Deploying alpacas, donkeys for stock protection – State News – Livestock – Sheep – Queensland Country Life

Wolf numbers are reportedly on the increase in Georgia, with shepherds and cattlemen in many regions complaining about calves and sheep being killed in large numbers by wolf packs. It would be interesting to see if protective methods other than shooting could be practical here. An interesting development in Australia is use of donkeys and alpacas to protect sheep from wild dogs and foxes, which cause similar problems in Australia’s massive sheep industry. From Queensland Country Life

Deploying alpacas, donkeys for stock protection - State News - Livestock - Sheep - Queensland Country Life

LIGHTS, donkeys and alpacas are making their mark on traditional sheep producing properties as farmers hunt for an answer to young lamb predators.

Rankins Springs producers Peter and Meegan McCarten run 4000 Merino and Merino-cross ewes on their property “Nargoon” and have had some reprieve from foxes in recent years.

But thanks to a mouse plague satisfying foxes, they want to hire somebody for three months to fight the fox burden.

The McCartens partially attribute their recent lambing percentage increase to 126 per cent to their decision to use fox lights three years ago.

A fox light is a spotlight powered by a six-volt torch battery which is attached to a star picket, fence or tree and flashes at irregular intervals to give the impression somebody is patrolling the area.

Because the lights flash irregularly it serves as a deterrent to foxes and they are less likely to attack the ewes and lambs.

Mr McCarten spent $2000 buying 50 to 60 fox lights after seeing an article about them in The Land.

The McCartens found the fox lights to be very effective in conjunction with baiting, shooting and trapping.

“Foxes are such a big concern that we’ve decided to try and employ someone for three months just to bait, trap and do the shooting as well as moving the fox lights around so they are being used where they are needed most,” Mr McCarten said.

Oberon farmer and fox light inventor Ian Whalan was awarded the end-of-year viewers’ award on the ABC’s New Inventors in 2009.

He recommends using four fox lights per 100 ewes, a ratio of one light per 25 ewes.

Along with foxlights, farmers have for some time also used other animals as “guards” for their sheep flocks.

While alpacas are the most common in Australia, American and Canadian farmers have a long history of using donkeys to protect their livestock.

The Hume Livestock Health and Pest Authority (LHPA) and National Parks Khancoban are currently running a joint trial program using donkeys to protect sheep in areas with wild dog problems.

via Deploying alpacas, donkeys for stock protection – State News – Livestock – Sheep – Queensland Country Life.

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Cornell Chronicle: Major crop gene breakthrough

The discovery of the gene that defines C4 plant metabolism is a huge breakthrough. If successfully transferred to C3 plants like wheat and rice, the potential exists to increase yields by 50% using the same amount of water and fertiliser.

With projections of 9.5 billion people by 2050, humankind faces the challenge of feeding modern diets to additional mouths while using the same amounts of water, fertilizer and arable land as today.

Cornell researchers have taken a leap toward meeting those needs by discovering a gene that could lead to new varieties of staple crops with 50 percent higher yields.

The gene, called Scarecrow, is the first discovered to control a special leaf structure, known as Kranz anatomy, which leads to more efficient photosynthesis. Plants photosynthesize using one of two methods: C3, a less efficient, ancient method found in most plants, including wheat and rice; and C4, a more efficient adaptation employed by grasses, maize, sorghum and sugarcane that is better suited to drought, intense sunlight, heat and low nitrogen.

More here

via Cornell Chronicle: Major crop gene breakthrough.