Livestock protection in Trentino – the example of Malga Tuena

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It was a mixed group that met for the livestock protection course: farmers, shepherds, vets and WWF representatives, some from South Tyrol and some from Trentino. Together they hiked to Malga Tuena, where Ivan Zanoni has been grazing his dairy goats for years, protected by Maremmano Abruzzese dogs.

On the mountain pasture, forester Matteo Zeni gave us an insight into the livestock protection measures offered by the Autonomous Province of Trento to livestock farmers and beekeepers. There are specialised foresters in the state administration who advise livestock farmers, keep livestock protection material on hand and help farmers to protect their animals if necessary (in case of wolf or bear attacks). The livestock protection material is lent to interested farmers free of charge. There are also contributions if farmers prefer to buy fencing material themselves, but most livestock farmers opt for the loan option. The province also promotes the purchase of livestock guarding dogs. In order to acquire the dogs, the future dog owners must complete a short course, which is also organised by the province. Every year, over two hundred beekeepers and livestock farmers in Trentino make use of this assistance.

What to consider when purchasing livestock guarding dogs

Chiara Crotti from Eliante gave an insight into the keeping of livestock guarding dogs. Above all, she emphasised that the origin of such an animal from parents who work as guarding dogs is extremely important. It is just as important for pet owners to find out about the dogs’ needs in advance and to get support and advice during the initial period. Livestock guarding dogs are not pieces of furniture that can simply be placed alongside livestock. You have to get them used to your animals and continue to look after and accompany them, only then will they do their job.

Ivan Zanoni showed us around his mountain pasture and told us about his passion for goats and how he manages his pasture. In addition to the goats, he also has cattle, donkeys and sheep. The first depredations at his pasture were among the donkeys. From then on, he began to implement livestock protection. He is very grateful to the provincial administration for the assistance it had offered him. Ever since he has had his dogs, he has had no more depredations. In winter, his goats are in a stable in the valley with the dogs.

The participants listen attentively to the speakers’ explanations

Certifications and contributions for livestock guarding dogs

Johanna Platzgummer presented what the LIFEstockProtect project is planning with regard to livestock guarding dogs: certification is currently being set up to ensure that only dogs that are suitable for their tasks are used. Furthermore, the project is in favour of funding the keeping of the animals in the project area (feed and veterinary costs), but not the purchase, as experience in other areas has shown that the price of the dogs has risen as a result of the funding, so that the funding has only benefitted the dog breeders, but not the farmers.

After a successful day, the participants hiked home enriched by many impressions and fortified by the wonderful cuisine at the Malga Tuena. Some were already discussing the integration of livestock guarding dogs into their herds.

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