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USDA Serving Montana Ranchers, Farmers

Ben Hofer, Rockport Colony Secretary, with a Kangal. NWRC researchers are studying the potential of these livestock guard animals for use where large predators include wolves and grizzly bear. The Kangal breed is gentle and trustworthy with their people or animals, but if the need arises they can become very protective. (USDA Photo by Under Secretary Edward Avalos)

Ben Hofer, Rockport Colony Secretary, with a Kangal. NWRC researchers are studying the potential of these livestock guard animals for use where large predators include wolves and grizzly bear. The Kangal breed is gentle and trustworthy with their people or animals, but if the need arises they can become very protective. (USDA Photo by Under Secretary Edward Avalos)

USDA plays an important and vital role in supporting rural communities throughout the country.  On my recent trip to Montana, I saw firsthand how the work, services and programs provided by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) directly impact stakeholder day-to-day operations.

After a listening session in Cut Bank, I was invited to the Rockport Colony, by Ben Hofer, the Secretary for the Hutterite community near Pendroy, Montana.  This impressive communal farming/ranching operation includes sheep, cattle, hog and poultry production, a dairy, and meat-processing facility, as well as fruit, vegetable, and grain production.  I quickly learned USDA is an important partner, providing support for water lines, fencing, and wildlife damage management.

Mr. Hofer explained how APHIS Wildlife Services helps reduce the colony’s livestock depredation:   “Our colony was losing seven to eight sheep every night.  At the time we were seriously considering getting out of the sheep business because we could not sustain losing ewes every night.  Wildlife Services saved our sheep business.”

In addition to removing some predators, Mr. Hofer said, “Wildlife Services has assisted us to build electrified pens to put our sheep into at night to protect them from wolves and grizzly bears.  They have placed livestock guard dogs on our colony to study how dogs can help protect our sheep and cattle.”

At Rockport, Wildlife Services’ National Wildlife Research Center is studying the potential for using a Turkish guard dog in areas with large carnivores.  The Kangal, an early Mastiff-type breed, can grow to 34 inches and 145 pounds.  Typical, smaller livestock protection dogs sometimes are no match for wolves and grizzly bears.

As grizzly populations recover, they are returning to their natural range on the prairie.  Wildlife Services has assisted the Rockport Colony with building round pens for sheep to reduce losses during grizzly attacks.  It has also captured depredating bears, as authorized by management agencies, and turned them over to the state wildlife agency for relocation or removal.

At USDA we are continuously looking for improvement, efficiencies, and other methods for doing our job.  A good example is the work underway by Wildlife Services and NWRC to use nonlethal methods to reduce depredation.  My Montana visit was a welcome opportunity to hear from Tribal and faith-based communities, along with others, on how USDA can and is helping feed America.

8 Responses to “USDA Serving Montana Ranchers, Farmers”

  1. Bobbie Jo Henry says:

    Great news story! Thanks!

  2. Janet O'Dell says:

    Young inventor Richard Turere invented “lion lights,” an elegant way to protect his family’s cattle from lion attacks. He is so incredibly SMART.

    Watch here: http://www.ted.com/talks/richard_turere_a_peace_treaty_with_the_lions.html

  3. Dee Dee says:

    Nice article. I know the Kangal dogs are going to be a huge asset. The young man Richard Turere will continue to contribute positive things that help others I am sure.

  4. Randy says:

    The head and build of that dog look much more like a yellow lab.

  5. Grace says:

    Thank you Janet O’Dell for posting the link on Richard Turere’s “lion lights” invention. It’s such an amazing idea from such a bright young person!!

    Not sure why the USDA or Ranchers wouldn’t try a system like this instead of putting more animals (dogs, livestock, wildlife) in danger.

    Watch here: http://www.ted.com/talks/richard_turere_a_peace_treaty_with_the_lions.html

  6. Kristi Sherling says:

    Livestock Guardian dogs (LGD) breeds have been protecting livestock for European farmers for hundreds of years with great success.

    The Anatolian, another large LGD breed has been implemented in protecting the endangered Cheetah in African villages from raiding villagers goat herds…with great success.

    I am very happy to see USDA finally come into the 21st century by recommending and helping provide LGD breeds.

    Farmers need to remember, despite the promotion of *cash crop from puppies* mentality that Ray Coppinger once promoted, these are NOT machines to make you money with offspring, they are here to protect your livelihood and once you remove one from a partnership (if you have more than one working dog), then you have altered the ability of the pack to protection the animals they are there for.

  7. Bill says:

    I am grateful USDA is looking for alternatives to killing predators but I don’t know why as a US taxpayer I am in the business of using taxpayer $ to pay for the protection of someone’s business when undertaken in an area known to contain dangers, whether through funding predator kills, which are horrific, or buying dogs for this colony. They can get their own dogs, build their own fences, ride the range or bring their livestock in at night, but all at their own expense. It is like building in a flood zone and expecting a check from Uncle Sam when your house is destroyed. What a waste. Where is my check for a dog? Thanks Mr Head of “Marketing” for USDA. Why do you need a head of Marketing anyway? You should be trying to administrate yourselves out of existence so your function is no longer needed, not market to increase your “business” which is built on my tax $’s.

  8. Tamara says:

    Bill makes a good point — if he is ready to pay the real cost of food – Americans pay less of their paychecks for food than almost any other country in the world. The only reason is that our shared taxes support food producers just as they support my disabled vet grandfather who sacrificed his life fighting in a war declared by his government — just as young men and women do now.(And that does NOT mean supporting anyone with very much money!!)

    Great idea, Bill. Too bad life just ain’t that simple anymore — have you spent time on a ranch — where people do buy their own dogs, build and pay for their own fences, dig their own water wells, stay up all night trying to protect cattle and livestock.

    The point of this project — which is a research project — is to collect data and then be able to advise livestock producers IF THEY should buy dogs — WHICH DOGS. It is RESEARCH – to help the people who try to feed you make the right decisions so that they can feed you along with their own families. Think on it, Bill. By the way, a number of these dogs, which cost about $1500 to raise per year (just like any pet canine getting routine vet care and food) have been donated. Where’s your check? Bill, where’s your dog? Maybe he should be in a different fight.

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