Letter: Be cautious around working farm dogs
Recently, a photo of our hens and livestock guardian dog were featured in The Eagle's "Pick of the Pics" section. The dog, Iorek (pronounced yor-ick) is a 3-year-old maremma, which is an Italian breed of livestock guardian dog. He lives outdoors with our flock of approximately 1,000 pasture raised laying hens, protecting them from predators as they rotate around the farm. [Square Roots Farm.] True to his breed, Iorek is very gentle with the hens as well as human visitors to the farm. However, we need to offer the following as a caution to folks considering visiting a farm, especially one that employs working dogs.
Livestock guardian dogs (LGDs) have been bred for centuries to protect livestock. They have been selected for their calm, gentle demeanor around farm animals and people as well as their fierce protectiveness in the presence of a threat. LGDs will generally bark to keep predators away, but will not hesitate to attack if the animal does not withdraw. Dogs like Iorek may appear laid back and snugly, but when they are with their livestock, they are on the job, alert to any potential threat.
Wandering onto any farm without first contacting the farmer is an unsafe practice. There may be large breeding animals (such as bulls, rams, or boars) present, electric fences, large equipment, or other hazards not immediately obvious. When a LGD is working, it's an even more charged situation. If the LGD perceives your presence as a threat, he or she will not hesitate to protect his livestock from you, including physically attacking if "verbal" warnings are not effective.
We thank the photographer, The Eagle, and our fellow readers for appreciating Iorek. He is truly a remarkable dog with an invaluable job, and everyone who has stopped by for self-serve eggs or run into him at Lakeview Orchard knows that he is a big love-bug. However, when he is out with his hens, their safety is his number one priority.
So please, the next time you are driving by our farm (or any other) and thinking about stopping in for a visit, make sure you contact the farmers first. We want to share our beautiful farmland, remarkable animals, amazing products, and our hard work with you. But we want you — and the animals — to be safe.
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