Skip to main content
Farm Fresh Forensics
rss feedour twitterour facebook page
site map
Latest Posts

Farm Fresh Blog

Wednesday, March 07 2018

It's time for the gloves to come off. I accept that we live in a remote area and choose to raise livestock in a place that is thick with predators. I do not hunt them. It's tempting when coyotes surround the barnyard and sing as they gather up and point at my sheep like they're standing in line at a cafeteria. "I'll have an order of the sheep please, with a sidedish of goat." It's tempting to shoot at them but I don't. I let the Livestock Guardian Dogs do their jobs.

As long as the stock stays close to the dogs, and vice versa, they're safe. Because the sheep are lambing soon I have limited their grazing in the heavily wooded pastures and moved them to a small pasture below the barnyard where I can keep an eye on them and it's a short run to safety. I'm a 'live and let live' person but any predator caught in active pursuit of my sheep will be shot - if the Livestock Guardian Dogs don't get him first.

But what about the cattle?

A healthy adult cow can pretty much take care of itself but calves are defenseless. A mother cow is a force to be reckoned with and as long as the calves stay close to the herd they are safe. The entire herd will run to their defense. But when a cow leaves the group to sneak away and give birth, she and her baby are most vulnerable. Because of this we try to keep close tabs on imminent births, so yesterday when IB-1 didn't come up we loaded up in the RTV and went out in search of her. The buzzards led us to the crime scene.

Poor IB-1 had chosen to give birth on a sand bar in the creek. The creek is barely running now so the water wasn't a danger. The danger is the dry creek itself. It is a predator superhighway. The banks are very steep making it a veritable killing field because once inside the creek, the predators can swarm down and the prey cannot climb back up fast enough. From what we could piece together of the crime scene it appears that IB-1 had a successful birth and passed the afterbirth. This meant the baby probably nursed but it was highly unlikely the baby was able to climb the steep banks to leave the birth site. They were discovered by a pack of coyotes and the baby was killed. It appears that IB-1 attempted to protect her baby and smash the coyotes into the sand. I dearly hope she was successful. She was not able to save her calf though, and she appears to have injuries on her rear end. She would not let us catch her for a closer inspection. We attempted to drive her toward the barnyard but she circled back to stay with what remained of her dead calf. It broke my heart. It broke my heart to imagine what she went through. It broke my heart to know the mother stood by and waited while they ate her calf.

And we still have more cows calving. The coyotes were so successful so they will certainly double their efforts to take calves and/or birthing mothers. The knee-jerk reaction is to start killing coyotes but that isn't the answer. We can shoot one pack and another will move in. We must somehow convince the pack here that it isn't safe for them to hang around the livestock. To do this we moved the birthing cows into the sheep pasture and we unleashed the dogs. "Let slip the dogs of war."

Because the Anatolian Shepherds tend to roam and hunt varmits when they are together, we normally keep them separated, pairing one with Briar while we confine the other. Jury normally does night shift with Briar while Judge is locked in the pens with the sheep. Briar stays close to the barnyard. The boys are drawn to address a threat by galloping out and hunting it down. I discourage this behavior. You cannot protect the sheep if you are not WITH the sheep. But yesterday, as I stood over the remains of that poor little calf, it was time to pull the gloves off and give in to their natural tendency to pursue those damned coyotes. I haven't been able to stop it anyway so during calving and lambing I may as well use it to my advantage. We have no close neighbors and it isn't hunting season so if they do happen to get off the property they aren't likely to run into anyone.

So yesterday we took off the gloves, and we took off the bells. The Livestock Guardian Dogs wear bells on their collars. When we moved here we put bells on the dogs and the dairy goats so the predators didn't know whether the bell belonged to a meal or a marine. The bells clang as the dogs run. Yesterday we took off the bells so the dogs could run silently through the forest. We turned them together and the boys ambled off to the pasture side by side. Thirty minutes later Judge was lying with calves and Jury was lying with the horses. At dusk they were gone. I didn't hear any coyotes last night.

Unaware she's on the menu, a calf danced and played in the sunshine this morning.

I walked outside to watch her and saw that she wasn't alone - and she's no longer on the menu.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 12:44 pm   |  Permalink   |  2 Comments  |  Email
Let slip the dogs of war.... Love it! Wishing them the best as they battle the enemy
Posted by Cindy Tennant on 03/07/2018 - 05:43 PM
Judge and Jury, striking names. I wish them every success in finding Justice.
Posted by Jess on 03/10/2018 - 01:01 AM

Post comment
Email Address

(max 750 characters)
* Required Fields
Note: All comments are subject to approval. Your comment will not appear until it has been approved.

Red Feather Ranch, Failte Gate Farm

© 2009-2019, Farm Fresh Forenics, Forensicfarmgirl, Failte Gate Farm, Red Feather Ranch All Rights Reserved.

rss feedour twitterour facebook page