Thursday, July 31, 2008

Unexpected side effects of coyote attacks

If I lived out here 100 years, I think I'd still be learning. After losing two sheep to coyotes more than two weeks ago, we put all 17 sheep and all 40-something goats into one interior pasture where we thought they'd be safe. When we made the decision to do this, I thought the biggest problem would be that the grass would get eaten down quickly. While the sheep and goats were safe from coyotes, the grass was covered quickly with parasite eggs and larvae. I couldn't see the parasites or the larvae, but I could see the affect. The goats started losing weight.

The grass was eaten down quickly, and that made the parasite problem worse, because the larvae were concentrated on the lower couple inches of the grass. The lack of grass and the higher parasite load also meant that the goats were ravenous every night when we brought them inside to be milked. They'd gobble up all the hay we gave them to eat while their herd mates were being milked.

As soon as the llamas arrived, we moved the sheep back to their usual pastures with the llamas. The original plan was to leave the four llamas with them for a week, then move two llamas with the goats to the pastures across the creek. The grass over there is a couple feet tall, and it's free of parasites, since goats haven't been there since last year. While it does provide a lot of food, the nutrient level goes down when it gets that tall, so we've been losing on several fronts here. After Teddy was attacked, I was afraid to move the goats since I didn't want to split up the llamas. Would only two of the llamas have been able to chase off the coyotes?

Today we finally decided to take a chance. We moved 23 goats across the creek to taller, cleaner, greener pastures. We are hoping the electric fence will keep the coyotes from indulging at the goat buffet. We know it has deterred them in the past over there.

Another side effect of the coyote attacks is that we are now the owners of four llamas. After finding Princess's remains, I was desperate for a solution and started searching the Web for donkeys and llamas, both of which are supposed to be good guard animals. I have not had great luck with guard dogs, not to mention how much they eat. We have a 115-pound Anatolian shepherd, and he eats about two pounds of raw meat every day in the summer and four to five pounds of raw meat per day in the winter. (Raw food is a post for another day, but suffice to say he did not do well on premium dog food.) I really can't afford to feed two or three dogs that much, but several people have said that a single dog can't handle a pack of coyotes on his own. Since donkeys and llamas eat mostly grass, that makes them more economical, as well.

And finally, we have become neurotic about locking up all poultry mamas and their babies. The turkey hen and her eight poults are doing splendidly in the movable pen, and the adoption of the little black chick has been completely successful. Yesterday, we noticed a mama hen with seven chicks. As we discussed how we could catch them and put them in there before they become coyote supper, the mama hen took her babies into an open dog crate in the barn last night. Hallelujah! I quietly closed the door, and this morning, we took the dog crate out to the movable pen and put Mama Hen and her chicks in there with Mama Turkey and her babies. They seem to be getting along just fine.

I don't recall if I've ever blogged about my absolute dislike for movable pens, also known as "chicken tractors," but I really hate them. Today, however, as we were walking back towards the barn to finish chores, I said to my husband that we have finally found a perfect use for the chicken tractors.

This is my 201st post. Seems like I should have commemorated the 200th post somehow, but I was too distraught over Teddy to notice that I'd made 199 prior posts. So, does this make me a real blogger?


Kara said...

I am so sorry for your losses, I just recently came across your blog (thanks to Michelle). I am glad you are well on your way to a solution. I also recently acquired chickens and we were thinking about building a chicken tractor. I'd love to hear why you don't like them or advice on how to design properly. Full size picture of your would be great to see. I am also interested in maybe getting a dairy goat or two for my family for our own purposes and was wondering how you decided on the breed you did. How would I find a breeder in my area? We are in Western/Central NY. Thanks!

Deborah said...

Hi Kara, and welcome to my blog. Most of your goat questions are answered on my website: on the "Why Goats?" and "FAQ" pages. I do need to update a lot of that info, but my daughter is in the midst of a complete redesign for the goat site, so I'm putting my new info on the new design.

To find goats, you can google the breed and your state, or you can check the membership directories for the American Goat Society or the American Dairy Goat Assn.

I should do a blog on chicken tractors soon, especially now that I have found a purpose for them.

Nancy K. said...

I do believe that you ARE a "real" blogger! And a very good one at that.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the llamas keep things safe for you. I don't think I could have gone through all the losses that you did and still continued raising animals. You have surely been tested and I'm praying that the battle is over and that you're able to sit back and enjoy your animals...

Deborah said...

Thanks for the compliment on my blog, Nancy! And I do hope that those coyotes move on soon, if they haven't already decided to do so.

Hansa Gruber said...

Please let me know if the Illamas worked. I have had several folks tell me this actually worked. I am very interested in how to protect animals from coyotes as they are being forced deeper and deeper into habitated areas. Thanks.

Alaska Shetland Shepherd said...

Oh no........I just read this week's very sickening. My heart goes out to you and for your terrible losses. I hope the coyotes are done, that the electric fencing works against them, and that you recover from your great sorrows.


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