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Guardian dogs for livestock and protection in Australia
thesisposted on 2023-05-27, 07:29 authored by van Bommel, L
Wild predators can form a threat to livestock production all over the world. Lethal methods are often used to control predators, however, lethal control has many disadvantages. Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGDs) offer a non-lethal alternative to lethal predator control. There is increasing evidence that LGDs can be highly effective for stock protection, and are able to protect many types of livestock from many different types of predators. In Australia, wild dogs (including dingoes and hybrids) cause the most damage to the livestock industry. LGDs are a relatively new predator control method in Australia, and little research has been done on their use. In this PhD project, the effectiveness of LGDs for stock protection in Australia was investigated. In particular, I examined the effects of scale of management ‚Äö- the size of property and number of livestock ‚Äö- on LGD effectiveness, movements and behaviour. A critical evaluation of existing literature on non-lethal predator control methods showed that, of all existing methods, LGDs are likely the most suitable method for Australian farm conditions. A telephone survey among 150 users of LGDs further showed that these dogs are apparently highly effective in Australia, with 66% of respondents stating LGDs had eliminated all predation, and an additional 30% stating the LGDs significantly decreased predation. Scale of management did not influence their effectiveness; the main factor influencing LGD effectiveness was the number of stock per LGD. In order to investigate LGD movements and behaviour, GPS collars were deployed on Maremma Sheepdogs on three research properties, where the dogs were free-ranging over large areas with their livestock. The results show that LGDs spend between 82% and 100% of their time with their livestock, but movements away from stock do occur. On two properties, simulated wild dog incursions were used to test the Maremmas' response to a predator challenge. These experiments showed that LGDs exhibit territorial behaviour, and suggest that free ranging LGDs can use territorial exclusion of predators to protect their livestock. Movements away from livestock are then to be expected, as the LGDs need to spend some time away from stock to patrol and maintain territorial boundaries. LGDs can be a very effective predator control method in Australia, on both small properties and extensive livestock operations, as long as the appropriate number of dogs is used for the property situation. On extensive livestock operations, LGDs are often free-ranging, and can set up and maintain territories around stock. This is likely a highly effective method of predator control because it creates a buffer zone around livestock from which predators are repelled. By reducing or eliminating predation, LGDs have great potential in reducing conflict between livestock producers and predators. In Australia this can benefit dingo conservation and biodiversity, if lethal predator control is reduced when LGDs are used.
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