Farms are not isolated parcels but are part of an entire community. Carnivores play an important role in the Earth’s ecosystems; systems that agriculture thrives in. This lyceum will be a panel discussion with Geri Vistein, a Carnivore Conservation Biologist who will take us into the lives of the carnivores living in the North Country, describing their sociology, hunting habits and life cycles. Abby Sadauckas, whose family owns the Applecreek Farm in Bowdoinham, Maine, and is a member of the Farming with Carnivores Network, will share her farm’s understanding of the carnivores around them, and what they do to live together with them. Shaun and Linda Gilliland are local livestock farmers who use a combination of tools to protect against predators. They will discuss their experiences farming with carnivores over the years.
IT IS WINTER TIME ~ A challenging time to farm; also a LIFE AND DEATH STRUGGLE for wild carnivores.
It is important for you to know that carnivores walk this line of survival, that they are often on the edge of starvation in the winter.
That is why Guardian Animals are such an important part of your team in the winter. Note the photo above, taken by Billy Foster of the Foster Farm in Maine. Though his fencing is excellent, the deep snow would allow a carnivore to jump over it with ease.
BUT ~ His guardian dogs are present, and have been present all year. There is an UNDERSTANDING between them and the Coyote family who live on his farm. Note the Coyote tracks that REMAIN on the outside of the fence.
SO ~ if you are thinking about acquiring one of these amazing guardians for your farm, the following are some questions and thoughts to think about and research this winter:
Do your homework first
Do you need one at all/do you need more than one…why or why not
When should you use a Llama or donkeys instead of a guardian dog?
What makes a Guardian dog, a guardian dog?
What breed is right for you…differences in breeds?
What does a guardian dog do for your farm?
How to acquire a Guardian dog (breeders)
What is the role of a good breeder?
The importance of good fencing for your guardians
When and how to introduce them to the farm animals and farm
Wild mothers teach their young ones all they need to survive. And teaching them WHAT their food is and WHERE to find it, is imperative for their survival. For those carnivores who live in a family, both the parents teach their young about food.
So it is important to know, that on your farm you want carnivore parents to not recognize any of your farm animals as a source of food. If they do, they will teach this to their young….and the cycle keeps going on and on. The use of animal husbandry practices like guardian dogs, llamas and donkeys, as well as electric fencing and the other practices shared on this website will encourage the mother carnivore to teach their young how to hunt wild prey. Below is an article about changing our behavior in order to change a bear’s behavior ~ And this goes for other intelligent carnivores as well!
This website is a Collaborative of sharing expertise on behalf of our farmers. The role of biologists on this site is to help our farmers get to know the carnivores that live on their farms.
This is a photo of Titan
We share with you this link that writes about her life. When you read about her life what happens? We hope that what happens is that carnivores cease to be figments of our imagination, and instead become living breathing beings seeking in their lives just what we seek in ours.
If ever you wanted to do research regarding the Guardian Dog that is right for your farm, this newly published book by Jan Dohner will be of great assistance to you. It is one of those books you would want to keep as a reference because it is packed with valuable information.
Whenever I speak with our farmers, their resident Red Fox most always comes up…that is, the fox’s relationship with their chickens. So here is a bit of history to help you understand your Red Fox and how you can live and farm well with them.
When the Europeans came to the American continent, Europe had long before eradicated all the large predators like wolves and bears. The ones that remained were relegated to remote mountain areas like the Alps and Pyrenees. As we know, from our history, the settlers swiftly eradicated the large carnivores from the eastern United States, but the fox remained.
Because no animal husbandry practices were used to protect the farmer’s chickens and other livestock, the fox took advantage of these easy meals. Those that were caught doing so were simply shot. Those particular foxes did not learn anything. But those that did get away with it, taught their kits that this was their food, and how to procure it. So from generation to generation the vixen has passed down to her kits this way of life.
As a result, farmers have lost many chickens over the past few centuries.
FAST FORWARD TO TODAY~
Please look at the photo above. This is who we want our foxes to eat ~ their wild prey. Our foxes are NOT playing their important role on the ecosystem of your farm if they are killing your chickens! And because our foxes have gotten in to this bad habit over the centuries, sometimes it is very challenging to let them know that it will be very dangerous for them if they try it on your farm.
And that danger is not to be shot, but being challenged by a guardian dog, Llama or Donkey, or being zapped by an electric fence. If you have an insistent fox intent on taking your chickens,know that you need to be very consistent in your animal husbandry practices. You MUST keep them secure in their coop at night, and during the day they will need a guardian and electric fencing.
If you “stick with it” your fox will finally get what you are trying to tell them: “There is NO easy food here for you!” Then keep that fox on your farm, because they understand what you are saying, and will pass it on to their kits.
Again, this is an important part of the Farming of the Future ~ You need to know your carnivores, look at your farm from their point of view, and learn how to speak to them in a language they understand. Farming at its Best!
Contributed by Geri Vistein, Carnivore Conservation Biologist in Maine
An Excellent opportunity to come learn about farming successfully with Carnivores will take place at THE COMMON GROUND FAIR in Unity, Maine on September 24 and 25.
At 1:00 PM on Saturday, the 24th we will host a panel of two outstanding farmers, Dave Kennard and Billy Foster, noted author and breeder of Kangals Jan Dohner, and Wildlife biologist and author Geri Vistein. Last year the tent was packed as we shared together in a lively discussion, our experience and knowledge. Our audience was amazing, jumping right in and asking excellent questions and expressing what has been happening on their farm.
Then, at 2:00 PM Jan Dohner will go more into depth about all the important issues regarding the decision to find a guardian dog, and then when they come to your farm…then what? Her new book Farm Dogs is just being released on time for the Fair, and her excellent 2007 book Guardian Animals: Using Dogs, Llamas and Donkeys to Protect your Herd is highly recommended She will also speak on Sunday, the 25th at 1:00 PM
SO COME IF YOU CAN! MUCH TO LEARN AND GREAT SUPPORT AWAITING YOU!
Guardian Dogs know what their work is about. They don’t need the farmer to teach them that.
BUT ~ when they are new to your farm, there is much for them to learn about the specifics of YOUR farm. It is exremely important that you take the time to teach them…..if you want them to be successful guardians.
The following is shared by Jackie Church of Windance Farm in Upper State New York. She is a responsible breeder of Maremma Guardians, and shares her knowledge and experience in a Manual she has written for farmers. Here is one section on introducing your guardian to your farm.
Setting your Dog up for Success
You must set your dog up to succeed. This applies to a new adult dog, and to the brand new young puppy that arrives at your farm.
You need to know what to expect from your dog and what ages you can expect it. Some dogs are exceptions in both the negatives and positives. You may have a dog that could never fail, no matter what you did. Then you have others who take longer to mature, and make you scratch your head more than anything in your life.
Again, what you put into this dog – is exactly what you will get out of this dog. If you toss a dog in the pasture alone, then you will get exactly what you are putting into it. Yes, the dog may (and an adult should) know how to keep predators out, mark the boundaries and bark.
But all the rest? The relationship it should have with the stock, with you, what the boundaries are, where and what – all that the dog does not know.
In all of the old world countries that use guardian dogs, they do not run just one dog. They work the dogs in teams. There is a smattering of ages –from some old dogs to very young dogs.
The older mature dogs that know their jobs are the teachers of these young pups. This is done by example and correction. If you take a young pup and place it in the field without an adult dog who knows the ropes –then YOU become the teacher. YOU become the mentor. YOU become the one to provide the instruction. If you do not, any failure of the dog is not because of the dog, but because of the lack of guidance and training.