Pica - what an ass!
Warning! there is some sensitive subject matter in this post. Sadly, some things that happen in farm life are considered inappropriate for polite company. Apologies in advance.
Up until I left home in the late 70s, the neighborhood around home was populated with people solidly anchored in the local agricultural scene in one way or another. Almost everybody who lived around us was either actively farming, or had grown up on a farm and was commuting to town for work. There was a few that were trying to farm and supplement their income working in the oil patch. Both farming and the local oil patch are seasonal and the seasons meshed together fairly well.
Uncontrolled dogs and strays have almost always been a problem. I remember as a kid having to deal with the issue on occasion, but because both the dog owner and the livestock owner had the same background, the issue rarely went beyond a warning. If it did go further, there was mutual understanding that livestock harassment could not, and would not be tolerated. Period. The livestock owner was understood to be well within his rights to solve the problem himself if it persisted. Dogs that strayed from home were never taken home more than once.
In the 80s, things began to change. Farms got bigger, more people worked off the farm and rented the land out, and the old guard who had farmed there for decades and were the backbone of the community began to pass on. Often the land was left to family that had never worked on the farm, had no connection with the community, and had no clue as to what was involved in country life. It was quite common for people finding themselves suddenly owning the family homestead to move back to their roots and continue working in town.
One of the first things people seem to do when they move to the country is to get a dog. Every farm in the area has a dog, and often more than one. To be fair, most country folk have an affection for a well behaved companion, and a well trained dog can save herdsmen many steps and a lot of grief. An untrained dog can wreak havoc. With the influx of new residents came a flood of poorly trained, ill mannered canines, often left to their own devices through the day. The new residents seemed to think there was no reason to contain their pets as they were, after all, in the midst of the wide open spaces.....
The issue blew up when the dogs left to their own devices, began to stray, pack up, and harass livestock on nearby farms. These dogs were not afraid of people, and were savvy enough to be home on the front steps waiting for their owners to arrive back home after work. After a series of incidents in which the dogs had packed up chased animals like horses and cows sometimes putting them through fences and even injuring them or aborting unborn calves the atmosphere began to get pretty tense. Livestock owners would recognize the dogs on sight, go to the owners to complain about Fido's antics who would either flatly deny, or promise to keep the dogs under control only to leave Fido to his own devices within the week for a repeat performance. The situation escalated to the point where ultimatums were tossed back and forth along the lines of "Keep Fido at home or he won't come home" and "You do that and we'll call the cops"....
After one of these exchanges, one livestock owner attempted to deal with the problem as had always been done. Click, Click, BOOM! But the dog was not killed, only wounded. Fido managed to drag himself home and crawl up on the door step where his owners found him when they got home from work. They did what you would expect city folk to do. They dragged Fido to the vet and ran up several hundred dollars in vet bills before Fido finally expired. Now the fight was on. The fallout polarized the neighborhood, half saying the dog should never have been shot, and the other half saying that if Fido had been home where he belonged, there would be nothing to talk about. The police got involved. Charges were laid and a claim made for the vet bills. Counter charges were laid and claims made for livestock vet bills and loss of livestock. As it was largely a case of he said, they said with no independent witnesses and little hard evidence, the charges on both sides were eventually dropped, but the rift in the community remained.
Meanwhile, the rest of the pack and their owners had not learned the lesson. One fall morning, on his way to work in the field, Dad saw his cow herd in a field where they weren't supposed to be. Thinking hunters may have left some gates open, he went over to the herd to investigate. As he got closer, he could plainly see that the cows were bunched up, riled up, tired as if they'd been running, and several had fresh barbwire cuts. Dad back trailed the cows through breaks in two cross fences back to the field they'd been in. All the tracks were fresh. Seems Fido's pack had come to visit.
Since the community was pretty tight knit and not all that big, Dad was well acquainted with all the parties involved in the previous events laid out above. He was also keenly aware of the shift in population and attitudes towards toward pets, livestock, and the use of guns as a solution. Lastly he knew he couldn't watch the cows 24/7 or they would have no feed come winter. What to do?
True to his heritage of innovation and making do, Dad found a solution to the stray dog issue that was both effective and unique in that neighborhood. He bought a mammoth donkey named Pica. Turns out, donkeys have managed to retain their dislike of predators and absolutely hate anything feline or canine. They will not even fully trust the farm's loyal dog. The farm's dogs soon learn to give them a wide berth. Donkeys will also adopt the farm's herds of cows or sheep if properly socialized. Guard donkeys like guard dogs like Great Pyrenees guard dogs stay with the herd 24/7 and will vigorously defend the herd from anything canine, be it wild or domestic.
At the end of the grazing season, Dad brought home the cows as usual. After the daily routine was established, he went and got his new guard donkey from the breeder. He put the donkey in a catch corral off the side of the cows wintering pen. That corral was used for branding, neutering, weaning, treating, and loading out as required. It also had no water. This meant Dad had to take Pica to water every day as part of the chore routine. Dad did this by leading Pica to the automatic waterer the cows used and gradually working up to the point where they would take a tour through the cow herd as they made their way back to Pica's corral after Pica had his daily drink of water. After a while, Dad didn't even need the halter shank. He'd simply put his hand under Pica's chin and Pica would follow along. So started the bond between owner and donkey and between donkey and herd. By the next spring, Pica was well and truly bonded to his adopted herd. All dad's problems with dog packs and coyotes were over. For the price of feed and water for one donkey, he got 24/7 companionship and protection for his cow herd. Eventually, they found other duties for Pica in the offseason, more about that another time maybe.