Guardian Animals

Many graziers have had success with either donkeys or maremma (or similar) breed of dogs to protect their livestock.

Which option best suits you depends of a range of factors. Here are a few considerations to get you thinking:
  • How big are your paddocks? i.e. Are stock likely to be spread out of sight and earshot of your guardian animals? 
  • Do your neighbours bait for wild dogs? Maremmas can chase wild dogs for some distance beyond your boundary where they may find a bait.
  • A pack of wild dogs will overpower a lone maremma or donkey, so it can be far more effective to have more than one guardian animal.
  • Donkeys and dogs need to be bonded to the animals they are to guard.  This also includes if you purchase stock of a totally different colour - i.e. black sheep when they’ve been guarding white sheep all their life. Guardian animals have been known to kill the different coloured newcomers just because they look different. Donkey guardians protecting herd of sheep from wild dogs
  • Guardian dogs need to be fed and specifically not meat from the same species as they are guarding.
  • Guardian dogs must be de-sexed otherwise there is every chance that they will breed with wild dogs during the mating season.
  • Guardian dogs need to be wormed and given the same care as working dogs and remember they aren’t pets and are content to live in the paddock with your stock.
  • Male donkeys can be noisy and very aggressive when competing for females, so may not be suitable for smaller blocks where neighbours are close by. Geldings are usually much calmer and anecdotally more focused on guarding your stock.
  • Many graziers have had mature donkeys trucked in from wild herds in northern Australia. Anecdotally the offspring of these mature animals bond better with the stock they are guarding.
  • Alpacas have been used successfully against foxes, however are no match when wild dog packs turn up.
Here are some case studies, talks and other information about using donkeys from Leading Sheep.

Here is a video about using guardian dogs from Leading Sheep.

There is also a manual on guardian dogs that we highly recommend that has been published by Pest Smart. Download a copy here.
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