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Posted by GoatWorld on November 30, 2002 at 18:42:01:

Burros make great farm watchdogs

Scripps Howard News Service

MORRISTOWN, Tenn. — Jim Hipshire was almost to the top of the hill when the burros came into view. With their erect ears, long eyelashes and brown eyes, they looked more like refugees from a petting zoo than agents of predator control.

“They’re good watchdogs, too,” said Hipshire. “Anybody who comes to the house, (the burros) bray, be it friend or foe.”

Hipshire lives on a 130-acre farm not far from Morristown in Hamblen County. He raises cattle — about 40 head, not including calves — as well as goats. Twenty years ago free-ranging dogs raided his goat herd during the spring kidding season, and not long after that, a pack of dogs dragged down and killed two yearling calves that weighed 500 to 600 pounds apiece.

But it was only after coyotes started to immigrate into the county that Hipshire got serious about predator control. He considered using stock dogs, particularly Great Pyrenees, but a friend suggested wild burros, and to him that sounded even better.

Hipshire purchased his first two wild burros 10 years ago at a Bureau of Land Management auction held at the livestock center in Mascot. One was a jack, the other a jenny. He named them Jack and Jenny.

Today Hipshire has seven burros guarding his livestock. In addition to Jack and Jenny there’s Pepe, Lolita, Barnaby, Babalouie and Pedro. Four of the burros were bought at Bureau of Land Management auctions, and three were born on his farm.

The BLM periodically sells free-ranging horses and burros to qualified buyers through its Adopt-A-Horse-or-Burro program. The program, which was started under the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971, allows federal managers to remove excess wild horses and burros from public lands that are being overgrazed.

The wild horses sold at auction are descended from animals released by Spanish explorers, the U.S. Cavalry or American Indians, while the burros’ ancestors worked in mines.

Hipshire said his burros once roamed the plains of Arizona and Nevada, and that it took him a year before he could even pet them.

“They were wild, and they were scared,” Hispshire said. “They didn’t even know what sweet feed was. But I could tell they were a lot smarter than most of the animals I fool with.”

Hipshire said he hasn’t had a single goat or head of cattle killed since his burros arrived. The only real setback occurred when one of his new burros killed his cat.

“When they see a cat, they see a small mountain lion,” he said. “When they see a dog, they see a wolf.

“They’re not like horses, or even donkeys. They don’t like carrots, but they do enjoy sweet feed and chewing tobacco.”

Hipshire said his small herd of burros tends to stick together. The pastures on his farm are broken up by pine thickets and patches of woods. When the cattle congregate around the stock pond, the burros follow, and when the herd settles down for the night, the burros are among them.

Hipshire said it’s not unusual for him to look up while he is mowing a field and see a coyote following the tractor, looking for rabbits and field mice. One summer afternoon a few years ago, he watched his burros chase a coyote out of the woods, down a hill and off the farm.

Hipshire said that while the burros’ hind legs are plenty formidable, it’s their front hooves that do the job.

“I’ve been kicked, and I can tell you the front feet are more dangerous than the back feet,” he said.

There’s a railway not far from Hipshire’s farm. At night he can hear the train come by, and sometimes the train whistle acts like a coyote call.

“They hear that whistle, and they really cut a shine,” Hispshire said.

“Coyotes are sneaky. They’ll take a newborn calf,” he said. “That hasn’t happened in a long time. When I hear my burros bray at night, I know there’s a coyote on the run.”

Copyright ©2002 - The San Angelo Standard-Times is an E.W. Scripps newspaper

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