Dog’s attacking flocks of sheep has become increasingly more frequent in the country, with many reports in recent weeks of sheep killed after attacks, such as the recent story posted by That’sFarming here.
But are you doing all you can to ensure your flock is protected? Is there anything else you could do? Check out our list of tips below and find out!
1)Fencing: This should always be the first area focused on. If the fencing on your paddock is not up to scratch and contains gaps, then your flock are more likely to suffer from attacks. Using chicken wire on the lower half of the fence, will stop dogs from trying to enter your paddocks. A dog will usually attempt to gain access either through a gap or by crawling under the bottom row of wire.
Woven net/wire fencing is another excellent option. If using this, try and stick to fencing with stays that are 6-inches apart, maximum! For those of you who want maximum protection, you cannot go wrong with an electric fence. Dogs, as is the case with electric dog collars, hate being shocked and one shock from an electric fence should keep them away. When using electric fencing, ensure all weeds and or grass are not touching the fence as this will reduce the voltage of the shock.Don't forget you always have the option of electrifying different fencing types, such as the ones mentioned above.
Always regularly inspect all fencing on any paddocks where your flock may be kept. Check for any gaps in fencing or signs that a predator may have been by. This will potentially give you the opportunity to fix any problem areas before an attack occurs.
2) Management - As predators, such as dogs or foxes, primarily carry out their attacks at night, it is advised to house your animals inside. This is not possible for some farmers, unfortunately, but if you have to keep them penned outside, ensure they are kept in a well-lit area, which is close to other buildings.
Changing your lambing time to later or earlier in the year may also solve your problem. Should you lamb at bit earlier, lambs will be much stronger upon entering the pastures come Spring and ewes will not suffer attacks whilst in-lamb.
3) Odours - Did you know that because dogs have a strong sense of smell, this can be used to their disadvantage?
Spraying any potential entry points for predators into your pastures with pungent aromas such as those from vinegar and ammonia will help repel dogs. Citrus fruits are also known to naturally repel most dogs, though not all dogs. Other smells disliked by dogs include Pepper, mothballs and alcohol/isopropyl.
4) Animal Guardian - Did you know that another option is sourcing an animal guardian for your stock? Animals used include Guardian dogs, Alpacas, donkeys, cattle and Llamas. As you know, dogs can be easily trained and a sheepdog could also be trained for the purpose of protection rather than herding. Llamas have also been known to bond easily with sheep, as have alpacas!
Llamas need zero training and are naturally trained to act aggressively towards strange dogs/predators. Females or castrated males are the best options to use, as males may try and breed with ewes.
Alpaca’s are another option and like Llamas, they will naturally act aggressively towards a strange dog, usually walking or running towards the animal, chasing, spitting and kicking at them. They also emit loud screeches as they attack. Again, it is best to use a female Alpaca to avoid any unwanted mating attempts. Some Alpacas have been known to stamp intruding dogs or foxes to death.
Some easier alternatives include cattle and donkeys. Cattle also naturally protect themselves from attacks. When using cattle, however, it is very important that they have been socialising with the flock for a long time and know them well. If you are successful, the cattle should scare away any intruders.
Donkeys are also a fantastic option as they are naturally aggressive towards predators, usually braying loudly or kicking the predator with their hind legs. Again, females are the preferred choice, as intact males can be too aggressive for sheep. It is important that any donkey used had been raised with the sheep, or else has been housed with them for at least 1-2 weeks before introduction to the pasture.