Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Guardian Animals for Your Sheep

Guardian animals is a kind gesture you can do for your sheep -- leaves them with less stress.
There are usually three kinds of guardian animals: donkeys, [sheep] dogs and llamas. The latter I really know very little about, other than that it should be a female and a lot of sheep owners do use them.
I personally picked donkeys, not that I’m not a dog lover, because I always have been; but because, not only is it just me taking care of animals, but a dog has to have a special bowl of food taken out to him/her every day. While I leave the farm very little for anything more than one day, there are still those times. I then would be asking a neighbor to not only feed the farm animals, but to put a bowl of feed out for the dog(s) that is guarding the sheep. (My house dog goes with me!)
There are many benefits for having a dog, however, and there are several different breeds to choose from. The dog, once trained, can take the sheep to outlying pastures for a day of grazing and then bring them back to their protected area at evening. It would seem to me that unless your flock is very small, that you would almost have to have at least 2 guardian dogs. The dog has to sleep sometime and while their ears are very keen, this would give at least four ears to hear of impending danger.
I chose donkeys however because the donkey eats hay and grass just like the sheep do -- and will even eat some of the ’weeds’ that the sheep will not eat … so everybody is happy! Again, they should always be females that are in with the flock.
I now am leaning towards miniature female donkeys as when winter comes and you are putting out second-cutting hay and alfalfa (both of them the high-end of hay prices!), the hay is not being devoured by a medium size donkey. The miniature size donkey also remains a similar size to the sheep, thus not intiminating them with the larger size of a standard (aka Jerusalem) or full-size donkey (size of a regular horse).
Again, unless your flock is very large, one donkey is probably the best, as otherwise, they tend to hang around together ... rather than with the sheep.
Donkeys are notorious for hating canines (dogs). My donkeys ’tolerated’ by house dogs - the house dogs stayed clear of the donkeys … they all seemed to have this ’understanding’! But the hatred for canines carries over to coyotes as well, which can be a real menace to any flock of sheep. If you have neighbors nearby who allow their dogs to roam, not only would I post a sign that states there is a guardian donkey on duty 24/7, but personally notify your neighbors that donkeys will kill canines should they come into ’their’ field.
It sure can give peace of mind at night or when you are away, that something is guarding your livestock ALL the time!
"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night." Luke 2:8
God bless .... Diane

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