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Feature story

Safe cattle thanks to livestock guard dogs and electric fences

Overview

After a wolf attack on his herd of cattle, farmer Swen Keller received advice from the regional wolf competence center and implemented effective protective measures. Today he gives his colleagues practical tips for herd protection.


Story by

Swen Keller

Contact

Occupation

Agriculture

Location

Aken

Province

Hamburg, Germany


Chapter 1

The Attack

When I came to my pasture in March 2017, I found a dead cow and two torn calves. Of course I had heard of the wolves, but I was not worried about my animals. After some searching, I called the regional competence center . A genetic test proved that it was a pack of wolves. 

This is how Swen Keller described the attack on his free-roaming herd of 25 animals. After the attack, the first thing he did was to remove his animals from the pasture, but he knew that this was not a long-term solution, because free range was his promise of quality. Swen Keller was and is determined to protect his herd.

Chapter 2

The change

Four weeks after the attack, the herd were grazing outside again. Together with Andreas Berbig from the Wolf Competency Center Iden, Swen Keller analyzed possible herd protection measures and found that there was hardly any experience in Germany of cattle protection. In a pilot project with the support of WWF Germany, Swen, who is also a dog trainer, bought two herd protection dogs and fenced the pasture with a mobile electric fence. The combination of the two measures is crucial for their effectiveness, because individual wolves succeed every now and then to jump over a fence or dig through it.

Wolfs and livestock for Sachsen-Anhalt icon

 

Select country:

Wolf Competence Center
Land Sachsen Anhalt
Herd
Christian Emmerich
honorary wolf ambassador

Guided Swen through the process of obtaining livestock guarding dogs and advised him on fencing equipment

Contact

Germany
c.em@de.de
+49 22 22 22 22

Chapter 3

Tools

Livestock guarding dog

Livestock guarding dogs defend the herd against attacks by wolves. They feel like part of the herd and settle down with the pet owner.  The dogs live permanently outside and defend "their" herd against all intruders from the outside. Well-trained livestock protection dogs are no danger to walkers and hikers, but these should lead their dogs on a leash. To make this work, well trained herd protection dogs are required, which are adapted to the type of grazing by the livestock. This requires regular checks made by experienced people so that the dogs do not start to behave incorrectly.

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Mobile electric fence

Electric fences are an important foundation for protecting herds. Through the painful contact, the predators learn to stay away from farm animals. We recommend a fence system with five taut wires, at least 90 centimeters high and with a mimimum voltage of 2,000 volts. It is important to remove the grass under the fence, since otherwise the electricity is permanently discharged. Holes made by lynxes and badgers must also be removed, as otherwise the wolf uses them for digging through. Some vendors specialize in fences that are very easy to assemble and disassemble mechanically - they are particularly suitable for mobile use.

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Chapter 4

In Practice

Swen Keller has spent a great deal of time trying to find the best possible solution for his herd, breaking new ground. He was able to finance the necessary purchases through the pilot project. Today, he advises other pet owners in a newly founded association on suitable protective measures and their application in practice.

I am always asked how much it costs and the anticipated expenses. Of course, it does involve extra work at first, but I'm convinced that I can protect my cattle without killing wolves. I therefore pass on my knowledge today in workshops to other livestock owners. ―Swen Keller

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Safe cattle thanks to livestock guard dogs and electric fences

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