|Wolves and farming|
Agricultural land use ‚Äď grazing livestock and wolves
Due to deterioration of the economic and social conditions in which traditional (intensive) forms of agriculture, for both animal and crop production, could prosper, many hectares of farmland have been abandoned and become overgrown. With the abandonment of food and fodder production, crop fields turned to grassland, and pastures in the Karst, upland areas, and the high mountains became overgrown by woodland with low fertility. Efforts by farmers over the last 20 years to reclaim and re-cultivate part of these abandoned and overgrown lands, and later on to revitalize these regions, adhered to one of the main forms of sustainable farming for meat and dairy production, based on so-called eco-efficiency, in which a certain level of production is achieved using smaller investments and losses to the environment. The pasturing of farm animals has shown itself to be the only form that can bring about the gradual restoration of the cultivated landscape in areas of Slovenia which were previously dominated by various systems of barn rearing. But this landscape, compared to similar ones in Western Europe, has the particular feature of being shared by large carnivores. Hence a conflict appears between the interests of farmers who raise livestock grazed on pastures and the responsibilities of society to ensure suitable living conditions for the preservation of large carnivore populations.
Those of us involved in the project are aware that without agriculture and its many varied forms which have been, are, and will be associated with the use of farmland for the production of fodder for livestock and food for people, we will not be able to preserve the mosaic and cultivated appearance of the landscape. For this reason one of the most important activities in the initial phase of the project is an analysis of existing systems of livestock farming in areas in which wolves are found. You can find more in action A.5.
Protection measures for sheep
Predation on livestock, especially sheep and goats, is one of the major wolf conservation challenges in Slovenia. In areas where wolves and sheep-breeding co-exist, predation on sheep usually appears. Livestock depredation lead to near extirpation of large carnivores in most European countries in the past. Due to long abesence of large carnivores, traditional knowledge about effective techniques to protect livestock, were forgotten. In many countries where wolves are being reintroduced after centuries of persecution, they are trying to reinstate effective methods for livestock protection into modern husbandry system.
Within SloWolf project damages caused by wolves to agriculture were analysed. Results show that more than 96,5 % of all reported losses occured on sheep and goat flocks. Damages are appearing in Końćevje, Notranjska and Primorska regions (report action A.4). Most commonly used methods to protect sheep from wolves are fixed or mobile electric fences (brochure), livestock guarding dogs (brochure), fladry and different scare tools like loud sounds and flashing lights (seminar). SloWolf project donated electric nets and livestock guarding dog pups to sheep breeders within wolf area (action C.6).
Electric fences can be used as an effective tool to control livestock on pasture as well as to protect livestock from large carnivores. Generated electric impulses in fences are causing pain upon contact, creating fear which deters animals, including wolves, from crossing the fence. Electric fences can be devided into two groups: a.) permanent, multi wired fences which can stay on the pasture for decades and have been mainly constructed for controlled grazing. b.) Mobile electric fences can be frequently moved to keep the animals on the certain part of the pasture or for better protection from large carnivores.
For protecting sheep from wolf depredations, portable electric net fences, at least 160 centimeters high, can be used. Electric nets can be used like night corrals for protecting sheep at night time when wolf attacks usually occur. Such corrals must be moved more often to prevent overgrazing (brochure). Electric fences have been proven as an effective tool to prevent damages. Within project LIFE CoEx, 208 electric fences for livestock protection have been installed in Portugal, Spain and Italy. Project results recorded by the number of damages before and after fence installation show that fences are very efficient: in Portugal no wolf attack has occured inside the fences since they were installed, in Spain number of attacks was reduced by 98,4 % and in Italy only 5 cases were registered in which damage happened while the livestock was confined in the fence in 3 years after installation. First SloWolf project results are very encouraging as well (press conference).
Livestock guarding dogs
Livestock guarding dogs (LGD) can be very helpful for protecting livestock from large carnivore predation. They were used centuries ago by shepherds in Europe and Asia, helping them to protect sheep and goats from bears and wolves. Guarding dogs are not the same as herding dogs, which were developed to manage sheep, are smaller, more agile and show some components of predator behaviour. Lack of predatory behaviour is typical for LGDs. Although LGD pups have genetic predispositions enabling them to become effective livestock guarders, monitoring and correction of undesirable behaviour is crucial in raising LGDs. Selecting appropriate pure-breed pup is recommended, since cross-breeds might have ancestors of inappropriate breeds with strong predatory behaviour. LGD pup has to be introduced to the flock between the age of 8 to 9 months. The most optimal time for pup introduction is during winter, when the flock is inside the barn, and the pup has enough time to become familiar with the sheep. Formation of one or more effective LGDs takes time; it is recommended to bring up one LGD first, adding more dogs after first one is completely reliable in its function (brochure). Livestock protection by use of LGDs is traditionally tested method. Its use was forgotten due to long absence of large carnivores. In many areas where wolves are being reintroduced after centuries of persecution, they are trying to reinstate the method into modern husbandry system. Results from projects in Croatia, Slovakia, Poland and other European countries show that number of attacks and number of sheep killed per attack has decreased in flocks where LGDs were introduced. Within SloWolf project Karst Shepherd and Tornjak LGD breed are being donated (action C.6).
Combination of different methods
Overall the results show that there is no single preventive method providing 100 % protection from wolf attacks. However, combination of methods can reduce damages considerably. Results show that the effectiveness of LGDs is reduced in free ranging flocks compared to flocks fenced on pastures or in night time enclosures. Therefore, combination of livestock guarding dogs and confining flocks at night in barns or high electric fences is recommended.
¬† V zańćetku marca sem malo nad vasjo Grńćarice priŇ°el na sled trem volkovom. Nekaj ńćasa sem jih spremljal po...