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Highland cattle with sheep  RSS feed

 
Taylor Cleveland
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We're starting a hair sheep flock to sell lamb by direct sales (CSA,farmers market, restaurants, etc.) were going to be using portable electric fencing and moving every 3-5 days. We will have laying hens following them. We also want to do cattle in the near future. I am planning on cross breeding angus or shorthorn with highlands ( probably 1/3 highland) to get the cold hardy/lighter feeding traits out of the highlands. I hate to get a guard animal when I could take advantage of something what will be making a profit instead of just costing me money. So I have a 3 fold question.

1- Would it be beneficial to go ahead and get a few highlands to put in with the sheep with the dual purpose of starting our heard and also fending off coyotes? I've read and heard that the highlands are really aggressive mommas, and with a combo of them and an electric fence predators would be less inclined to try and attack. (Guard dog is not an option so we would to a donkey if the highlands wouldn't work)

2- If that is a good idea what sort of fencing would work with both animals? I was planning on getting the sheep electronet stuff originally(when we were planning on a guest donkey) Would that still work? Or do I need something better than that for the highlands?

3- does anyone have experience with this system or something remotely similar? We're very open at this point. As long as it respects electric fence/rotational grazing methods.

Thanks!
 
Travis Johnson
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I have experience with this, though I was not happy with the results.

First I would not worry too much. That kind of goes for a host of topics. The first is the hardiness of cows and cross Highland with others to get hardiness. All ruminants love the cold. For instance both sheep and cows have a preferred temperature of 28 degrees, that would be like us preferring 70 degrees in our houses. But there are some things a person can do to make life better for ruminants like cows and sheep. The first is to provide 50 degree water, which is easy enough to do. The second is to make sure when it gets cold, to feed them. They need calories (called energy in livestock terms), and so when it gets really cold, they eat a poke of feed (hay). But doing so, their 4 stomachs act as furnaces and keep them warm, they just need a place to get out of the wind. It can be super cold, just out of the wind. This even includes sissy dairy cow breeds, so hardiness is no a big concern. Get a breed that has taste.

The second thing you may not have to worry so much about is predators. I have a lot of sheep, quite a few acres, and in 9 years have never had a sheep get struck by a coyote though they are all around me. Good fences are enough for me. I was pretty worried at first, so I understand why, but it really is nothing to overly worry about.

But I did run cows with my sheep once. It did not work out. In part because the cows liked to chase sheep, reducing their weight and the weight of the sheep. They also liked to rub on my woven wire fences (really the only fencing to get for sheep. I never had luck with electronet. I had 1000 feet given to me and ultimately gave it away; the sheep ran right through it. You might have a different outcome though where you don't have woolies). Still with them rubbing on the woven wire it ultimately fell down and the cows and sheep got out. I had $37,000 in woven wire, and was not about to let $1400 cows destroy it; so the cows grew wheels and went to the slaughterhouse. But while I would not run cows with my sheep due to the effects of weight loss, the fence issue could be dealt with by putting an off set hot wire that gives the cows a poke when they go to scratch their hides on the fence. That is cheap and easy.

I think cows make a great form of predator control. On our dairy farm I watched a Holstein fend off a coyote from her calf until we finally got a shot off and saved the calf. Ultimately a homestead type of farm is not going to be that big to draw in coyotes that much anyway. They are opportunists, and as long as they can get a better meal elsewhere, they will. It is kind of like thieves. Yeah they can break into a bank and get a boatload of money, but there are so many deterrents that they go after liquor stores instead. In the coyote world, seeing a big bully of a cow means those rabbit and deer look like a better pursuit of supper.

So I might rethink the Highland just on account of taste, maybe use the electronet for cross-paddock fencing and install woven wire up as perimeter fence, add a offset electric wire to keep the cows off it if you feel weight loss by chasing is not so much of an issue for you, but other than that, I it sounds like you have a sound plan.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Travis, I have to say it's refreshing to see a sheep guy not freaking out about coyotes.  Folks around here are utterly terrified by coyotes.


 
R Scott
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I run highlands and hair sheep.  They don't bother each other, but don't really run as a single herd either.

Highland is excellent tasting meat, but they are slow growing.  We love the highlands, but from a pure financial decision they are not the most profitable unless you need the ability to thrive on poor pasture. There is definitely a trade off.
 
R Scott
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And cattle don't protect sheep, even when locked down in a small paddock.  Only if the dog/coyote is scared by the sight of the cow.
 
Su Ba
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In my experience. Cattle don't protect sheep from dogs, though I have no experience with coyotes. In fact, they have a hard time protecting their calves from dogs if there is more than one or if the one is agile and persistent. Loose dogs are lethal when it comes to calves. And I've seen the results of one dog shredding the udder of a cow during the 15 minutes it took the owner to retrieve his gun.

My donkey has been pretty successful in killing a single dog that breaks into the sheep pasture. But she isn't protecting the sheep. She just hates dogs and will attack them. She's discouraged plenty of my neighbor's dogs from trying to dig under the fence to get at the sheep. She will roar, snake her head, and stamp her front feet trying to reach the dog through the fence. It spooks most dogs, but not all. The two that opted to dig through the fence anyway ended up dead and pulped.

I use field fence to confine my sheep but I still need to run a hotwire at sheep shoulder height to stop them from rubbing along the fence. It also discourages them from poking their heads through the fence and pushing it down while trying to reach grass on the other side. I've resorted to killing the grass on a 3 foot swath outside the fence in the section I haven't run a hotwire yet. They've got plenty of pasture but still will go for the grass on the outside. I really need to get fencing with smaller openings, but it's not readily available where I am at a reasonable price, not considering I have almost three miles of fencing all told. So I'm looking into some plastic mesh to line the perimeter fencing. It won't stop a dog but hopefully will prevent lambs from popping through.

i tried the electronet on my hair sheep, but had little success. While 90% of the sheep respected the netting, I had a few that were dumber than rocks. They just never got it. I even shaved their heads and front half of there bodies so that there would be less interference with the shock. Those ewes never figured out a thing called "reverse". They would jump forward, get tangled in the netting, pull the fencing down, of course shorting the whole affair. Then the flock would fly into a panic over the tangled ewe's screams and escape. Some day I plan on trying again, but next time I will put the dumb ones ino the freezer and just keep the smart ones.
 
Travis Johnson
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I lost a few sheep to ElectroNet Fencing too by having them get entangled in it during heavy rains and then getting electrocuted. Fooey with that.

One thing to keep in mind though is that I do not have dogs here. I don't just mean on my farm, but from any neighbors around. I live in a very rural area and those neighbors that do have dogs have hunting dogs and they are used to hunt. The last thing they want to chase is a boring old sheep, not when they get to chase coyotes, fox, bear and bobcat.
 
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