This is a true story about two sheep Farmers in the Western New York area. The original report was on WKBW News (Channel 7) about 5 years ago.
The first farmer raised lambs for market until , he claims, “the coyotes put me out of business”. He called the news and they made a big story of how the coyotes ate all of his lambs, and ewes too. Poor old guy had to go on welfare or something like that.
The second farmer had one of the largest sheep operations in the area. He had not lost a single sheep to coyotes, domestic dogs or any other predation in many years – well, since he had purchased his Livestock Guardian dogs, to be exact.
Hmmm… I just happen to know the first farmers place by heart, as I like to drive the back roads. In fact, I drove by it again today, which is what prompted this post. I was reminded of the place when there were sheep (before the “coyotes killt -em all…”). The sheep were out in the pasture on this very rural road, with no house or barn in sight. In fact, the nearest house or barn is at least 3/4 mile away. The sheep were in a twisted wire fence that was falling down, and it was surrounded by woods on all sides. I never once saw anyone tending those sheep. I never saw the sheep being brought in at night.. they were always out. I happen to know a little about sheep and this particular farmer. He was an old-timer that didn’t believe in “feed and stuff like that”. Feed was a waste of money as he figured they had plenty of pasture to eat. Bringing in the ewes during lambing was too much work for him and they had their lambs outside in the field- in all weather. Wet, cold- you name it, they were out there lambing. Anyone who knows sheep farming knows that ewes should be brought in to lamb, and the sheep should be brought in at night too. A good farmer also knows that good nutrition and parasite control are essential to sheep farming success. This old fellow practiced none of that. He also never guarded the sheep, never had any guardian animals, such as dogs, llamas or donkeys out with them either. They were basically out there to survive all on their own. Yet he blamed the coyotes for the deaths of the sheep and the demise of his business. I blame the farmer for the demise of his own business. The good sheep farmer practiced good farming methods and fed his sheep well and guarded them well with those dogs. His ewes had strong healthy lambs and they had steady rates of weight gain. He is still in the sheep business, and doing quite well.
What can be learned from this true story ?
There is no substitute for a good livestock guardian dog, and good nutrition and good husbandry practices are essential to successful farming. Good strong fences and bringing livestock and poultry in at night are a necessity. Coyotes are a non-issue where good farming practices are used.