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On guard! - Why this farmer uses donkeys to protect his sheep

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Sean McNamara.

Sean McNamara.

Sean McNamara.

Short of staying up all night on sentry duty, what can sheep farmers do to protect their flocks from predators as lambing season approaches?

Sean McNamara of the ICSA has one rather surprising solution - get yourself a donkey!

Since he acquired a pair of donkeys a number of years ago, Sean has suffered no losses to stray dog attacks to his Westmeath flock. Why?

"Because they chase anything out of the field that they are not familiar with, it's an old practice," he says. The trick, Sean says, is to rear the donkeys with the sheep. Ideally you should have two as they get lonely.

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The donkeys with Sean McNamara's flock in Ballymacaffrey, Co Westmeath

The donkeys with Sean McNamara's flock in Ballymacaffrey, Co Westmeath

The donkeys with Sean McNamara's flock in Ballymacaffrey, Co Westmeath

"Once sheep and donkeys are reared together they bond and the donkeys become great guard dogs," he says. "I've seen mine bray and then chase dogs out of fields entirely.

"And they will kick if they get the chance. Miniature ponies can be trained in the same way."

The donkey's natural herding instinct means if properly bonded to the sheep, it will stay with them most of the time.

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