Predation losses can be reduced

By Gary Sliworsky
Ag rep, Emo

The following is the first of a two-part article on lowering predation losses from Barry Potter, a livestock specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs:
Livestock predation costs the farmer time, money, and emotional stress when production animals are destroyed. And it costs the government time, money, and emotional stress as public servants and municipal evaluators investigate livestock kills and compensate producers for their losses.
In 2010, the Ontario government paid out more than $1.4 million to producers as compensation for their livestock losses.
These payments have more than doubled in the last five years.
Neither government nor producers wish to see livestock killed by predators. However, communicating to predators that farm animals are “friends, not food” remains a challenge.
Mitigating losses would seem to be the only course of action in living in a world with both predators and predated animals (i.e., livestock).
Several wild animals will attack and consume cattle, with bears, wolves, and coyotes being the most frequent culprits. In the last few years, coyotes are killing more and more calves.
How do you know if your cattle are the victims of predation? Bleeding and bruising only occurs in live animals or for a brief time after death.
Other tell-tale signs include punctures, cuts, and tears from teeth or claws.
A quick investigation after an animal’s death can determine if the animal was killed by a predator, or died from other causes and was scavenged by a predator, crows, or other animals.
Other signs of a predator attack can include broken and flattened vegetation, drag marks, blood, or trails of blood.
Some other visible indications of predators include alert, nervous livestock, injured livestock, mother calling and searching for her young, predator hair on fences, dig holes under fences, fresh predator tracks near a carcass, or predator feces near a carcass.
Once you have determined you have a predator problem, what can you do to help mitigate further losses? The first step is making sure you dispose of any dead livestock, stillborns, or afterbirth.
These tissues, if left around, will attract predators—helping them make the leap from cows as friends to cows as food.
OMAFRA has information online as to how to dispose of carcasses by burial or composting.
Farms with brush and forest are subject to more attacks than unforested open areas. Attacks tend to occur more at dawn and dusk.
One option with smaller herds is to bring the cattle in at night to a confinement area. Costs for predator-proof fencing become somewhat prohibitive when large numbers of cattle are involved, plus the labour involved can be overwhelming.
A recent study on a sheep farm on Amherst Island put costs in 2001 at $2.37 per foot of predator exclusion fencing. Other costs of confining cattle include increased coccidiosis load, fly build-up, and reduced growth.
Electric fencing can be an important component of any predator control program. Perimeter fences must be at least five strands, alternating live and ground wires.
Anything less is not effective in deterring coyote predation, especially if predation already has occurred on that farm.
Spacing of wires also is important. Make sure the lower three wires are six inches apart to ensure that coyotes come in contact with both live and ground wires when attempting to pass through the fence.
Wires in the top part of the fence can be further apart to increase the total height of the fence.
For more information on fencing, see the OMAFRA Fact Sheet entitled “Sheep Fencing Options for Predator Control.”
Dates to remember
•June 13-16–Large animal clinic dates for Dr. Blair Simonson (call 274-7393 to book an appointment); and
•June 14—Rainy River Regional Abattoir Inc. annual general meeting, 7:30 p.m., Chapple Community Centre.

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