Maremma Livestock Guardian Dogs
November 27, 2014 at 11:02 am #20525Member: MS
We raise livestock guardian dogs in the pastures with the LBH. The dogs instinctively guard the herd, warn, spread out and warn predators. One of the coolest things to watch is seeing the pigs run and gather away form the threat. A band of piglets in a field actually react like a school of fish or flock of birds, quick movement together and then… they flatten to the ground in the grass.
The Maremma have been the smartest and easiest to handle. More likely to dig sand than climb fences. They spread out across fields well and communicate threats. In the south our predators tend to be coyote clans, feral dogs (pit/lab/stray groups), fox, occasional bobcat, vultures, wild boar, etc.
The dogs and hogs get along surprisingly well. We observe social grooming, play and they generally sleep in close proximity, keeping watch as the sun goes down. And other than during a sow in labor, dogs and hogs don’t share a hut.
New food creates everyone being pushy, sneaky and vocal; but not for long. So, we use raised platforms for dog shelter and feeding. Hogs will lay underneath. Dogs may lay underneath. As long as everyone has room and choice, they coexist.December 1, 2014 at 8:14 am #20527Member: NY
Very interesting. Prior to the LGD’s, did you have any predator losses? If so, which predators? What other guardian breeds did you try?
Cross Island Farms
Wellesley Island NYDecember 2, 2014 at 8:46 am #20528Member: MS
Yes, and yes. Before using LGDs, we had issues in a few ways. [The vet, paw-prints, Audubon staffers and neighbors helped with some of the problem solving.] Only some of it was seen & heard.
Harassment of the big ones – chasing, severe cuts and bites and direct food loss. The food was the least stressful and cheapest. Chasing was witnessed by us and passing neighbors. Severe cuts as in multiple very sharp 8″ long 1/4″ deep. Bites one day were on almost every hog – punctures you could put a finger in – in fact – pouring hydrogen peroxide on a whole would come out 4-5″ away through another wound. The wounds callus up and surprisingly heal.
First few weeks, piglet losses 36 to 63% on a litter. Early morning, blood on the mother & ears, cuts on a baby and one missing.
Less common, was one at a time 3 wks to 2 months would be dead, gone or dead and dragged to the fence.
Predators: Wild dogs, witnessed (highway drop offs that pack 5-7 and breed) very bold, sneaky but not afraid of people or a single dog, days, nights [when you think it is solved, they are there again]. Panther prints. Bobcat more common. Coyotes, witnessed & heard, in numbers, maybe 7-10 – nocturnal. 2 varieties of Vulture (10 in a field not uncommon). Hawk & Owl less likely unless very small piglet might be possible. Bear not probable, very rare. Wild boar – european & Russian (400+ lb.) – local pig farmer had his sire killed by a large wild boar, other neighbor paid to have one killed.
Based upon availability, cost, Oklahoma State research and a USDA report on LGDs, I helped select the unregistered Great Pyrenees breed for the first hogs we invested in with our friends at the Double R in OK. They have a lot of dogs and it helped tremendously.
We started with a 6yr old experienced Great Pyrenees at our farm – it helped, great with animals, he roamed though, and typical to the breed he was a fantastic climber. 6 ft barb wire top not enough. Electric top – watching intently he appeared to hear the power and would escape if it was not working. Topped and bottomed 10 x 10 x 6 chain link kennel with hardware cloth and ties securing any top openings — he worked for a good while and repeatedly got out of any repairs. Good dog when he was home, but one was not enough to deter multiple feral dogs.
Maremma have been wonderful. First male two years ago, 7 months, wary of us, stayed in the field, bonded with pigs and us, wonderful. We now have many and breed.