Cute pups protect their flock at Langshaw
IF YOU want to run sheep and goats and maybe free-range poultry, they are going to need protection from feral dogs.
As many landholders have found out, one of the best ways to achieve this protection is by the use of maremma sheepdogs.
Will and Jo Garrett run a farm on the very steep Upper Eel Creek country.
As part of a desire to have a "know where your food comes from” production system where biodiversity is key, they introduced dorper sheep and daughter Grace introduced boer goats as part of the farm mix.
Ms Garrett said the maremma pups were so cute they had to remember not to over-pamper them.
"The first pup we got we were feeding along with a bottle-fed lamb and a kid,” she said.
"That worked fine and bonded the pup with the animals she would later have to guard.
"We had a rule of only two cuddle times a day, but found that as the pup grew, she initiated the withdrawal time - as if she knew that she was a guard dog and not a pet.
"About a month later we got a young male and he quickly became part of the sheep/goat family.”
Ms Garrett said that with the first few goat and sheep, feral dogs quickly became a serious problem.
"The mere presence of the maremma is enough to keep feral dogs away,” she said.
"Anything that comes into their territory they bark at, even to the extent of flying foxes in the fig trees and mangoes or plovers on the ground.”
The sheep, goats and possibly poultry are planned to be part of a niche meat production system that is still in the very early trial stages.
Because the two maremmas are still young, the sheep and goats are penned at night and come when called.
"The dogs plus night security cameras have given a sense of security for the flock,” Ms Garrett said.