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Guardian dogs keep sheep safe at Borderlands Farm

Loyal livestock guardian dogs and a saucy barn cat named Ernie play a key role in keeping the farm animals safe and content.

Gwen and Brody Marsonet began Borderlands Farm with Gwen’s parents Bryan and Beverly Barlow. Borderlands Farm specializes in the ‘Polypay Sheep’ a breed known for its quality fibre and meat production.

Loyal livestock guardian dogs and a saucy barn cat named Ernie play a key role in keeping the farm animals safe and content.

Each family member has brought their own skills and abilities to Borderlands Farm. This includes the working animals. Gwen Marsonet explains the historic importance of livestock guardian dogs.

“The breeds that you see most commonly doing this work have been doing it for hundreds of years. We have two livestock guardian dogs, they are the Kuvasz breed. They originated in Hungary and have been used for livestock protection there.”

Great Pyrenees are more common. Kuvasz are similar looking, white in colour but with smaller heads. Marsonet says they shed less too which is an added bonus.

Coyotes are the main predator in the Neebing area where the farm is located. Wolves are less common but also a concern.

“Since we’ve had sheep, coming up on three years, we have not had a single loss due to predators and we really credit the dogs with that.”

Marsonet notes that most sheep farms have Livestock Protection Dogs as an essential part of the flock. The dogs are trained from an early age to be bonded with the sheep and not so much the humans, it’s a delicate balance for the whole team. 

“They live with the sheep so they are socialized to sheep as opposed to being socialized to people.”

The breeds used for livestock guardian dogs are independent and their main focus is protecting their sheep family. Gwen’s father Bryan Barlow has taken on the role of trainer for the dogs, bonding the dogs to their human family and the sheep.

Ernie the cat contributes to the farm by deterring rodents and birds.

“He has a heated house in the barn mounted closer to the ceiling — he’s kinda spoiled — an igloo bed with a radiant heat pad and we also installed heat light in there. So it’s kinda tropical in his house.”

Marsonet  hopes to acquire another barn cat for Borderlands Farm through the Thunder Bay and District Humane Society’s barn cat program.

When Ernie was sick and in vet care for a few weeks, they noticed a big difference in his absence.

“All of a sudden we started seeing way more rodent activity. When he was away and out of commission for a bit his value became very clear.”

Borderlands Farm produces high quality lamb wool, meat and specialty garlic at their farmstead in Neebing. Be sure to check their website for more information and their Facebook page for updates on products and events.

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