Guard Donkeys? Ranchers Turn To Crabby Equines To Watch Over Livestock!

Páramo baby donkey

More and more ranchers, in the US and around the world, are using guard donkeys to protect their livestock from predators. 

There is no love lost between the Equidae and Canidae families. Donkeys, especially jennies, are very protective of animals they graze with and will run at, chase,stomp, kick and even kill any canine they encounter. They are also used to guard cattle from jaguars in Belize.

If ranchers are looking to protect their livestock from minimal predation, they might want to shell out $300 and purchase a donkey. This could be the answer to their problem. Now wouldn’t that be a kick in the ass?


Guard Donkeys Help Ranchers Protect Herds

Aug 7, 2007 9:59 am US/Central Associated Press

(AP) MILANO Coyotes and wild dogs were slaughtering calves on Herbie Vaughan’s ranch in the Cedar Creek valley south of Milano until about eight years ago when he took an old-timer’s advice and installed guard donkeys in the herd.

“When I put the donkeys out there, I no longer had a coyote problem,” says Vaughan. “It’s like they disappeared. I don’t know why, but it worked.”

Sage ranchers have learned to take advantage of the intrinsic aggression between members of the Equidae and Canidae families, said Jon Gersbach, Texas Cooperative Extension county agent for ag and natural resources in Milam County.

In short, horses, donkeys, mules, and zebras loathe the company of dogs, wolves and their coyote cousins, and they are not too nice about it either, Gersbach said.

Donkeys, the most intolerant of the family, will “attack and kick” coyotes and dogs, Gersbach said.

“They will bray, run them down, bite them, and either chase them off, or if they get the chance, they will kick them, and they will pound them.”

They are very protective in the right environment, thus, there is a formula for a successful donkey security system, Gersbach said.

Jennies rather than the jacks of the species are superior pasture guards because of maternal, protective characteristics, Gersbach said. Donkeys, or burros, gravitate toward bonding with whatever livestock happens to share their pasture, whether it is horses, cattle, sheep, or goats.

However, too many donkeys in one meadow will encourage herd behavior and yield less effective protection. The most effective pasture guardians arrive at a young age and grow up among their animal neighbors. Donkeys have the advantage over working dogs in pasture settings because they eat the same food as other livestock, Gersbach said.

Guarding Vaughan’s herd is two Jennies and a jack colt.

“I have had a couple of jacks, but I had to get rid of them,” Vaughan said. “It is my understanding in talking with other folks, if jacks are not raised being around cows, sometimes they get a little aggressive toward cows. The jack I have out there right now is young. The whole time he’s been on the place, he’s been with those cattle, and he doesn’t seem to have a problem.”

Vaughan’s sentry-duty donkeys require little maintenance, and routinely demonstrate an attitude problem, the same inbred stubbornness, and ornery characteristics associated with a mule — the offspring of a male donkey and mare.

“They eat the grass and drink the water, I worm them and check their hooves. They will come up to the truck and eat peppermint candy out of my hand,” Vaughan said. Freckles, Happy and Little One respond when Vaughan whistles and are treated as pets, nibbling treats offered by the children, he said.
Vaughan paid about $300 for the two Jennies, and borrowed a jack, hence the arrival of Little One.

Though they act like family pets, they have behaved ferociously toward Vaughan’s two German shepherds, Char and PC, and “tried to stomp them.”

John Young, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department mammalogist of Austin, said donkeys and llamas are widely used among ranchers, particularly those with goats and sheep, to protect farm animals from predators.

“They are going to try to kick them, stomp them, they run at them, bite them, grab them, and throw them around if they can. If they can catch one, they will kill it,” Young said.

Confrontations between a burro and coyote are usually one-on-one because pack behavior by coyotes is uncommon, said Young, a coyote expert. Coyotes weigh an average of 25 pounds, and normally attack calves that are newborn, sick or injured, he said.

Texas Cooperative Extension reported that between 1,000 to 1,800 of Texas’ 11,000 sheep and goat producers use donkeys as pasture defenders. In one survey, 59 percent of producers rated donkeys, good or fair for deterring predators, primarily coyotes. In Colorado, 99.3 percent of sheep producers use donkeys to protect their herds, the extension service reported.

Experts recommend challenging a new donkey with a dog to test its response to canines, and to bypass donkeys that are not aggressive.

Donkey defenders are commonplace on small cattle operations, but large ranchers merely budget for calf losses from illness and predators, Gersbach said. Donkey devotees swear by their pasture protectors, though.

“If they save one calf a year, they are paying for their own way,” Gersbach said. “There will be some people that will swear by them, and there will be some people that are not going to be interested in them.”


Smart Asses: Are Donkeys a Rancher’s Best Weapon for Protecting Cattle from Jaguars?


Ranchers turn to natural security vs. wolves



Thanks Grey Wolf for bringing this to my attention and for the link!

Photo: Courtesy Sebeka * Menagha Review Messenger, Wikimedia Commons and FunPic

Posted in: gray wolf/canis lupus, wolf education, Ranchers using proactive measures

Tags: donkeys, guard animals, pro-active ranchers

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