Tyrolean sheep farmer Thomas Schranz is a livestock protection pioneer in Austria. Besides his guarding dogs, he also works with alternative methods, like llamas. He is convinced that the future of alpine livestock protection lies in the intensified cooperation amongst farmers.
"No farmer is happy about the return of the wolves. But they are here to stay and we have to deal with them in the best possible way. My protective measures show how it can be done. I haven't lost a single sheep to wolves yet, although there have been attacks on unprotected herds nearby."
In comparison to other countries, Austria has little experience in livestock protection. Thomas Schranz is one of the few pioneers and wants to show how it can be done successfully. For six years, Tyrol's only wandering shepherd has grazed different pastures with his 200 sheep. This way he wants to preserve the cultural landscape. And he has made it his mission to show other farmers how to use electric fences and guarding dogs in order to be prepared for the return of the wolves.
His attempt to also use llamas as protectors is unique in Tyrol. However, they can’t replace electric fences and guarding dogs. Schranz is convinced from his own experience that the protection of livestock is possible. He wants to inspire others. Livestock protection in alpine terrain is a greater challenge than in the lowlands. On the other hand it is easier to combine herds and jointly manage large alpine pastures through targeted grazing. Larger herds also make the employment of shepherds and guarding dogs more affordable. To foster the cooperation of alpine farmers is therefore the key to success.
“If we introduce a joint pasture management concept, we will not only be prepared for the return of the wolf, but also efficiently manage pastures. If we don’t, the wolf will be the least of our problems as overgrown alpine pastures will no longer be manageable.”
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.
The project "Pôle Grands Prédateurs" aims to support sheep breeders whose herds are victims of lynx attacks. An important step of the project is to learn breeders the educational protocol of dogs. During this project, we developed a protection tool: the multi-herd guarding dog. We educated a dog in order to place him in one season after another with different farmers whose herds were attacked. This dog was immediately effective and stopped lynx damage. After this test, the Pôle Grands Prédateurs proposed to breeders to take one or two puppies to replace him. In this context, breeders had the experience of a livestock guarding dog, knew the benefits, and could better apprehend the arrival of a new dog on their farms. Since 2015, the Pôle Grands Prédateurs is no longer a breeding pole for livestock guarding dogs. The association continues its action of support to the sheep breeders by being a platform of discussions and putting in relation breeders who look for dogs and breeders who have puppies to place. We also take in charge directly pups placement. Besides, we organized a lot of communication actions around the theme of “livestock guarding dog as a tool of prevention against lynx predation”. Please reply to this post for more information, reach out directly to Jean-Marc Landry or go to our website: www.polegrandspredateurs.org
Studies of the wolf – livestock guarding dog interactions are a source of consistent data that brings new perspectives on the relationships and interactions that occur in herds, their immediate vicinity and their extended periphery. The Canovis project is a possible response to major challenges that aim to significantly improve the coexistence between extensive livestock (sheep, goats, cattle) and wolves. Thanks to scientific research, the project designs and develops concrete and adapted solutions. The discoveries we made during the first 5 years of the project are major. Our results are in the process of completely revolutionizing the knowledge of the eco-ethology of the wolf in pastoral system. Unfortunately, our financial resources are limited and this is our major difficulty to continue the project. Please reply to this post for more information or reach out directly to Gilles Moyones.
Farmers and predators is a format that AlmoNature is trying to spread in both Italy and Europe. This was a non-binding measure implemented by AlmoNature in the frame of Farmers and predators in a province in the mainly Liguria Region. It specifically involved Farmers. It operated for 1 years (from 2016 to 2017) and received partial financial support from Private donors.Please reply to this post for more information or reach out directly to Haluska István, Patkó László.
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 minimum 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.
While the guarding dogs Dijay and Summ circle around the flock of sheep in a protective manner and the llama keeps an eye on everyone, Schranz explains his vision of the future of alpine pasture farming. Over are the times where every farmer only looks after his flock. Instead, we need new, communal concepts and the revival of pastoralism.
Sheperds have to learn to hold together and guide large herds in steep terrain. That way it would be easier to set up protective night paddocks for the animals. They have to consider how large alpine pastures could be managed in a targeted manner and how to protect them from scrub encroachment. This way, the return of the wolves can ultimately help to bring us closer together and jointly face the various challenges.
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