Predators are continuing to bleed farmers

Ontario farmers continue to face an overwhelming list of problems cutting profit poten­tial, but there is one that should not be difficult to fix.

Predator kills of livestock has been a major concern for livestock producers for dec­ades. Despite efforts by the On­tario Federation of Agriculture, and promises by politicians and government staff, Ontario’s predator problem is getting worse.

News articles from across Ontario serve as testimony to the increasing problems created by predators for livestock producers. One such article in the Farmers Forum tells the story of a number of eastern On­tario producers facing live­stock kills by coyotes.

The headline of the story reads: Coyotes on the rampage. The story details how “almost 6,000 sheep and calves killed or maim­ed by the varmints.”

Producers have followed the instructions of Ministry of Natural Resources profes­sion­als to reduce or eliminate such kills – everything from guard dogs to predator fencing. Both add considerably to the farm­ers’ costs of production, but the coyotes continue to ravage the livestock and, in some cases, even the dogs.

There is a story of a pack of coyotes ganging up on a guard dog to fight it to the death, and then they proceed to the sheep or cattle where they continue to cause havoc. The situation is out of control and the province is obliged to take immediate action.

Earlier this year, OFA con­vened a predator task team to address the issue and make recommendations to the Min­is­try of Natural Resources. In response, MNR suggested an outbreak of mange would likely reduce the coyote popu­la­tion, and OMAFRA would continue to provide compensa­tion for losses.

When you’re a farmer find­ing mangled calves, sheep, and lambs strewn around your fields, such a response does not provide much satisfaction.

OFA’s task team recom­men­da­tions include approval for the use of snares to aid in the cap­ture of coyotes causing damage and losses for farmers. It also called for training for farmers who want to learn to use traps and snares as a means of con­trolling livestock predation on their farms.

Because installing fencing to keep predators away from farm animals is expensive, the recommendations called for federal and provincial cost share funding for fencing to control livestock predation; fed­eral and provincial cost share funding for guard ani­mals such as dogs, donkeys, lamas, and the like to protect farm animals from the pred­a­tors.

The task team also recom­mended improved training for livestock valuers under the Livestock, Poultry and Honey Bee Protection Act to ensure farmers get equitable treatment when livestock is killed by preda­tors. It has also been recommended that chemical deterrents be legalized, and that an investigation be done of the effectiveness of wailers, inter­mittent lights, and other means of chasing away predators.

We have also called on gov­ernment to cover the costs for farmers to employ profes­sion­als to remove problem preda­tors from the areas experi­en­cing livestock kills on a regular basis, and to increase com­pensation to modern values.

As the government conti­nues to promote the purchase of locally grown food by soci­ety, it would seem logical it would want to promote the production of that food. Onta­rio’s sheep industry finds itself unable to meet local demand for product, and the reason given is predator losses.

The OFA believes it is time our government officials take some serious action to bring an end to predators killing live­stock on Ontario farms, and we have called on OMAFRA and the MNR to take immediate action to protect livestock, dogs, people and farm busines­ses from an out-of-control predator crisis.