by PATRICIA GROTENHUIS
Ontario Federation of Agriculture has a predator task team, but an Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency director says his group plans to address producer concerns on its own.
“We will never be able to stop predators, but producers need the tools at their disposal to control them or eliminate the ones that are causing livestock losses,” says Fraser Hodgson, OSMA director and Lambton County sheep producer, from Forest. “I believe predation is the number one limitation on expansion in the industry,” he warns.
Hodgson told a district meeting at Coldstream in early May that OSMA is pulling out of the OFA team due to “too much conflict of interest.” He says for example “sheep producers want the coyote problems addressed but cash crop farmers want to see coyotes protected to help keep deer populations in check.”
The OFA task team has been in place for approximately one and a half years, and although they have produced recommendations, they have been unable to gain the support of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, says Keith Currie, OFA executive member from Collingwood.
“I haven’t heard that (OSMA is leaving the task team) yet and that would surprise me especially because we’ve made some progress recently,” says Currie.
Currie says everyone on the task team realizes coyotes are a threat. “The coyote population has had some effect on wild turkeys, but they probably wouldn’t impact deer, elk or other wildlife,” says Currie.
According to Currie, the task team has representatives from the OFA, commodity groups and the agricultural community to identify concerns and solutions related to predation.
Predators are a concern in both livestock and crop industries. Bears destroy fields, while wild turkeys and deer eat crops, according to Currie. In Bancroft, where elk were introduced by the MNR, they have been wrecking havoc on fields and fences.
“Coyotes are a big problem. They used to be worst in sheep but are now bolder and attack anything,” says Currie.
Chad Anderson, a Lambton County beef farmer from Brigden, never had a problem with coyotes until 2009. That year there were five coyote attacks on his cattle, and three kills.
Anderson says in the past he would see coyotes nearby, but they never bothered his livestock. So far there have been no attacks this year, but Anderson is afraid once calving is underway they will begin again, as coyotes target day-old calves.
In spring of 2009, the task team’s list of recommendations was presented to the MNR.
MNR senior media relations officer Jolanta Kowalski based in Toronto, says MNR is reviewing recommendations from the OFA and determining what changes to implement.
Currie says an elk hunt has been recently scheduled to help lower the population. Kowalski denies a hunt has been announced or scheduled.
The task team has been working with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters to ensure the suggestions will benefit everyone.
“It’s frustrating that perhaps more action hasn’t been taken,” says Currie.
OSMA is still formulating its new strategy but Hodgson says details should be available soon. BF