Reaction from Graaff-Reinet farmer on article about Woolworths in the June edition of PMF newsletter - "Woolworths commits to wildlife friendly meat".
"Thank you for your article re “Woolworths” getting involved with “monitoring” predators with NMMU. The fact IS that we as sheep farmers are losing +-30% of our lambs to predators. The days of “monitoring predators” are OVER. Us as farmers are in a survival situation re predators. We need the eliminated on a country wide scale. Food security is important to our country as is survival of our farmers. Please remember that the people who make speeches on 50/50, wildlife endangered people and predator conservationists usually buy their lamb chops at Woolies, Pick ‘n Pay and the likes. The time has come for REAL action against predators – no more fancy talk!"
Reply from Dr. Gerhard Verdoorn:
Predation is definitely a serious production inhibitor for the livestock industry and much more so now than twenty years ago. The factors that contribute to the increase in predation on small stock are rather nebulous but certainly the demise of predator proof fencing, more environmentally compatible farming techniques and a general positive swing towards conservation amongst the farming community can be considered to be contributing to higher predator populations than before. I know for a fact that in many parts of the arid regions the black-backed jackal and caracal numbers have increased significantly. Some spots where I hunt have never been traditional jackal and caracal haunts but since about five years ago we could see how numbers increased significantly. I have no explanation for this as this particular region I am referring to was strongly dominated by a well-known conservationist farmer friend of mine. Persecution of any form of wildlife was never on the charts in that area, but we also never know of jackal or caracal in that area.
Regarding your position on eliminating predators I would like to offer the following comments, which no doubt may upset some folks. Eliminating any wild species such as black-backed jackal or caracal is not achievable by any means. We have tried our best in the era 1950s to 1980s after which farmers became very conservation minded. The jackal and caracal will always be with us and I guess they will always be rather unwelcome on small stock farms. Maybe one should move away from the desire to eliminate or exterminate these damage causing predators and start managing them – indeed a tall order for a small stock farmer but definitely a workable and achievable option. It certainly does not mean we treat them with kiddies gloves but whatever we do, we do it with cunningness and commitment.
There are many management tools at our disposal today: these include exclusion techniques like proper fencing, scaring techniques that were all conceptualized by farmers (and hence success as we all know a Boer maak ‘n plan) as well as the much disliked termination techniques (killing individuals). There is an integrated management plan available that we will send you. Please take some time and study the techniques, some of which may appear to be costly, others more affordable. It is unwise to think that only one technique is going to solve your predation problems, so I strongly recommend that you consider them all and integrate those that will be acceptable to you into your livestock farming. Farmers who have done so have had good success and reduced the predation on their livestock. It is not going to be easy or a quick fix, but persist and you will see the results. Call me at any time on 082-446-8946 for detailed advice should you feel the need to talk to me.
Comments on the commentators on television and so on: I agree that some people are like rugby enthusiasts; they are full of advice but don’t even own the rugby ball! It is also unwise to try and point farmers to only one technique like protective animals (Al Pacas, Anatolian shepherd dogs, blesbuck, ect) as I can assure you it is a short term quick fix.
The National Woolgrowers Association (NWGA) has embarked on a programme to teach and demonstrate to wool growers how to manage predation via the good hands of Niel Viljoen. In every single case where he has established these study area there has been great success.
My final comment is to hang in there and give the predators a go with the integrated management plan. Refrain from using any poisons as it is not only illegal but highly hazardous to scavenging birds. Call me on 082 446 8946 and I will give you some specialist advice.