, although cattle and horse producers may have losses due to predation at times.
While the major predators for small ruminants like sheep and goats are dogs and coyotes; other predators such as birds of prey, bobcats and foxes can be a problem in some areas. The primary predator that most people are concerned about are coyotes and dogs. Coyotes thrive in all environments and can cause problems regardless of the location. However, producers in more urban areas may have greater losses due to domestic dogs. Feral dogs also can be problematic in some areas.
The first thing to do when planning to protect livestock from predators is to review the laws related to predator control and livestock loss due to predators. Most states have laws in place to help producers control predators on their farms. Each state will handle the situation differently, and there may be some differences in enforcement and requirements of proof within a state. Always check local laws before starting any control program.
There are three basic methods of predator control, or a combination of these methods, that have proven effective: guard animals, special fencing and lethal methods of control. Each has its advantages and drawbacks, but they work best in combination. Most goat producers will find that using a guard animal along with good fences will be enough to keep losses under control. Additional details are provided in the following articles. Contact the local extension office to get information for specific needs.
Some implementation of lethal control will be needed at times and in special cases but should be kept to a minimum. This method may include trapping, poisons and hunting. As states may have restrictions on lethal control, it is best to work with law enforcement and/or game and wildlife officials before utilizing this option.
Other producers find that good fencing with night pens, along with lethal controls, works best for them. It is important to look at your situation and make sure the solution fits your farm and location. Again, you must follow the law when utilizing any lethal method of control, so be sure to check before you start.
By: Dr. Ken Andries, Kentucky State University