Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan ranchers using livestock guardian dogs to protect cattle

Four years ago, Cody and Liesl Lockhart would go to sleep wondering how many of their sheep and cattle would be picked off by predators. They needed something to protect their animals. The solution? Dogs. Very big dogs.

Dogs weighing up to 150 pounds protect sheep and cattle from predators

The Lockharts currently have 10 livestock guardian dogs protecting against predators such as coyotes. (Photo courtesy Liesl Lockhart)

Four years ago, Cody and Liesl Lockhart would go to sleep wondering how many of their sheep and cattle would be picked off by predators.

Their ranch, near Debden, Saskatchewan, borders Prince Albert National Park; home to a number of predators including wolves and coyotes. 

They needed something to protect their animals. The solution? Dogs. Very big dogs.

Since using the dogs, the Lockharts have not lost an animal in their herd to predators. (Photo courtesy Liesl Lockhart)

"Dogs seemed like the best fit for our operation," Liesl Lockhart explained to CBC Radio Blue Sky host Garth Materie. "They required the least amount of work for us and they cover a lot of different terrain very well."

We've just had the peace of mind for several years now where we don't lose livestock, which has been incredible.- Liesl Lockhart, explaining the importance of her family's livestock guardian dogs.

10 dogs call the Lockhart ranch home. Known as livestock guardian dogs, they travel in a pack and intimidate predators with their size and bark. The dogs also mark their territory and will attack predators if they become a problem.

The Lockharts use four breeds of livestock guardian dog: Turkish Kangal, Great Pyrenees, Maremma and Anatolian Shepherds. They import the dogs from breeders in the United States and Bulgaria, as well as Saskatchewan.

The family has seen attacks on their sheep and cattle decrease to the point where they don't lose livestock now, but admit the pet food bill has increased a bit.

"Our biggest dogs would be our Turkish Kangals. The males would be between 130 and 150 pounds. They barely fit in the truck with us," said Lockhart.

Dogs are kind and gentle with people

The Lockharts have three daughters who have become quite attached to the dogs. Liesl was clear she would never let her children play alone with the dogs, but said they are completely gentle with people.

The dogs are quite gentle and kind around people and especially the Lockhart children. (Photo courtesy Liesl Lockhart)

"Our kids are constantly interacting with the dogs out on pastures. The kids feed them kibble. We do a lot of work when they're pups socializing them with our kids and other people as well."

Still, Liesl said it's funny to see the size difference between her young children and these enormous dogs.

"They get along very well with our kids. They tower over our kids but the don't knock them down, which is pretty good."

The Lockharts will continue using their livestock guardian dogs because the results speak for themselves.

"We cover quite a broad stretch of land and they keep tabs on calving and lambing. We've just had the peace of mind for several years now where we don't lose livestock, which has been incredible," said Liesl. 

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