Finding a balance that works

While many producers enjoy the wildlife that coexists with their livestock, in some cases wildlife can be menaces or nuisances at best. 

There are situations in which wildlife compete with livestock for similar types of food such as grasses, forbs and browse. Yet, there are practical and recreational reasons producers work to strike a balance between caring for their livestock and managing wildlife. 

Benefits of Wildlife 

Extension specialists state producers can create an environment conducive for both livestock and wildlife. The key to the two living in harmony involves proper wildlife management practices. 

In fact, there are many farmers who find benefits to managing the wildlife on their property. 

“While most farmers and ranchers utilize wildlife management practices for hunting, others enjoy viewing and having the wildlife around,” Joe Massey, district conservationist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Baxter and Marion counties, Ark., said. According to Massey, most of the producers in his region practice some sort of wildlife management along with their livestock.

Wildlife Health Concerns 

Some producers may be concerned about trying to manage wildlife, such as deer, with their livestock operation due to possible health risks. However, extension specialists state there is no need to be concerned. “While Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a serious threat to our deer and elk populations, there is no evidence currently for spread to humans or livestock,” Massey explained. “It is best to have your deer tested before consumption if the animal came from an area where CWD is present.”

Risks from Migratory Birds

However, migratory birds can pose risks to poultry operations. “There have been documented cases of avian influenza (bird flu) transferred from migratory birds to domestic flocks; in my area, we have been fortunate to not have to deal with that yet,” Massey said. “However, it is best if you have a poultry operation to avoid contact with migratory bird hunters.”

Leasing Land to Hunters

One way for livestock producers to supplement their income is to lease land to hunters. Extension specialists encourage producers who lease property to establish clear boundaries and expectations with the lessees. 

“While leasing their land for hunting purposes is an excellent way to diversify their income, it should be clearly understood by the hunters that the livestock operation is the primary function and should be treated as such, and the land should be left in as good or better condition than they found it,” Massey stated. 

Food Plot Selection

Wildlife management practices to consider include the food selection and the placement of food plots for wildlife. 

Though there are no obvious food choices that producers should avoid utilizing in a food plot due to potential harm to livestock, common sense in this area is key. Extension specialists recommend producers be mindful of food plot placement with respect to livestock access, because livestock also find food plots tasty and will consume large amounts.


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