Defending your livestock from predators

Staying on top of a cattle herd is a 24-hour a day task, especially in areas where predators are frequently on the prowl with an appetite for livestock.

One of the most prominent areas of the country known for having to deal with predators is Alberta, where the Rocky Mountains meet the prairies.

Mark Boyce, professor of ecology at the University of Alberta, spends an extended amount of time studying, tracking and analysing the behaviours of these animals. 

Predators on the prowl

He says the predators which give the farmers the most grief are wolves.

“The No. 1 predator on cattle is the wolf," Boyce says. "The number of wolf depredation cases and the cost of those claims has been increasing year after year for the last decade, there’s been a substantial increase."

He says grizzly bears and cougars also are known to cause problems.

Morrie Goetjen, who ranches near Cremona, says it's common to see grizzly bears and cougars in the area.

“If you live out here, there’s nobody out here who doesn’t have a grizzly or cougar story,” Goetjen says.

Goetjen says one of those stories, which is being talked about by many ranchers this year, involves larger prey.

“A very large grizzly in the Horse Creek area took a three-year old bull, now I don’t know if the bull was lame or what its status was, but a three-year old bull is a big animal.” 

Stepping up defences

Goetjen says predators such as grizzly bears, cougars and wolves are hard to defend against.

However, he does believe patrolling livestock can help mitigate losses. 

Boyce says there are a few things you can do to protect your herd, including putting orange flagging on fences.

“That will spook wolves for a little bit, it’s not a long-term solution, but especially during a critical period like calving, you want to do everything you can to keep the wolves away,” Boyce says.

Bottom line

Boyce says dogs can help protect livestock from most predators, while orange flagging, and electric fencing can help keep grizzly bears away.

Article by: Craig Lester