Herd Management and Livestock Husbandry

Herd management practices are an integral component of proactive coexistence planning.  Successful predator deterrence often requires a mix of activities to ensure that local wildlife remain wary of approaching domestic animals.  Where predators have good cover and a ready means of retreat, they may be more willing to expose themselves to novel situations.  By becoming familiar with the habits and requirements of area wildlife, producers can gauge appropriate management options.

Heightened vigilance and application of a mix of practices are especially important when animals are most vulnerable.  Therefore, the timing and location of lambing and calving are important considerations.  When native prey are abundant and domestic animals are hard to access, predators are less likely to expose themselves to risk.  Calving and lambing in secure areas—from barns to fenced lots—is optimal.  Other options include lighting, the use of visual deterrents such as flagging (fladry), unaccustomed sounds and human presence. 

Predators can become comfortable with the routine of a farm.  Varying approaches to pastures, changing where and when people are present, and employing differing means of transportation can help to avoid predictability.  Grazing larger stock together with smaller animals can deter predators.  Further, varying pasture rotations to keep small and vulnerable stock away from potentially difficult locations is a sound option, where practicable.  Predators are often most active from dusk to dawn; practices designed to target this period may be especially effective. 

While no mix of husbandry practices is predator-proof, producers who make coexistence an integral part of herd management tend to reduce losses.  Attention to natural cycles and an understanding of the environment on and surrounding their operations are hallmarks of producers who experience success.  Further, record-keeping of livestock locations and losses helps one to pay prompt attention to predator problems and reveals any pattern that may exist.  Reducing and eliminating attractant sources—by disposing of livestock carcasses, for example, and by making stock hard to reach—is a long-term approach to raising livestock with respect for the wild.

More Information

Predator Control for Sustainable and Organic Livestock Production (ATTRA)