Four years ago Nala and Lula came to us as excitable puppies, raring to play and get involved with farm life.
These gorgeous bundles of fluff were our brand-new Maremma Livestock Guardian pups and needed to be shaped into the role of protectors.
The Maremma Sheepdog is a breed from the regions of Tuscany and Lazio in Italy.
Italian shepherds have used them for centuries, to protect their sheep against wolves, but they’ll guard anything they bond with – in our case, the poultry.
Working Livestock Guardian dogs are really rare to see here in the UK, but in Italy and the USA it’s common to see a dog or a pack of dogs guarding livestock. It’s such a foolproof method, that even the Romans were using them to protect their flocks!
Prior to our Maremmas, we’d had a go with alpacas as guardians to our poultry, but they just weren’t giving us the level of protection we needed for our flocks.
Also, alpacas have a bit of a reputation, and we certainly didn’t want to get on the wrong side of them!
With Nala and Lula, they are settled as part of the pack. Getting on well with the animals means that our poultry feel completely safe sharing the fields with them – but they know these hounds have got their back too!
Though they interact well with our family, we do have to treat them a little differently than your everyday domestic dogs. For them, anyone and anything new is a perceived threat, everyone is a foe, and therefore they will challenge animals and people they are not familiar with. Careful introductions are therefore necessary so the dogs accept new faces as friends.
Despite them being sisters, the two dogs are very different in nature. For anyone that is unfamiliar with them, they are a force to be reckoned with.
They both live outside, with the livestock, so they can keep an ear to the ground (in their case, a watchful eye, and keen sense of smell). They are always on point and alert to anything entering their territory so they’ll alert the poultry to predators. They keep the foxes, badgers, domestic dogs, and other threats at bay and mitigate worries about managing predators in other ways. By having Nala and Lula on board, we’re not only protecting our livestock but also those predators, who on other farms risk getting shot.
We still need foxes and other predators to co-exist alongside our farm, and we respect all animals and wish to manage the farm in the most natural way possible. By using Nala and Lula to deter and not kill, the ecology of our farm remains in balance. We couldn’t raise our poultry and let them live out on the pasture 24/7 without our Livestock Guardians. Before Nala and Lula arrived we kept the poultry in mobile pens – now we can give the birds more freedom and live a life more as nature intended, having become an integral part of our farm.
With the poultry season coming to an end for this year, it gives our dogs a bit of a break, not that they know how to rest!
Four years have gone by in the blink of an eye, but Nala and Lula were one of the best decisions we made and we now couldn’t imagine farm life without them.