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.