The Concept of Predator Friendly Wool and Meat

The Following Article will explain to the best of my ability all the concepts and factors behing the concept of Predator Friendly Wool and Meat!

Growers' Wool Cooperative and Predator Friendly Wool

The following article appeared on the Aug. 12, 1996 issue of the "Rocky Mountain News"

Donaldson under fire for tax-backed predator aid.

SANTA FE--Sam Donaldson wants taxpayers to pay to get rid or predators on his sheep ranch. Despite his multimillion-dollar salary, the ABC News correspondent says he's entitled to the handout from the federal Animal Damage Control office. One wildlife activist thinks that's wrong. He's a millionaire, and millionaires shouldn't be getting taxpayer-funded predator control, said Pat Wolff. Donaldson pays about $1 an acre to lease 2,360 acres of grazing land from the state for his hundreds of sheep. Last year, he lost 80 lambs to predators such as coyotes. The government helps ranchers and farmers and businesses of all kinds, Donaldson said Friday. If it's in existence and I am eligible to use it, I'll use it.

One must ask if all alternatives have been addressed in the above article. Is the only option to carry on extensive predator control. In many cases such control doesn't effect such abundant populations of coyotes, except to make the situation often worse, but is devastating to species in low population densities - such as the Kit Fox in Colorado. However there does seem to be some options offered recently. There is the Growers' Wool Cooperative that markets certified Predator Friendly Wool and meat from flocks that coexist with native species under nonlethal predator management!

First we have an article about Predator Friendly Wool that shows what the idea is and how you can help:

Article from the New West by Todd Wilkinson:

But American, purchase a Predator Friendly cap today

Say that you are given an opportunity to buy a pair of stylish wool mittens, a hat or a coat, knowing that the proceeds would go toward protecting wild predators in the American West AND support struggling sheep ranchers. Would you be willing to reach into your wallet and make a purchase? Consumers across the country now have the option of accomplishing both ends by ordering outdoor apparel and beautiful loom-knitted blankets from Predator Friendly Wool. As I mentioned in this column several months ago, the concept behind Predator Friendly is innovative because everyone along the production line, from rancher to consumer, can benefit and coyotes are spared in the process. In the coming months, Predator Friendly merchandise will be featured in 3 million catalogs published by Sundance, the Utah ranch owned by actor and conservationist Robert Redford. The free advertising here and in other boutique catalogs showcases a product line that recently was unveiled by Bozeman clothing designer Cindy Owings who created a number of earth-toned, limited-edition wool fashions. A Montana-based, non-profit organization, Predator Friendly Wool Inc. is dedicated to rewarding sheep producers with added value for their wool if they agree not to kill coyotes, bears, wolves, or other traditional enemies of livestock during the entire calendar year prior to shearing. Although it may require that ranchers absorb some losses from their flocks, the theory is that bonus payments on wool will more than offset the difference. Thus far, this has been the case with a handful of sheep ranchers who supplied some of the inaugural bales of wool.

Under the auspices of Predator Friendly, ranchers are paid premium value for their wool )above existing market value) if they agree to refrain from either calling in federal Animal Damage Control Unit (ADC) to kill predators or taking matters into their own hands with traps, poison, or bullets. Besides offering higher raw wool prices, the staff members of Predator Friendly agree to work with the local woolgrower to devise non-lethal methods of deterring coyotes. The service includes identifying methods that have worked in the past such as installing electric fencing and posting llamas, mules, or sheep dogs to run with the flocks. For reasons still unexplainable, Bob Gilbert with Montana Woolgrower's Association, has decided to attack Predator Friendly with critical broadsides. And the attacks have resulted in anonymous, threatening phone calls made to some of the Predator Friendly participants. Gilbert figures that because Predator Friendly has environmental activist Tom Skeele on its board of directors (Skeele is president of the predator-advocacy group Predator Project) then its goals are subversive to the long tradition of public lands livestock grazing. He neglects to mention, however, that Predator Friendly's board of directors purposefully is comprised of formerly devout coyote haters, active ranchers, biologists, business people. The board represents a balance of diverse opinions.

Perhaps from Gilbert's point of view, such a distrustful, antagonistic attitude may make logical sense. After all, the American sheep industry is in trouble. Erratic wool and lamb prices, rising taxes, the withdrawal of subsidies, reductions in the amount of government assistance for predator control, competition from the powerful Australian-New Zealand wool cartel, and the possibility of higher grazing fees on public lands - each one of these influences slowly is eating away at ranching operations that have teetered on the edge of viability for generations. According to Gilbert, several Western states currently are experiencing an alarming drop off in the number of families who hold membership in their local woolgrowers' associations. A scapegoat is needed. He's absolutely right in defining the fears that his members confront on a daily basis, and environmentalists need to be far more sensitive. But Gilbert's wrong when he tries to portray Predator Friendly as the bogeyman. "This Predator Friendly deal will never on the wide, open range where you have thousands of ewes running across thousands of acres," he told me one afternoon during a telephone conversation. "If they think they can solve the problems of the wool industry by saving predators, they're fooling themselves."

The goal of Predator Friendly, contrary to what Gilbert suggests, is merely to present a reasonable opportunity for some producers to try alternatives to lethal predator control and open another market for American wool. "We don't see this as competing with the established wool markets but complementing what already exists," says Dude Tyler, a retired Montana sheep rancher and original founder of Predator Friendly. "We know that Predator Friendly isn't for everyone and there are many places out there where killing predators is necessary. We've never said we're for the abolition of predator control. "We just believe there are some ranches where non-lethal means of deterring coyotes can work and we as an organization will pay more to those who are willing to give it a chance." Like virtually everything in a capitalistic society, Predator Friendly can only work if it receives the firm support of consumers. Every hat, coat or pair of mittens that is purchased shows groups such as the Montana Woolgrower's Association that new ways of doing business and protecting predators can work. For more information on available Predator Friendly products, write: Predator Friendly Wool, 1300 Springhill Road, Belgrade, Montana 59714 or call Cindy Owings Designs at (406) 587-9050.

The second information is taken from a pamphlet put out by Thirteen Mile Farm:

The Place

Thirteen Mile Farm is the John Reese homestead, one of the oldest in the Gallatin Valley of Southwest Montana. It is a good spot to grow lamb for the same reasons it was a choice for a settler; abundant springs along the base of the Bridger Mountains keep the water table high and the pastures rich, while weather patterns channel the brunt of storms away from our corner of the valley. We have set up (and are continuing to refine) a fencing and stock watering system that allows us to rotate pasture and keep livestock out of the creeks. The sheep, the grass, the local wild animals, water and trees are already showing the benefits. Montana grassland managed with care grow the meat we would like to bring directly to the consumer and restaurateur. The conventional option is to truck feeder lambs around the countryside, and grain-fatten the trailer-weary creatures in a feedlot until its time for the trip to the packing plant. We invite you to join us in choosing an alternative approach--grassland finishing for lamb quality and land stewardship.

The Lamb

* Mild-flavored, meaty carcasses from our Columbia- Corriedale cross lambs are typically 50-60 pounds. These fast-growing, large-frame lambs are tender and lean.

* The lambs are grass-fed. They reach optimum weight in early to mid-Fall. The ewes are also grass-fed (alfalfa/grass/clover hay in the winter), with the exception of some whole barley supplement just before breeding, and just before and during lambing when lactation puts demands on productive ewes.

* The lamb contains no antibiotics or hormones; such supplements are unnecessary in a grassland system.

* A llama and strategic pasture management protect the sheep from predators. We are founding members of the Growers' Wool Cooperative that markets certified Predator Friendly wool from flocks that coexist with native species under nonlethal predator management.

* April-born lambs are ready in September and October. We are taking orders now for Fall purchase or for holiday gifts to friends and family. Ask us about storage.

* We welcome your questions and comments

The Prices

Whole lambs or Half lambs: Whole carcass is 50-60 pounds

$3.99/lb., cut and wrapped, Price includes shipping with dry ice, delivered 2nd-day air $2.45/lb., cut and wrapped - Local price. $7.99/lb. - Limited supply


Tender, grilled lamb is a rare treat, and your palate alone may make the decision. But food choices govern more than diet. In an era when factory farming generates hazardous waste from feedlots instead of fertilizers from four-legged grass-harvesters; when ruminants eat high-cost grains, medications, and agricultural processing wastes instead of the sustainable forages from natural sod; when small farmers toss their fate to the winds of conventional agricultural markets, every trip to the grocery store carries baggage. With each package of frozen lamb, an alliance of discerning customers and grass-loving farmers displaces some of the baggage

No Payment until Fall Contact (406) 388-4945 Becky Weed and David Tyler Thirteen Mile Farm 13000 Springhill Road. Belgrade, Montana 59714

So we have quite a pitch from those involved in Predator Friendly project. However, what does the opposition have to say? What are their arguments and how do they stack up?

Well the first and actually second and last articles both come from Gwen Petersen writing in the agricultural magazine "Fence Post." The first article appeared on December 11, 1995 while the second appeared this spring 1996 and I don't have a certain date on it!

First Article - Silly trends

Trend (trend) n. 1. The general direction in which something tends to move. 2. A general tendency or inclination. 3. Current style; vogue. -trend intr.v. trend-ed, trend-ing, trends. 1. To extend, incline, or veer in a specified direction. 2. Th. show a general tendency.

As people flood the West, they bring with them silly trends such as the worship of predators as "good" and domestic animals as "bad." Anything with the word "environmental" attached has become sacred. "Environmentalists" are all-knowing, especially when they're telling you how to do your business. Vernon the Environmentalist is typical. He's young, grew up in a dense metropolitan area and now works for the Government. In Vernon's first job, he ran around with a clipboard catching people polluting the forest. Then he would issue a citation. During a raging forest fire, he told the firefighters to use only the designated stones placed at approved spots in the streams when crossing. Four firefighters received fines for stepping in the water, thus "polluting" it.

Vernon got so good at his job, he was promoted to the Predator Friendly Wool Interfacing Mediator staff. Vernon the Environmentalist and Ralph the Sheep Rancher met to attempt to resolve the "predator friendly wool" question. Ralph the Sheep Rancher could not understand how to harvest wool off a dead sheep or produce lamb meat and replacement animals if they'd been consumed by coyotes. The conclave went on for four days. The talks were more intense than summit meetings, more cross-purposed than discussions between Newt and Bill, more raucous than the hysterical squealing of overweight talk-show-hosts. Vernon the Environmentalist and Ralph the Sheep Rancher hammered and hammered till they reached an agreement on one point. Coyotes were on on the increase. Sheep were on the decrease. Ralph the Sheep Rancher insisted there was a correlation. Vernon the Environmentalist thought the sheep had head problems and therefore died. The ranchers agreed that the sheep had head problems -- they were ripped out by coyotes.

From there, the meeting escalated. It went on for days. Both Ralph and Vernon grew weary. Finally, Vernon, in a burst of intelligence, declared he had a solution. He spelled out his idea, carefully understand his inspired concept. In order to reduce the coyote population without destroying them, Vernon would apply for a government grant to fund a project to round up male coyotes and neuter them. Thus, the coyote population could be controlled without having to cause any coyote's death. Vernon finished his impassioned speech and sat down, his face beaming with holy fervor, his white shirt gleaming as if touched by a heavenly light. Ralph the Sheep Rancher established himself on his feet. He spoke. "Vernon, let me point out to you a significant fact, perhaps one you've overlooked, not considered, failed to realize." Ralph enunciated clearly, painstakingly mouthing his vowels and crisply spitting out his consonants. "Vernon," he repeated, "those coyotes are eating the sheep not making love to them."

Second article - Artistry of flim-flam schemes

flim-flam (flim'flam') informal. n. 1. Nonsense; humbug. 2. A deception; a swindle. --flim-flam tr.v. flim-flammed; flim-flam-mimg, flim-flams. To swindle; cheat. --flim'flam'mer n.-- flim'flam'ery-y n.

While I am unable to respect flim-flammery, the sheer artistry of some flim-flam schemes draws a kind of awed regard. I read where "Predator Friendly Wool, Inc." (nice touch, that "Inc." appendage) claims ranchers who don't use lethal means to discourage coyotes will be rewarded." (Don't you just love words like "rewarded?!" Doubtless, the lambs acting as entree in a coyote's lunch will receive a heavenly "reward?") Let's say, for saying's sake, you have 50 ewes. Let's say all 50 produce twins and they all live. That's 100 lambs. Coyotes and wolves produce young in litters of four to eight pups. Let's again say, for saying's sake, that 50 females bear five young apiece and they all live. That's 500 canis latrans[well she is no math whiz for sure]. If you gather all the lambs and throw in all the mamma ewes, at one critter per coyote, you still feed only 150 predators. Well, maybe 152. The buck would likely do for two. But with those odds, in less than a year, you're out of the sheep and the wool business. (Very few coyotes will shear the wool before they eat the animal). This leaves two-thirds of the poor coyotes hungry. Problem: Too many predators and not enough sheep. Not to fear, the solution is near. Recently, there was an article in the paper relating how a 50-year-old alligator had been dining on dogs for years. Seems the `gator would lurk in the bullrushes alongside a trail and await the passing of an unwary canine. Investigation reveals that a group calling themselves Alligator Friendly Wool, Inc. will rent, lease or sell dog and coyote-eating alligators to sheep and cattle ranchers to control the predator the predator population naturally.

Alligator Friendly Wool, Inc. is dedicated to rewarding livestock growers with added value if they agree not to kill the `gators. These growers will receive bonus payments on all their alligator wool. AFW, Inc. board members (comprised of formerly devout alligator haters, active ostrich ranchers, worm biologists and movie actors) plan to hype alligator wool as a specialty market. Would you be willing, asks AFW, Inc., to reach into your wallets to pay the extra cost for a fine pair of alligator mittens or caps or button covers because, as an enlightened consumer, you know the proceeds will go toward protecting wild alligators in the American West? However, Alligator Friendly Wool can only work if it receives the firm support of consumers, especially dog-owners. Once both sheep and coyotes are depleted, those wild `gators will be obliged to eat other domestic animals. Therefore, dog-owners must expect to absorb losses. If you are a two dog (or more) household, you will be required to tether your extra canines alongside the trail where wild alligators roam. When sheep, cattle coyotes, and dogs are all gone, what will be the next edible animal on Nature's food chain? Not to worry. Both Predator Friendly Wool Inc., and Alligator Friendly Wool, Inc. are looking into recovery and marketing of the Woolly Mammoth, a multipurpose animal. One shearing supplies enough wool to make yarn items for 15 New Emperor Clothing stores, enough low-fat meat for a gazillion environmentalists, retired movie stars, and all the personnel in any organization with "Inc." in its title, plus, a Woolly Mammoth can be counted on to stomp alligators.

Well that's the two articles. Its is unfortunate that I couldn't find serious articles detailing why Predator Friendly Wool is such a bad idea. However, I wonder if one exists. The whole conceptualization of Predator Friendly Wool is that people given the choice between the use of Predator Friendly Products and those not using such practices will use the Predator Friendly Products. By a cynical satirical attempt to use humor to ridicule the idea and practices of Predator Friendly Wool their attempt is to get locals actively working against the whole concept. While it shows the hate , fear, and concerns of those against Predator Friendly Wool, it also shows that with local opposition to the concept. The most effective way for Free Enterprise to work is to get the message of Predator Friendly Wool out to the American people. Still are the concerns of the Western Sheepman legitimate in saying that is such spread out areas the concept of Predator Friendly Wool can't work. The follow is a letter to the Editor from Steve Raftopoulos, President of the American Sheep Industry:

If we lose wildlife habitat, we also lose the wildlife that exists there

With noxious weeds destroying 4,6-- acres of federal land per day, it is encouraging to see the Rocky Mountain News bringing public attention to the biological wildfire that is raging out of control. The Aug. 4 edition of the News carried several excellent articles regarding the use of sheep grazing as a cost-effective and biologically safe means of controlling noxious weeds. It was disturbing, however, to see the extremist animal- rights position of the Sierra Club's Michael Smith toward sheep grazing. Smith framed his argument around the allegation that if we use sheep to control noxious weeds, we risk the extinction of Colorado's predators. The fact is that sheep have grazed in Colorado for more than 200 years, and as most Coloradans can attest, bear and cougars populations are near historic highs. Coyotes are just as common today as they were 100 years ago. In the meantime, Eurasian weeds like leafy spurge and knapweed have destroyed millions of acres of native grass range and wildlife habitat. These same weeds are causing heavy soil erosion and destroying Colorado's recreational opportunities as well as its aesthetic beauty. The Sierra Club needs to come to the realization that if we lose wildlife habitat, we also lose the wildlife and the predators that Smith contends her is protecting. In addition to the threat of alien weeds, Coloradans also face severe forest fire danger. it is time for the Sierra Club to abandon its radical policies opposing all logging, all grazing, all development, all everything, and begin working for constructive solutions that allow man and the environment to coexist in productive harmony.

Well that is the article. Knowing something of Colorado's history, I don't recall mention of sheep herds 200 years ago. Also one can order form ONRC, 522 S.W. 5th Ave., Suite 1050,Portland OR 97204 the complete report by Joy Belsky and Dana Blumenbthal, for $5, the complete report on the effects of grazing on western interior forests. Its interesting! For example it points out how grazing in such areas actually increases the fire danger in National Forests. The letter to the editor also doesn't mention that predators like Kit Foxes, Wolverines, Lynx, and many birds or prey are negatively effected by predator control. While coyotes may have a high number animals like the kit fox are at low numbers and can be drastically effected by predator control. The use of M-44's are still extensively used in the west.

Also not addressed is the effect of predator control on the population of predators. Extensive use of predator control, has been shown to increase the number of litters and numbers in a litter born to coyotes. Also, the resident population of coyotes may not be preying on livestock. If by random predator control, these coyote pairs are eliminated. Coyotes at greater densities who do prey on livestock may move in. Many livestock owners use extensive control of rodents on the range. They believe that livestock and range conditions are negatively effected by such rodents Such ranchers as the Lasater family in Matheson, Colorado do not control rodents. There they see an improvement in range conditions and have no problems with coyotes seeking an alternative food to the rodents. These rodents also support a large functioning ecosystem!

The final aspect not touched on by these ranchers are the crux of the purpose of Predator Friendly Wool. By the use of such as electric fencing, lambing sheds, and guard animals, they hope to reduce the need for predator control. The guard animals can be guard dogs, llamas or donkeys. All have shown to be effective. In the "Wildlife Society Bulletin" 20:55-62, 1992, William F. Andelt, Dept. of Fishery and Wildlife Biol., Colo. St. Univ. wrote up the results on his study of the use of guard dogs in Colorado. The report was entitled "Effectiveness of Livestock Guarding Dogs for Reducing Predation on Domestic Sheep." His findings were that: In general, producers without guarding dogs lost a greater proportion of their ewes and lambs from all causes and from coyotes than did producers with guarding dogs. Twenty of 22 producers that used guarding dogs in 1986 rated their dogs' predator control performance as excellent or good. Eleven producers estimated that each of their guarding dogs saved an average of $3,216 of sheep annually. The majority of producers also indicated that guarding dogs reduced their reliance on other predator control techniques and on predator control agencies. Twelve of 16 producers that used guarding dogs before, but not during, 1986 either were pleased with their performance or used dogs again after 1986. Guarding dogs may be a cost-effective method of reducing sheep mortality caused by predators for some producers in Colorado"

Indeed its important to talk about "cost-effectiveness. In 1993 the budget of the Animal Damage Control, a Federal Program to kill predators, was 36 million Only about 27,000 ranchers have permits to graze livestock on public land; yet 40 percent of ADC's budget is directed toward protecting livestock on these ranches. In 1986 there were 443 members of the Colorado Wool Growers Association. Of the 174 sheep producers answering the survey for Andelt's study, only 22 of 124 used in the study had guard dogs. This is the reason to get involved in purchasing Predator Friendly Wool and Meat products. As consumers in the society, you are the ultimate arbitrator who decides if such programs and practices will be successful in the long run

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This page last updated on May 12, 2001.