Ah now, that’s Barbara. Barbara is a bit of a story.
You see, we’ve all been raised on the stories about Alpaca’s
as flock guardians, but they have their limitations. If the dog pack
has a bit of kelpie, or collie in their blood, they’ll keep circling
and rounding the mob for hours. The alpacas charge at them
and are very protective, just like the stories tell, but after a while
they seem to wilt.
It’s as though they get a sense that the task is futile. Beyond them.
Then they’ll turn tail and run off to hide.
That’s the point where you’ll lose twenty ewes in a night. They’ll have tried
hard, but the wild dog packs we get through here are too big an ask.
Anyway, I was reading an article about how they use donkeys
over in America to keep the coyotes away, and I thought
it might be worth a try. Hence Barbara.
She was a run of the mill free to a good home donkey, and
in her own right has been no trouble. She’s taken to
the sheep and the alpacas and they all happily co-inhabit the paddock.
The thing that’s happened though is that stock loss to dogs
has dropped to near nothing.
Barbara isn’t like the alpacas. She won’t quit when the packs come around.
You ought to see her – ears back, braying like a banshee
and going at them with teeth and hooves – again and again.
You’d think that saving the sheep from dogs would be enough, but Barbara
has another trick.
Moving the mob from paddock to paddock, or into the pens for moving
to the abattoir used to be quite tricky, but works like a charm now.
I just come to the fence here, by the gate, and bang on it
with an iron rod. Barbara pops her head up, as though to sniff the breeze
to figure out what’s happening, then lets out a huge, long bray.
She starts trotting over towards me and all the mob line up behind,
following in her hoof prints, all the way into the next paddock, or onto
the transport, if that’s where we want them. Never a second bleat.
She seems to take pride in being an honorary farmhand, and for me,
it’s a positive pleasure to have her aboard.
© Frank Prem, 2009