Many people have invested in livestock to make money or they have purchased farm animals to raise as pets. No matter how you came about your livestock, the idea of a predator getting ahold of your chicken, cattle, goars, or sheep can be a scary thought. For this reason, many farmers, homesteaders, and pet owners have found it useful to purchase a guardian animal to protect their livestock.
So, what are the best livestock guardian animals? Here is a list of other farm animals that can be great at protecting and alerting livestock of danger:
- Donkeys & Mules
Before you choose a guardian animal for your livestock, you’ll need to consider the compatibility of the animals and whether the guardian animal will need any type of training to protect the herd. To learn more about each type of livestock guardian animal, keep reading!
The Best Guardian Animals For Your Livestock
Choosing the right guardian animal is vital to the safety of your livestock! Here is a description of the best livestock guardian animals:
Donkeys & Mules as Livestock Guardians
Donkeys and mules are a very popular choice for livestock protection. We personally use donkeys to protect our sheep and goats. I’ve also had many of my friends use them as companion animals for horses and cattle. There are many reasons why they are considered one of the best types of guardian animals used for farming and livestock.
Donkeys & Mules Are Good Defenders
Donkeys and mules have a reputation for being stubborn animals, and this stubbornness makes them great defenders. For defense, they may kick with their hind legs or strike and trample with their front legs. They will also charge and bite predators or animals they deem a threat to the herd.
They naturally have a distaste for commotion. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a donkey go after a dog that was chasing sheep and causing a ruckus. They will be the first to shut down any type of chaos, and they’ll do this by going after the perpetrator. Donkeys and mules will also be more likely to stand their ground if they are targeted by a predator.
When looking for a guard animal, you’ll want to choose one that can be alert to possible dangers. While donkeys and mules are great defenders, they’re also anatomically built as flight animals. Their big ears can pick up on danger in the distance while having eyes on the side of their head enables them to keep a better visual of their surroundings.
Donkeys & Mules Naturally Embrace the Herd
If you’re looking for a guardian animal who will fit in with your livestock, look no further than a donkey. I’ve seen donkeys get along with just about any animal they’re put in with, from horses and cows to sheep and goats. They quickly fit in and become one of the herd.
Donkeys Are Low-Maintenance
Wouldn’t it be great to have a guard animal you could just throw out with the herd and leave it at that? Well, you can! It’s called a donkey. Donkeys are notoriously easy keepers, meaning that they can usually thrive in a pasture setting and require little maintenance. They’ll eat whatever you feed your livestock and they tend to hold their weight pretty well, especially the miniature donkeys.
Donkeys & Mules Make Great Companion Animals
Lastly, donkeys and mules can make great companion animals for the livestock you put them in with. They tend to bond to the other animals and it may be difficult to let the other animals out of their sight. By nature, they are herd animals and will thrive in a herd setting, no matter the type of livestock.
If you’re looking to use a donkey or a mule as a guardian animal, it’s best to get younger ones that can bond with the herd at a young age. A donkey or a mule that has been raised with a herd can be more territorial when it comes to protecting the livestock against predators.
Dogs as Livestock Guardians
Dogs have been used for ages when it comes to protecting livestock and poultry as they can naturally take on the position of protector and defender for the herd. Here are some things to remember when deciding whether you should use a dog as a livestock guardian:
Dogs Are Natural Predators and Herders
When it comes to choosing a guardian for your livestock, it’s important to remember that dogs are natural predators while livestock is naturally prey animals. As a natural predator, a dog is more likely to attack or fight against another animal that is seen as a threat. This can make them great at fighting off coyotes or wild cats that may come and try to harm your livestock.
As a predator, a dog will usually mark its territory to let other predators know that the area is taken. This alone can be enough to protect your herd from unwanted visitors.
Predators usually go after animals that have strayed from the group and are by themselves. Many types of dog breeds are also natural herders, meaning that they will work to keep the livestock herd together and will seek out stragglers who have escaped the group. This overall will keep the livestock safe from danger.
Dogs Are Pack Animals
In the wild, dogs would live in a pack. One of the reasons dogs bond so well with humans is that they come to see the humans as members of their pack. This means that dogs are naturally social creatures and can have good relationships with other types of animals.
I’ve seen dogs who have treated chickens as if the poultry were their babies. I also saw how my mother’s dog had a special connection with my horse. This means that a dog will be able to bond with the livestock, and in turn, want to keep them safe from danger.
Dogs Will Need to be Trained to Guard Livestock
An important thing to note if you plan on using dogs as livestock guardians is that the dogs will need to be trained how to get along with the livestock and keep them safe.
For this reason, it’s best to start training a guardian dog at a young age and even as a puppy. If untrained, the dog may become a threat to poultry and a pest to livestock. Start training by introducing the dog to the livestock and monitoring them to ensure a positive relationship is built.
While herding is a natural instinct to most dogs, you can also help them hone their herding skills with proper training and practice. If this is a talent you want your dog to use, start them in herding training at a young age.
Dogs Require Different Care Than Livestock
One downfall to keeping dogs as livestock guardians is that they require different care compared to the livestock. They can’t just be thrown out with the herd and expected to survive like a donkey would. Dogs require different types of food, vaccines, and shelter compared to most livestock animals.
What Dog Breed is Best for Livestock Protection?
While any breed of dog can be taught to protect livestock, there are common dog breeds that perform well as guard animals. Here is a list of popular dog breeds used for livestock guardianship and herding:
- Great Pyrenees
- Anatolian Shepherd
- Border Collie
- Australian Shepherd
Check out these dog breeds if you’re looking to get a dog to guard and protect your livestock.
Llamas as Livestock Guardians
Llamas can both be raised as livestock and as guardian animals. Their wool can make them valuable commodities, but many people purchase them to protect their livestock. Keep reading to learn why llamas may be the right choice for you!
Llamas Are High Alert Animals
As natural prey animals, llamas are very alert and aware of their surroundings. Llamas are always looking for predators or anything that may pose as a potential danger. With their long necks and monocular vision, Llamas are able to see and recognize danger quickly.
Llamas are also known for their shrill call they let out at the sign of danger. This call can alert the other livestock of potential danger and can even deter predators from coming closer.
Llamas Can Be Aggressive
If there’s one thing llamas are known for, it’s their spit. Spitting is just one of the aggressive behaviors llamas use to let someone know they are annoyed or mad. While llamas are prey animals, they are known to fight and chase of predators.
Llamas will charge animals that pose a threat to the herd. They can also kick, bite, and yes…even spit, to deter predators from coming any closer to the livestock.
Llamas Require Similar Maintenance to Most Livestock
The great thing about llamas is that they can be considered livestock. They require much of the same needs and care that most livestock animals do. This makes it easy to turn out a llama out with sheep or goats and have them fit right into the livestock care routine.
Choosing a Llama as a Livestock Guardian
While most llamas may have a natural protector instinct, you’ll want to make sure you choose the right llama to guard your animals. It’s recommended that you get a gelded male llamas as a livestock guardian. Gelded male llamas are usually more docile and easier to handle compared to intact male.
It’s best to get a younger llama that you can raise with your livestock. A young llamas will bond with the herd and be more willing to protect it from predators. Picking a llama under two years old is a great place to start!
Guineafowl as Livestock Guardians
You may be wondering guineafowl? Isn’t that a bird? Yes, guineafowl, or better known as guineas, is a bird and popular alternative poultry to chickens. Many people use guineas to alert animals to predators or danger.
Guineafowl Are Alert Animals
While guineafowl won’t fight off predators, they will definitely alert other poultry or livestock of potential danger. These birds let out a loud call at any sign of strangers, predators or danger.
I’ve known guineafowl who have set off their alarm any time a new car pulled up the driveway. These calls can be used to warn other animals that there is danger in the area and to take caution.
Guineafowl Are Free-Range Flock Animals
Guineas are free-range birds, meaning that they don’t roost in a coop like chickens. Guineas have the ability to fly a bit higher than chickens, and they tend to nest and rest in trees or on top of barns to avoid predators.
When you purchase guineafowl, it’s recommended to purchase more bird than one. Like chickens, guineafowl live in flocks and are generally more comfortable in a social setting.
Since these birds are free-range and flock animals, they will tend to stay near livestock or other animals for a safer environment. When I boarded my horse at a stable that had guineafowl, I would often go out to the horse pasture to see the guineas mingling in-between the horses.
One thing to keep in mind if you plan on using guineafowl as livestock alert animals is that they are free-range and it’s not guaranteed that they will stay among the livestock.
Geese as Livestock Guardians
Geese are another type of bird that can be used as alert birds or guardians to chickens or ducks. We’ve all had our unlucky encounters with geese! To learn more, keep reading.
Geese Are Aggressive
Geese are known to be aggressive. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been walking in a park to have a goose hiss at me and come charging with their wings outstretched.
With a large flock, or gaggle, of geese going after them, predators may be scared away. Not only are geese aggressive but they’re also protective. They do great at protecting chicks and younger birds from becoming a snack for a predator.
Geese Make Good Alarms
Geese have a very recognizable call; it sounds almost like a vintage car honking. When geese sense a threat, they will let out this honking as an alert and also to deter the predator from coming any closer. If there are many geese in the area, the call can be almost unbearable.
Do You Need a Guardian Animal For Your Livestock?
Investing in a group of livestock animals can be enough of a financial commit besides having to then find a livestock guardian animal. So, do you absolutely need a guardian animal for your livestock? I would personally say no, not always. It largely depends on the security of your fencing and the predators in your region.
Good fencing can go a long way in keeping predators away from your livestock. Make sure your fencing is high enough so that predators can’t easily climb over. Depending on your region, you may not have serious predator threats, either. On the East Coast, the most prominent threats for small livestock are coyotes and birds of prey. In Western USA, you may deal more with bear, wild cats, and animals of that nature.
While you can go without a guardian animal, if you do find your livestock are becoming lunch for local rascals, I highly recommend finding a guardian animal as soon as possible. Once a predator knows where it can get its food, it will keep coming back.
I hope this article was helpful to you in finding your next livestock guardian animal. Guardian animals are vital to protecting your livestock and keeping them safe. We have many articles about how to properly care for livestock. You can read more articles here!