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Question for you folks that raise sheep?

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

I have a friend that is getting into sheep.He has got several thousand dollars invested in his small flock.Now he hears of a mountain lion  attacking a near by heard and he is freaking out.Anybody know what would deteir mr.mountain lion from visiting his sheep heard?

post #2 of 8

Disclaimer: I don't raise sheep. 


Mountain lions are crepescular - the sheep are at highest risk around dawn and dusk, unless the mountain lion gets really hungry.  Mountain lions rarely attack people.  Your friend could hang out with his flock to guard them, or he could hire someone to do that (like in Brokeback Mountain!  But hopefully people who are really focused on the sheep).  A herding dog with a good alert bark might also be a helpful deterrent, though it could also be a victim.  It might also make sense to confine his stock to a barn at night.  


The sheep are like lunch on legs for the mountain lion, and the herd of sheep is basically a walking buffet.  As with any other investment, it's wise to diversify.  



post #3 of 8

A couple of really good livestock guardian dogs (Great Pyrenees, Maremma, Kuvash) would definitely help.  We have two Maremmas to protect our goats, poultry, etc., from coyotes and we haven't lost any in the 4 years we've had them.  It's best to have more than one, since they work together and the predators can outsmart just one, and it also depends on how many sheep are in the flock.  I'd make sure to either get pups that were raised with livestock since birth, or better yet, get adult dogs who have proven themselves with livestock.

post #4 of 8

Here in Nova Scotia we have more problems with Eastern Coyotes (which are actually a wolf hybrid) and lynxes, so not quite mountain lions but definitely very predatory to sheep.  Many of the sheep farmers in our region use guard llamas and mules for sheep.  They don't require the training expertise of sheep dogs, as you are more banking on their own natural instincts. Male llamas are very fearless and protective of the flock.  If you go that route, you'll need to inform yourself on llama behavior, as the males can try to be dominant with humans, but they do a very good job.  I also second locking the sheep up at night, since that's when they are most likely to be attacked.

post #5 of 8

I just want to clarify the difference between sheep dogs and livestock guardian dogs.  Sheep dogs are herding dogs, and yes they need training in order to herd properly.  They work with sheep based on their fear and wanting to get away from the dog.  Livestock guardian dogs require very little training because they are bred to and have a natural instinct to protect and stay with their flock, not herd it around like sheep herding dogs (eg. border collies).  That is why it is important to get LGD's from a farm where they were raised with "their" animals and are bonded to livestock/poultry.  We have done very little training with our LGD's, just basic sit, stay, come commands.  They live with our animals 24 hours per day, year round.  They do most of their property patrolling at night while the animals are in the barn (not locked), and stay with the animals when they graze during the day.


We did have a donkey, and they do work with small herds, but with larger numbers of sheep/goats, you'd need more donkeys, where you run the risk of the donkeys bonding with one another rather than the sheep or goats.  I have no experience with llamas.


Here's a picture of our Maremma hanging out with her goat babies.

Suzie and her goats

post #6 of 8

Lovely picture, olaz-b.  So, these dogs were raised with a herd from pups?  And what sorts of breeds work well as livestock guardian dogs (we currently have chickens and would like to raise pygora goats in the near future, so I'm very interested!).   I grew up on dairy goat farm but we didn't have dogs.

post #7 of 8

Yes, our dogs (brother and sister from different litters) were born in the barn and lived with the goats from day one.  When we went to pick out our first puppy, they were in this giant pile of puppies mixed with a few baby goats, really cute!  We actually decided to get an LGD to protect our poultry first since we were losing many to coyotes.  However, goats were always in our plans and I also grew up with them, so we bought a couple of pregnant Boer does with our first pup from the same farm.  Other than a few issues, like over excited play, that were resolved, these dogs are awesome!  At just 6 months of age, our first chased off/attacked a coyote in our front yard.  I was a proud mama!


There are quite a few breeds of LGD's, but the most common are great pyrenees, kuvash, akbash and maremma.  We chose the maremma because they are the smallest of the LGD's (female 100lbs, male 130lbs) and we have a small flock.  The larger of the breeds have a tendency to roam, but they are really just patrolling their territory.  They use their bark and size as their main deterrent.  So, if something is off to them, they will bark until they feel the threat is over.  This is why they do not make good city pets, they want to protect their people/animals and will bark, it is their job. However, it is not excessive, just loud and scary (to the intruder).  Many people ask us if we feel safe with them and our DS.  Absolutely!  The female will not leave his side if we are outside, which makes me feel so much safer since so many of these coyotes used to come so close to our house.  Not any more.


I remember coming across a maremma breeder in Nova Scotia when we were researching LGD's.  You should do a google search and visit a farm with working dogs.  We also bought a very helpful book: Livestock Protection Dogs by Orysia Dawydiak & David Sims (University of PEI).  Feel free to ask if you have any other questions.

post #8 of 8

Thanks so much for the information!  I will definitely look into it,  as a dog would be an answer to the coyote problem with the chickens but a llama wouldn't (I love spinning llama fibre, though, so llamas may be in the future, too).  We've had a less trouble since having a dog, but it' only because of his sound an smell.  He's a somewhat lame, retired seeing eye dog, and sometimes I worry more about him than the chickens.  Now to do a little researching!

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