Nice kitty….Sheep predators are alive and well in Missouri.  When you buy beef and lamb meat products from Harrison Valley Farms, we hope you’re buying from us for three reasons.  First and foremost, we hope you buy our meat because it is the best beef and lamb you’ve ever tasted.  Second, you have read our blogs, the information on our web site and educated yourself about our effort to make our meat products healthy and safe to eat, supporting your healthy lifestyles.  Third, you think our sustainable farming practices are important and critical to the future of agriculture.  And, guess what?!  Sustainable farming means working with nature, not against it.  That includes lions, tigers and bears, oh my!

We cannot prevent predation on our sheep and cattle, especially the young guys.  But, as sustainable farmers, we sure can discourage attacks on easy prey–lambs and calves, and encourage these hunters to seek prey that is more native to their kinfolk like white-tailed deer and rabbits.  So, who are we watching for in our area?  Coyotes, bobcats, bald eagles, fox and cougars.  No bears or wolves as of yet.

Our farm is nestled in the Cedar Creek Valley that separates the Missouri counties of Boone and Callaway.  In the summer, toward evening, we can sit on our porch and hear bobcats crying on the nearby bluffs.

Coyotes run in packs along Cedar Creek and frequent our woods for evening running and hunting.  Hardly a night goes by when we don’t hear the eerie cries of coyotes calling to each other.  Our border collies and Jackobees go crazy barking and howling back.  It is quite the barking chain.

We have a pair of resident bald eagles that fly every morning and evening over our farm going to and from their nest and hunting for game.  They usually come in late October and stay until late March.  This is one of the main reasons we lamb in April–after they leave.  I have only lost two lambs to predators and am pretty sure it was to these eagles.  One morning, I had 27 lambs and later that day I had 25.  They were just gone…..plucked out of the lambing lot.  No sign of struggle, no sign of anything dragging them out of the pen.  These lambs were too big for a fox, like the red fox below,  to carry off.  So, most likely the disappearance was due to an attack from the sky.

So, how do we co-exist with these predators and keep them from enjoying our beef and lamb too?  For our cattle, we make sure the perimeter fencing is good and we use electrified high tensil wire on as much of our property as we can.  Grazing the cows in tighter groups and moving them frequently as we do with our intensive grazing discourages predator activity.

For our sheep, we use several different tactics.  First, most of these hunters, except for the eagles hunt at dawn, dusk or night.  So, my sheep all come into a night holding pen that has an electric wire around the top.  This is a good way to count my sheep and do daily health checks also.  My border collies, Balou and Bella, each take turns helping me take the ewes and lambs out to pasture in the morning and bringing them home at night.  Second, we use a 5 strand electrified perimeter fence around our farm to discourage predators from crossing through our property.  This fence is hot! I can testify to that because when I brush up against it accidentally, it is like having an electric chiropratic adjustment.  Then we use mesh electronic fencing to divide the grazing sections.  So, a predator would have to breach two electrified fencing areas to snatch a lamb or attack a ewe.  Lastly, up until this year, I also used a guardian animal, a llama named Dancer.  Dancer died this past summer due to cancer.  He had served as the ultra protector for a good number of years and we even have evidence of bobcat tracks in the snow coming up to the outside of the night lot fence and Dancer’s tracks facing the cat from the inside.  We lost no lambs that night.  Most likely, I will begin looking for another guardian animal this spring and am leaning toward an Akbash dog.  They’re beautiful animals and highly effective sheep protectors.  Here is a photo of one.

So, I hope you can see a little more into our livestock operation and the steps we take to care for our animals, while respecting the environment.  And, predators are an important part of the environment.  They keep deer, rabbit and other natural prey animal populations in check.  We encourage the predators to hunt what they are naturally meant to eat.  Buying our beef and lamb supports this effort and we appreciate your belief in what we do!

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