Sheep Management Practices Can Influence Predation

Proper livestock management can help to minimize the risk of predation. Many producers use one or more of the following: using lighted corrals, lambing in the barn, regular inspection of the sheep flock, prompt removal and disposal of dead stock, and perhaps confinement at night.

These practices may not be practical for all producers. For example, it would be extremely difficult to confine a flock of 500 pasture lambing ewes each night. Greater losses would be likely from mismothering, and increased exposure to diseases such as coccidiosis and internal parasites.

For managing predation, a variety of methods must be available, one method will not be effective for every producer. Most successful predator control programs use an integrated approach – combining good husbandry with effective control methods.

Prevention cannot be stressed enough, because after predators kill once they are more likely to return and kill again. If predators have started killing sheep, it is important to stop the killing as quickly as possible.

Predisposing Factors

Although many of the following relationships are not clearly defined, it is important to understand the relationship between predisposing factors and actual or perceived losses to predators. Coyotes tend to kill animals that are easily caught. Predation may begin because of the availability of sheep weakened by poor nutrition, inclement weather, disease or parasites, or small size (young lambs). This is not to say that these are the only type of livestock that coyotes kill. Many producers will quickly verify that losses are often some of their better ewes, of prime breeding age.

Health of Flock

Healthy sheep tend to have higher lambing rates, lower overall death losses, and may be less susceptible to predation. Ewes in good condition will generally raise stronger lambs. Orphaned and otherwise abnormal lambs are likely to be initial victims of predation.

Recordkeeping

Knowing how many sheep you have in a particular pasture helps to quickly determine when losses begin. Keeping track of losses can be very beneficial in eventual control or removal of the problem predator. They can help identify loss patterns, or high risk pastures.

Season and Location of Lambing

Highest predation typically occurs from late spring through September-October due to high feed requirements of raising pups. Lambs born on pasture are more likely to be at high risk to predation than older lambs or mature sheep. On the other hand, winter born lambs, raised indoors and hand fed may be as much at risk since they are not as alert or suspicious of humans or strange animals as those born on pasture are.

Corrals and Night Confinement

Although this may be a practical option for small flocks, or flocks of dry ewes that lambed during the winter, it is not a feasible option for large, commercial flocks that have young lambs with them on pasture.

Deadstock Disposal

An Alberta study indicated that farms where deadstock were promptly removed and disposed of, predator losses were lower than on farms where deadstock were left about.

Human Presence

Frequent checking of flocks can discourage predation from the beginning. As well, periodic changing of when the flock is checked can deter coyotes from attempting kills.

Novelties

Things like bells on a number of sheep in the flock; aluminum pie plates hung around the perimeter of the pasture, playing the radio, etc. can discourage coyotes from preying on flocks. Anything that causes an irregular sound or reflection can be effective. Again, these sorts of things may be suitable to some producers and not others. Each individual situation must be assessed as to what is most suitable.


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: Anita O'Brien - Sheep and Goat Specialist/OMAFRA
Creation Date: 1 May 1997
Last Reviewed: 19 April 2010