Man’s Best Friend Stands Guard for Farmers


June 2, 2017

Story provided by the Texas Farm Bureau

There’s a growing predator problem across parts of Texas that has many farmers and ranchers turning to man’s best friend.

A sheep’s best friend. Guard dogs have been used for centuries around the world to protect sheep & goats. And for decades in the US. But not as much in the Lone Star State, but rising predator problems are forcing Texas ranchers to rethink these ancient allies.

“We got to the point where we were losing mature ewes at a rate of almost one a day to coyotes and we had to do something different. We went and bought a few guard dogs and turned them out. Overnight we saw a big reduction in predation on our flock,” says Texas rancher, Colby.

Colby raises hair sheep near Menard. He’s one of the ranchers in West Texas who’ve turned to livestock guardian dogs to help save his animals. Trapping wasn’t enough. Helicopters weren’t enough. But with the help of these K-9 protectors he’s gone from surviving to thriving.

Dr. Tomecek and his colleges at AgriLife Extension & Research have been studying the helpful hounds for 7 years. They recently held a field day to share their finding with Texas sheep & goat raisers. Their research was not necessarily by choice but out of necessity.

Most Texas sheep & goats are raised within large fenced ranges, not herded. So many ranchers thought dogs wouldn’t work for them, but researchers are pushing back using modern technology, like GPS, to help answer many of the questions and reservations on rancher’s minds.

“The dogs do vary in their travel but they easily cover 500-1000 acres in any typical day. So they’re covering a lot of country and we’re finding that they are successful in big pastures,” says Dr. Tomecek.

In the same way that a pet puppy will bond with a family in the first few weeks of life, these dogs bond with the flock they are going to protect. They create a candid territory around the flock, causing other canines like coyotes and even other dogs to stay away. Plus, they bark when something get too close.

The number of coyotes in Texas has skyrocketed in the last several years, but so has the demand for sheep & goats. There’s more research to be done. But whether Akbash, Maremma, Anatolian or Great Pyrenees, whatever the breed or mix, livestock guardian dogs stand ready to serve and protect.

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