A Tale of Two Farmers

posted in: Living with Carnivores | 0
ed | Farming with Carnivores Network

Note: the electric fencing and Guardian dog photo by Billy Foster

As a wildlife biologist, my work focuses on our recovering carnivores and our relationships with them. Supporting our farmers is important to me because they not only feed us, but here in Maine there is such an effort to farm sustainably. I make regular trips to our weekly Farmers Market, but also give presentations collaboratively with several of our leading farmers.

On one particular Saturday at the Farmers Market, one of our farmers requested that I might help another new one who had just come to Maine after retiring. So I thought I would stop by and chat with him to offer any support he might wish. What I found out from him was this: he raises very vulnerable lambs in a rural area, allows them to be born out in the field, and he has NO electric fencing and NO guardian animals.

So basically he uses no animal husbandry practices to protect them, in fact he informed me that he refuses to do so. Instead he kills any coyotes that he sees. As we all know through so much research on this subject, there will be no end to his losses because of his behavior.

He sees the Coyote as the enemy, instead of viewing them as intelligent beings who he can come to understand, and with whom he can share the land.  However, a door needs to be open for new learning to take place.

Then I walked over to another farmer and we had a short chat. He was a young farmer who told me that he loved hearing the Coyotes howl, and in his words:  “I want to learn more about them.” Such a simple statement, yet it is very powerful. The desire to understand our fellow beings is the first step to living very successfully with them.

AND SO THE CONTRAST~ Experiences like these have made me more and more aware that we are living in an amazing time of transition. So we are seeing those who refuse to make use of successful animal husbandry practices, who see Coyote as the enemy, and continue to see killing as the answer. YET we are also seeing more and more young farmers embracing what works AND at the same time not seeing Coyote as the enemy but as a fellow being of our planet Earth. THEY GET IT! This is the farming of the future happening today.

It is the CONTRAST that lets us know how much further we have to travel on the road to the farming of the future.

Geri Vistein, Carnivore Conservation Biologist

The Benefits of Multispecies Grazing

posted in: Farm as ecosystem | 0
ed | Farming with Carnivores Network

Photo by Billy Foster

Here is just another way to farm successfully, in the company of carnivores: Multispecies Grazing. Actually this form of farming mimics nature for there is always a diversity of grazers in a healthy natural ecosystem. And when there is this biodiversity on your farm, it all comes into balance, is resilient and healthy.

Our wild predators recognize SIZE when they seek out their prey. Large herbivores can be and are a serious threat to them, and they will think twice before attempting to hunt in their presence. So in the presence of cows, llamas or donkeys, your sheep are much safer from predation.

BUT ~ there is also what is referred to as predator pressure. This pressure can either be slight or great. You can participate in making it be slight. First: provide sufficient habitat on your farm for the carnivores AND their prey. By doing so you are allowing them to have a good living without looking toward your farm animals for sustenance. Second: protect your resident carnivores, especially ones like Coyote, Cougar and Wolf who have complex social systems. By supporting the presence of a stable family group, you protect your farm from all others.


See attached link:

Multispecies Grazing: A Primer on Diversity
Lee Rinehart, Agriculture Specialist

The Biggest Little Farm

posted in: Farm as ecosystem | 0
ed | Farming with Carnivores Network

We would like to highly recommend this excellent film of John Chester and his wife Molly. It was their goal to create a farm that would be ecologically healthy and robust.  And so they set out on an adventure with results they could never have imagined.  So let them take you on this journey.

But we would leave you with this thought ~ What they discovered was the immense importance of the predator prey relationship in order for their farm to be successful. They did not use this scientific term, instead they experienced it.

And finally, note how their relationship with Coyote taught them some powerful lessons: lessons about how we humans view different predators…the ones we fear, such as wild canines and snakes, and ones we do not fear, such as owls and hawks.

You may need to watch this film more than once. And every time you do, you will realize something new!

Lyme Disease and your Farm’s Ecosystem

posted in: Farm as ecosystem | 0
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Photo by Dave Conlin.

Lyme disease has become an epidemic in the United States. The bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, that causes it, and the vectors that carry it continue to create an unbroken cycle of this disease.  In fact the bacterium that causes it is present worldwide, and it is a highly evolved bacterium.

Epidemics are not like the flu that comes once a year and then is gone. Instead they are a manifestation of a serious lack of balance in the ecosystem on Earth. Here in the United States, the dramatic changes in the landscape due to the clear cutting of 97% of the forests of the continent, along with the killing of immense numbers of our important carnivores were the beginnings. And as a result of these initial behaviors, the populations of the white footed mouse, the carrier of the bacterium, reproduced in great numbers as did the deer, whose large bodies the adult ticks breed and feed upon.

Scientists in this country are struggling to understand this bacterium that is causing this epidemic, an epidemic that is growing exponentially every year. BUT if we do not see ourselves as members of a larger community of life, and recognize what we really need to do to end the epidemic, it will continue. 


SO YOUR FARM ~ Recognize your farm as an ecosystem that needs all its members. Protect yourself from this epidemic by welcoming carnivores like Coyotes especially, to create the balance…by hunting the rodents and keeping the deer on the move and their numbers in balance.


Creatures of Empire

posted in: Historical Perspectives | 0
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Historians write that it is important to know the PAST so that we can come to understand the PRESENT, and by doing so create a more enlightened FUTURE.

So I wish to share with you this excellent book, Creatures of Empire, by author Virginia De John Anderson.  It is a book that anyone who cares for livestock on their farm should read.

How did the colonists from Britain and elsewhere in Western Europe view their animals? How did our Native Peoples view wild animals, (as they did not make use of domestic livestock)?

And how did the Europeans view the Land and how it would be used by their livestock?  And what about the wild animals, especially the carnivores…how did they view them?

This ideology that became entrenched in the East moved westward over time. Can we learn anything from these relationships that changed our continent, our wildlife and ourselves?

Preserving Essentials of Guardian Dogs

posted in: Guardian Dogs | 0
ed | Farming with Carnivores Network

Guardian dogs are ancient breeds…their important role…..to be guardians of livestock. The following article by renowned expert on Guardian dogs, Jan Dohner, speaks of the important need to protect these breeds from alternative uses: https://www.jandohner.com/single-post/2018/12/02/Preserving-the-Essential-Traits-and-Behaviors-of-Livestock-Guardian-Dogs

Great Pyrenees pups photo by Peter Sannicandro

Farming of the Future & You are Invited

posted in: Farm as ecosystem | 0

This is how a COLLABORATIVE EFFORT can be a great support to our farmers seeking to farm in peace with the carnivores with whom they share their land. We are so excited to be presenting this presentation together. We encourage you to do the same.

The Neighbor’s Fencing

posted in: Fencing | 0

chickens fenced in

I was asked recently for advice on handling a “weekend farmer” neighbor who was losing chickens to a fox–mainly because of poor fencing–and whose response was to pick up his gun and go after the predator. Neighbors can be our biggest asset or greatest curse, often how we communicate with them has everything to do with it. I have found it very important to keep a good relationship with my neighbors even if it is me doing all the work in the relationship.

Does the neighbor close the chickens in at night? I have found this to be one of the biggest helps as far as predation of chickens. A chicken coop without any holes will keep the girls secure at night, it also goes a long way to allowing you to get a better sleep since you are not up worrying about it. Electronet fencing is certainly the best deterrent we have found at keeping the girls safe during the day but at night we always put all poultry in the coop. Putting the chickens in the coop is not a new thing, folks have been doing this for hundreds of years, if this is the scenario the neighbor is in I would bring it up. It is always easy to say “I was talking to this guy that was having the same problem you are and he said…”.

You can also mention the effectiveness of elecro-net fencing. The company Premier One sells a lot of the stuff because it works, they have a good web site that answers most any question one might have. We use it for our sheep as well as the chickens and are very happy with it.

Another point you can work into the conversation is that your field, and all the mice and voles it supports is a huge attractant to fox and coyotes. Mention to him that there will most likely always be some sort of carnivore in your neighborhood since the rodents are such a good food source, if he really wants to keep his chickens safe he will need to outsmart the fox.

Guardian Llamas

posted in: Guardian Llamas | 0

Sputter and HaremWould a guard llama work on your farm?

Many people – farmers especially – have been asking llama owners if llamas really do guard other animals. The answer is a resounding YES! If you are thinking about aquiring one, here is some helpful background information:

Lama Glama, domesticated about 6000 years ago from the wild guanaco in the Andean altiplano, is related to alpacas, vicunas and modern camels. Adults stand 5-6 feet tall, live 15 – 25 years and weigh 250 – 400 pounds. They browse and graze and have efficient, modified ruminant digestive systems. Llamas are highly intelligent and gentle, but not usually affectionate. They are sheared once a year; toenails are trimmed as necessary. Health maintenance and vet care is similar to that of sheep. Yearly upkeep cost averages $250. One can acquire a pair of llamas from a reputable breeder for about $700 each, and up. They should not be kept alone, without other lamas, UNLESS they are on guard duty.

How about guarding?

As llamas gained popularity in the United States, they were occasionally pastured with sheep. Owners noticed fewer sheep were being lost to coyotes. Llamas have a strong herd instinct and they like being with others of their own species. After being taken from their llama herd and placed with the sheep, a guardian llama adopts the sheep as its new herd. Being the largest of that new herd, he or she will become dominant and protective. This protective instinct really kicks in at lambing.

Llamas have been shown to be equally effective guards in enclosed fields or open range. They deliver non-lethal predator protection in settings with sheep, goats, alpacas, deer, cattle and poultry. They use body language (head lowered while running toward an interloper) and an alarm call to guard, and only ramp up to lethal means (feet and teeth) if the predator doesn’t quit.
Both gelded males and females, at least 2 years old, make effective guards, although not all llamas make good guard animals. They usually require no training after introduction to their herd or flock – just an adjustment period of a few days.

Llamas communicate effectively with their ‘charges’, as I have seen and understand it. Just by the llama’s alert body posture and some body movements, the sheep know there is danger; they gather behind their guard, while the llama orients himself facing the intruder. Sometimes it is an unfamiliar dog or puppy, just checking things out. Rather than a ‘flee first and ask questions later’ approach, llamas survey the situation and measure their reaction to the need: Puppy? Chase it out. Serious predator? Race, screaming, head down, directly at the intruder to be sure the message is clear. There is obvious non-verbal communication among all the species.

More information on llamas at http://www.galaonline.org.