We chose one of Thandis puppies to retain for future breeding and here she is! She has been very generously sponsored by Rossack Stud in Mpumalanga, who chose her name. She is named after the Norse Goddess of Fertility and we hope this bodes well for her future.
She is from a very successful working bloodline and is looking great herself so far too. We are very happy with our choice in keeping her and will keep you posted with her progress. Many thanks to Rossack Stud!
Spring is definitely in the air and the puppies are not the only new arrivals. The flock of Boer Goats are also having babies at the moment and while most of them are doing very well, there are inevitably one or two weaker ones in the group. Some first time mothers do not understand their role, and with the nights being very cold, the dogs are stepping in to help.
A few nights ago I was so pleased to watch Phudi (one of the Endangered Wildlife Trust Livestock Guardian Dogs working here) insist on coming into the lambing pen to help out with newborn triplets. The ewe was tired and the babies were weak but they cleaned them together and Phudi gently nudged the lambs to their feet and towards their mothers udder. She refused to leave the pen and slept with them over night. Last night she cleaned up two lambs whose mother had rejected them and got them dry before the temperature dropped. Without her care they would likely had died of cold. These dogs continue to amaze us and we simpy cannot imagine farming with livestock without them.
At 12 days old, the pups eyes are starting to open! All of them are growing well and have more than doubled their birthweights. Among their first sights will be their ruminant room-mates. These puppies are all destined to be working livestock guardian dogs in South Africa and Botswana.
With our Livestock Guardian Dogs in particular, we rely very much on our 4-legged trainers to teach the dogs what they need to know about their job, and help to straighten out any problematic dogs that are sent to us for behaviour adjustment. We have a select team of animals that help us with this, and have the right temperament for it.
First up is Jelly Bean, our Dairy cow, and her calves Jelly Belly and Jelly Pudding. She is a very tranquil lady and has just the right balance of ignoring any rambunctious behaviour, and laying down the ground rules very clearly. She is never aggressive but is firm but fair. Her daughters share her ladylike demeanour and are a great for our pups to have as their first exposure to cattle before their eyes are even open. If we have older dogs sent to us who may have been showing troubling behaviour on their farms, Bean teaches them very quickly that over enthusiasm is not OK. Whereas an aggressive cow could hurt a dog or a puppy, Bean uses minimum force and usually minimum attention. She came from a smallholding with many dogs, including 2 Great Danes, so there is nothing a dog can do that makes her so much as bat one of her beautiful long eyelashes.
Emmy the sheep is rather special. Not only is she named after Carlines mother, but her job as a dog-training sheep is very fitting as she was extremely lucky to have survived a jackal attack herself as a lamb. Unlike the vast majority of sheep, Emmy has a strong will to live and pulled through the attack before coming to live with us. She came from a farm where an Anatolian Shepherd (one of ours from Thandi's previous litter) protects the goat flock so she is familiar with big dogs. Often if sheep are not used to a big dog, they run when they first see one, but Emmy is as solid as a rock and cuddles up with any size dog.
Big Lizzy is a Boerbok Ewe who is unable to walk too far in veld due to an old injury to her leg. She does, however, produce the most fantastic lambs, and shares the same calm but firm attitude as Jelly Bean. She is never so aggressive that we fear she may hurt a puppy, but she does not tolerate overly playful behaviour.
No mention of our 4-legged team would be complete with a mention of the ponies. Their kraal is adjacent to one of the whelping areas and they are totally unflappable when it comes to puppies sniffing at them and exploring. Nina even helps with the detection dogs by really trying out their concentration and joining in while they are searching the paddock areas for target scents. If they can concentrate with a pony joining the game, we can throw most things at them.
This list is far from exhaustive, and the whole flocks and herds play their part at some time or another, but these are our main cast, and they are fabulous!
Last week, we had a meeting just across the border in Botswana about the state of Wild Dogs in the Northern Tuli Game Reserve (NOTUGRE). In 2008 there was a pack of 18 Wild Dogs relocated onto the reserve. Some of the dogs moved away and others split into smaller packs. The current pack that is residing on NOTUGRE consisted of 7 Wild Dogs up until 2 months ago, when a local farmer drove over 2 dogs. Unfortunately, the alpha male got killed in this horrific incident, which is leaving the alpha female with one other adult male. However, this male was caught in a snare and is not able to reproduce, which puts severe pressure on the sustainability of the pack.
According to Section 46 of the Wildlife Conservation and National Parks Act (see textbox), the farmer was in its full right to kill these two dogs as they have been or were forming a threat to his livestock (in this case ostriches), since the land he owns fall within NOTUGRE, but is not officially part of it. Legally, there is not much we can do and therefore it is of full most importance that we come up with solutions for this problem.
We offered to help and assist and we are going to look into this case in order to see if it is possible to place one of our Livestock Guardian Dogs with the ostriches to prevent any more ostriches from being taken by Wild Dogs or any other predator. This in turn protects the Wild Dogs and its carnivorous friends for getting persecuted by local farmers.
The frequency of human-wildlife conflicts world-wide have increased over the last ten years, which is mainly related to the expansion of human presence, habitat loss and fragmentation of the natural living area of the large carnivores and human exploitation of the natural prey base causing a decline in the occurrence of wild prey for the large carnivores thus increases the likelihood of depredation on livestock. Unfortunately, in most situations the large carnivores are paying a large price for preying on livestock, since the majority will get shot in order for the farmer to eliminate further stock losses, which is also the case for the Wild Dogs in Botswana.
Phudi - one of the Anatolian LGDs from the EWT Breeding programme
This is where Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGDs) come to the rescue and can be a potential solution to decrease the persecution of Wild Dogs in NOTUGRE. LGDs have proven to be an effective and efficient non-lethal tool to protect livestock from large carnivores. Scientific literature shows that if Livestock Guardian Dogs are placed with the stock, stock losses have dropped or even became zero. Livestock Guardian Dogs work by scent marking and barking to offset and distract any hunting attempts from predators. They let smaller predators now that there is a larger predator in the vicinity, which results in natural predators being pushed back on natural prey.
The 5 Wild Dogs will be strictly monitored by the Mashatu Research Team and we will soon follow up on a visit to the farm to see if it is possible to put one of our LGDs with the ostriches, and to see if we can stop the farmer from killing these magnificent animals by offering him a magnificent solution.
Green Dogs to the rescue!
Thandi with last years litter of newborn puppies
We are very excited at the moment as we listened for heartbeats in Thandis abdomen yesterday and we are sure there are puppies! It is very hard to estimate numbers as they are going so fast, but it seems that we are indeed expecting puppies. Thandi has whelped earlier than expected in the past, but we are working on the middle of July.
Livestock Guardian puppies are an exercise in self-control as they need to bond with livestock rather than with people, so we keep our handling of them to a minimum. They are handled to check their health and development, but we do not engage them in play. Puppies that have been excessively handled before being placed struggle more to adapt to life in the kraal, and are more likely to develop behaviours not conducive to successful work as Livestock Guardians. In South Africa, the farming systems are usually very extensive, and we rely on dogs that can often work independently of people, and this is an important selection criteria in our breeding.