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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #269737

Title: Managing livestock using animal behavior: Mixed-species stocking and flerds

item Anderson, Dean
item Frederickson, Eddie
item Estell, Richard - Rick

Submitted to: Animal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/16/2011
Publication Date: 2/1/2012
Citation: Anderson, D.M., Fredrickson, E.L., Estell, R.E. 2012. Managing livestock using animal behavior: Mixed-species stocking and flerds. Animal. 1-11.

Interpretive Summary: Mixed-species stocking offers many advantages to producers as well as those charged with managing ecosystems. However, mixed species stocking can add many challenges to management, especially if predation among the small ruminants is a reality. However, by modifying and adapting innate animal behaviors it is possible to reduce predation losses among small ruminants as well as facilitate more efficient management of all animals. Sheep and goats trained to consistently remain close to cattle to form flerds can reduce predation and enhance management above what is possible by managing flocks and herds. Protocols to create flerds that can reduce small ruminant predation, provide husbandry flexibility and result in time as well as material savings are discussed.

Technical Abstract: Mixed-species stocking can foster sound landscape management while offering economic and ecological advantages compared to mono-species stocking. Producers contemplating a mixed-species enterprise should reflect on several considerations before implementing this animal management strategy. Factors applicable to a particular producer’s landscape must be considered together with goals and economic constraints before implementing mixed-species stocking. A major consideration when using mixed-species stocking is how to deal with predation losses, especially among small ruminants. An approach being adopted in some commercial operations capitalizes on using innate animal behaviors to form cohesive groups of two or more livestock species that consistently remain together under free-ranging conditions. These groups are referred to as flerds. The mixing of a flock of sheep and/or goats with a herd of cattle into a flerd has been shown to protect sheep and goats from coyote predation as well as offering other husbandry advantages. Some of the added advantages include more efficient conversion of forage into animal protein. Creation of flerds, their maintenance and advantages are discussed.