When Predator Becomes Prey

Lately I’ve been seeing some pesky glowing eyes in the hills during my late night calving checks. There’s been a few nights I’ve chased a mangy coyote out of the calving lot as well. This morning while checking cows in the meadow, we saw our dog chase a coyote out of the trees right by the yard. I think it’s time for some predator control.

Every state has their own laws regarding farmers and ranchers protecting their livestock from predation and problem causing animals. In our state, landowners are allowed to shoot certain species that cause issues with no hunting permit, habitat stamp, season, or limit. The species that cause problems in our area are as follows:
Coyotes- predation of calves
Porcupines- destruction of tree rows and harming cattle with quills
Muskrats- destroying portions of the meadow
Skunks and Raccoons- disease transmission, killing chickens

We’re not hunters. Hunters wear camouflage and get up early. Standard ranch hunting attire is underwear or some sort of bathrobe paired with cowboy boots and a weapon of choice (i.e. Whitie tighties/cowboy boots, and a 12 ga. shotgun; muck boots/bathrobe and a hot pink .22 rifle; boxers/cowboy boots and a Smith&Wesson MP-15). Our shots are taken when war is waged, the target is in the act, or the perpetrator has failed to flee the scene of the crime.

We host deer hunters from Michigan annually and coyote hunters. In our area we have a coyote calling competitions that take place prior to calving to control populations. One of the more popular events is one which is a three pronged competition including a golf scramble, roping, and coyote call. In town, one can get around $30 for a coyote with a pelt in good condition.

Michigan deer hunters telling their hunt stories

When we do kill coyotes, we only take kill shots and usually to mangy, poor health ones. Reason being, a healthy coyote will have the skill and fitness to catch game like jackrabbits and other smaller stuff. Unhealthy ones will take more chances trying to get calves. Cows can be very protective but they’re not always there. Sometimes while a calf is laying along the fence by the tree row, a coyote will come and try to nap it from the safe side of the fence. We also find calves that have part of their tails chewed off. While most the heifers (worst mothers) were eating hay at one end of the calving lot today, I saw I coyote running into the tree row (they’re scared of our pickup) with a little calf playfully chasing it.

But today was the last straw. Due to weather and trying to solve tractor problems (we got the tire fixed finally (see Tractor Tire Drama) and nursing issues (see Nursing Problems and Heifer Brawl and Milking) we haven’t had much time to sort heavies. We’ve had a handful of calves born in the meadow. Today we found two cows claiming one calf. About 3 hours of searching the meadow in every nook and cranny turned up no sign of the other cow’s calf and the only reasonable explanation is that coyotes got the calf.

Our Weapon of choice is the .223 rifle.

We also dispose of porcupines when they are creating problems. When you bring in 7 cows with quills in their face and feet, then take a two dogs to the vet with quills, you quickly realize how troublesome porcupines are.
With these problems….it’s time the predator becomes the prey….

Beef Magazine did a great article on predation:
Younger Calving Cows at Most Risk to Predators

Calving Update!
Our nursing problems are near over, one pair went out today looking good. By evening the calf was looking a little droopy still so we gave it another shot of vitamin B. The other pair is still in the pens under surveillance, but the calf is nursing well, just not following the cow.

The tractor tire was fixed yesterday and held air through the night.

We finally got time to sort heavies today and cut in another 24 head to the calving lot. We had 11 calves today.

Here’s our little heifer in the pens that’s having some trouble. She was jumping around frolicking and bucking, a good sign she’s feeling good. Now if only she’d be smart enough to follow the cow and nurse all four teats.



One thought on “When Predator Becomes Prey

  1. Kim

    Ugh I do not envy you your predator problems. No porcupines here, but we do have coyotes. Hawks, though, are our main problem right now. I guess the coyotes haven’t figured out that there is a tasty chicken, duck or rabbit dinner waiting right over the brick wall. (either that, or they do know that there are two big LGDs waiting for them should they hop over!)

    Hope you get them sorted out and don’t lose any more calves to them!


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