Farming systems and environment

Managing livestock using animal behavior: mixed-species stocking and flerds*

D. M. Andersona1 c1, E. L. Fredricksona2 and R. E. Estella1

a1 USDA-ARS-Jornada Experimental Range, P.O. Box 30003 MSC 3JER, Las Cruces, NM 88003, USA

a2 Department of Agriculture, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, KY 40475, USA


Mixed-species stocking can foster sound landscape management while offering economic and ecological advantages compared with mono-species stocking. Producers contemplating a mixed-species enterprise should reflect on several considerations before implementing this animal management strategy. Factors applicable to a particular producer's landscape must be considered together with goals and economic constraints before implementing mixed-species stocking. A major consideration when using mixed-species stocking is how to deal with predation losses, especially among small ruminants. An approach being adopted in some commercial operations capitalizes on using innate animal behaviors to form cohesive groups of two or more livestock species that consistently remain together under free-ranging conditions. These groups are referred to as flerds. The mixing of a flock of sheep and/or goats with a herd of cattle into a flerd has been shown to protect sheep and goats from coyote predation, as well as offering other husbandry advantages. Some of the added advantages include more efficient conversion of forage into animal protein. Creation of flerds, their maintenance and advantages are discussed.

(Received June 15 2011)

(Accepted December 16 2011)

(Online publication February 10 2012)


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* Mention of a trade name does not constitute a guarantee, endorsement, or warranty of the product by the USDA-ARS or New Mexico State University over other products not mentioned.