Vultures cause ire in calving season

Vultures cause ire in calving season


Mike Young has to keep his eyes on the sky around this time of year if he wants to protect his cattle.Young, of Anna, tends to about 25 cattle on his farm, and his calving season is fast approaching. Fords DN Blank rail NEWS shortWhether the season proves successful for Young depends in part on whether he can keep flocks of black vultures from preying on his newborn calves.”

They’re a really big problem for me and other farmers that are raising cattle,” Young said. “They can be a big cost to farmers. They only got one from me last year, but I have to bring my cows close to the house and really watch them.”

Kentucky has two types of vultures, and while the black and turkey vultures typically feed on the decaying flesh of dead animals, the black vulture is considered more aggressive and has been known to attack live prey.

Documented incidents of black vultures actually feeding on newborn cattle are rare, but the threat the birds pose is serious enough for farmers living near a roost to take precautions.

The black vultures are very common in any county across the state, according to Bill Lynch, wildlife biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.”You can find roosts that can number from as little as 50 up to 300 birds,” said Lynch, who covers Warren and seven other counties. “The Barren River reservoir has plenty of perch sites and feeding opportunities there.”

Lynch said he has received phone calls from farmers who have complained of vulture predation, with accounts of the birds feeding on newborns.Without performing an autopsy within 24 hours of a reputed kill, though, the accounts cannot be verified.”

Another issue with black vultures, since they are more hardy and a little bit more aggressive, they will land on fences and watch a cow giving birth and go after the afterbirth,” Lynch said. Lynch gets around six calls a year between November and March regarding black vultures threatening farmers.

The birds are federally protected and cannot be hunted without obtaining a permit through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.Farmers often resort to other measures to get the vultures to abandon their roosts.

Keith Stucker, district supervisor for the Louisville office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, said loud noises can be employed to harass the birds and get them to roost elsewhere.”

We certainly do get complaints of black vultures killing livestock, particularly calves, typically as the calf is being born,” Stucker said. “A lot of people use pyrotechnics … which resemble fireworks.”

The disturbance regime has to be implemented several nights in a row from around 30 minutes before sunset until 30 minutes after sunset, when the birds typically arrive at the roost, according to information on the state fish and wildlife department’s website.

The loud noises can disturb neighbors as well, which is a concern that Young has.”I’ve had to go down there and load calves in trailers and trucks and load them in the barn to keep the buzzards away from them,” Young said. “I’m not that big of a farmer. … If they knock one or two out of your herd, that’s a big hurt for someone as small as I am.”

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