photo by Pierre Giard
What is Sustainable Farming?
So what is your definition of it……???.
Yes! In order for it to be “sustained”…to continue on in to the future, we are to make use of the Natural Resources of our farm in such a manner, that the ecological balance and biodiversity remains intact. That means that the carnivores need to be present because they are the ones who do that work.
So we are learning ways to coexist with them in an harmonious manner. And how do we do that? First keep stable coyote families on your farm. Second, use good animal husbandry practices. And one of those is the Use of Guard Animals.
So now I am going to share with you an email one of our farmers sent to me. She and her husband are one of the leaders in practicing sustainable farming. They use Guardian Maremma dogs to guard their sheep and their farm, and have coexisted very peacefully until…… Here is her email
“My neighbor went on a coyote trapping and killing spree, and trapped 12 coyotes this past winter. We
definitely have a new pack that needs to learn, once again, the social order of our farm. Coyotes have
been pressing close, with the dogs working hard. A coyote came up close to the house and took a
chicken while Grendall (their Guard dog) was on the opposite side. My daughter, Sarah, yelled at the
coyote, who dropped the chicken and trotted off until Grendall came around and chased him away.
It does sadden me, because we had such harmony here and now we have a brazen group who need
to learn, once again. I like the group we had! It is a sad one and now a noisy one as the dogs are barking
and working during the day more. Grendall, my family guardian Maremma, is just busy barking and
keeping a closer eye on the children and the farm. He comes in and sleeps at night, though. So, he can
zonk out then. My one 20 acre remote pasture that is wooded and hilly has the dogs working in there
very hard. Sad and noisy day here at our Farm…”
So why do we NOT have laws that will end this senseless killing of this important carnivore??? And as you can see from this email, this killing greatly affects our farmers too…in very negative ways.
WE WANT TO MOVE TOWARD PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE.
Maremma Guard Dog with Lamb
There is a new Breed of Farmers here in Maine……. they come to the land they live and work on with a whole new and refreshing understanding of their place on the Land. They see their farm as an ecosystem in which ALL THE PARTS NEED TO BE PRESENT….IF THEY WANT THEIR LAND TO BE HEALTHY AND BALANCED.
So they see the need for carnivores to be present on their farm! And they understand their responsibilities in order to coexist with the carnivores. FIRST: protect the carnivores on their farm from human exploitation….they understand that their carnivores need to live stable lives free from human persecution, if they are going to be able to coexist with them. SECOND: practice good animal husbandry …and one of those practices is the use of guardian animals.
SO COME TO THE COMMON GROUND FAIR ON SEPTEMBER 21 from 11:00 AM TO 1:00 PM for our first ever in Maine Forum: “Guardian Animals in Sustainable Farming”. Our Forum will include expert breeders and caregivers of Guard Dogs, Guard Llamas, Guard Donkeys, and leading farmers who have successfully been using these Guardians to protect their animals. In addition, the ultimate expert on fencing will be there to share his expertise and experiences…as he also has sheep and uses guardian animals. Look for us at the Livestock Speakers tent. You will walk away with your head “spinning” with excitement and wonder!
photo by Jan Myers
COYOTES MISS NOTHING! They like to stand in high places in order to take in the goings on in their territory…..as you see in this photo by Jan Myers.
And so when you are a farmer in Maine raising livestock, and your farm is part of Coyote’s territory, know that Coyote knows everything that is going on.
Farmers in Maine who understand the value of major carnivores like Coyotes, want them to be present in the ecosystem of their farm…..BUT! These same farmers understand that the presence of domestic livestock can be a huge temptation to hungry carnivores.
BUT! Enter livestock guarding dogs and Llamas So Coyotes who miss nothing will know the dogs are present and what they are capable of. So enough of my words….I have attached a link to a short excellent film that speaks of the immense value of Guard dogs to our farmers….and also to Coyotes. Once Coyotes know the guard dogs are present, they will pass up the livestock, and seek their wild food, and in doing so fulfill their role in the ecosystems of Maine ….AND THAT IS WHAT WE WANT THEM TO DO! (Be sure to visit our Farming with Coyotes facebook and share your experiences with your guard animals on your farm)
- Bill Meikle
Coyote pups are being born in Maine, and they will keep their parents busy all Summer and into the Fall. When the pups are very young, their parents will hunt for them as well as for themselves. But as summer goes on, the pups will need to learn how to hunt for themselves. They will learn by watching their parents over and over again, but also just through lots of practice of their own.
Coyotes, like us, learn to have a taste for certain wild foods…the ones their parents teach them to hunt. Thoughout their lives they will continue to eat those foods, and then pass that taste onto their own future pups.
And this is why it is so important that they have a stable upringing. But our behavior as humans can greatly influence their food choices. In our western states where wolves are present, it has been found that removing the carcasses of cows that have died on the range greatly affects the wolves’ attraction to cattle herds. In fact it is one of the most highly recommended actions to take to deter predation of livestock by wolves. It just puts a halt on their learning to visit livestock areas for food.
Coyotes, like wolves, don’t look for food randomly….they repeat their successful journeys. They learn very fast, and they teach others. So I have a question for you. If we know that leaving the bodies of dead livestock out in the field will draw wolves and coyotes, why is it that it is legal here in the state of Maine for individuals bent on killing coyotes, to bait them with the body parts of livestock….like cow heads, chicken, sheep and pigs….placed either in a meadow on a farm or in the forest just beyond the farm?
These individuals are placing the farmer’s domestic animals at great risk. They draw coyotes closer to the livestock, then give them a taste for that livestock…a taste that they would never seek otherwise. If this behavior goes on at the time of the year that coyote parents are feeding their pups…this may begin a conflict that would never have to be.
What happens? … Coyotes may then go after live animals, because they have acquired the taste. The scenario continues….retribution….the hunting down of the coyotes. Their family then goes into chaos, they disperse and run for their lives. And wherever they go, they spread the knowledge of what livestock tastes like….and it will continue and spread. This is not just an imagenary scenario. All of the above human behavior towards wolves in the West has caused this escalating conflict. Let us learn from this!
Our behavior either drives us toward conflicts with Coyotes and other carnivores, or gives us a way to avoid conflict and coexist in peace. Which behavior would you choose? My final comment as a biologist here is ~ Baiting of our carnivores should be absolutely illegal. It breaks down our relationship with the wild.