Foxes & agriculture: Foxes and other livestock

A close up a young piglet
Fox predation on piglets is generally low with reported losses up to 5%

Fox predation on other livestock is generally low. The only animals at risk are piglets in pre-weaning age but even so, reported losses are limited. For example, a study in Germany assessed causes of death of pre-weaning piglets in indoor and outdoor units. Piglets deaths were higher in the outdoor units but were due largely to husbandry practices rather than predation.

Another study based on a questionnaire survey of British pig producers found that fox predation was low but about half of the 48 producers surveyed (54%) reported at least one piglet lost to a fox. The proportion of piglets born that were reported killed by a fox was on average 0.3% and losses were up to 5%.

Pig producers with more sows reported higher predation levels and the location of the farm was also important. Reported losses were lower in eastern England and the Midlands and higher in farms located near villages. This might be due also to dog predation rather than fox predation alone as bites by medium-sized dogs and foxes are indistinguishable.

Question & Answer

TopIs it possible to reduce piglet mortality?

Four piglets stading in a fieldIn specific cases where fox predation is a problem, electric fencing is effective in reducing predation.

However, on most farms where losses are low, it is not economically worthwhile to maintain fencing and the most cost-effective strategy for pig producers is to tolerate some losses to foxes. In these cases, the cost of fencing would probably equal the financial gain due to reduced fox predation.

TopWhat is the cost of fox predation on piglets?

Across Britain, predation by foxes costs pig producers £966,000 each year.

References

  • Baker, P., Harris, S. & White, P.C.L. (2006) After the hunt - the future for foxes in Britain. International Fund for Animal Welfare, London.

Download After the hunt. (PDF file, 1.7 Mb). Available with permission from IFAW

  • Harris, S. & Baker, P.A. (2008) Red fox Vulpes vulpes. In: Mammals of the British Isles: handbook 4th ed. (Eds D. Yalden & S. Harris). The Mammal Society, London.
  • Mauch, C.P. & Bilkei, G. (2005) [Influence of indoor and outdoor production on preweaning mortality of piglets.] Tierarztliche Umschau 60, 87-90. In German.
  • Moberly, R.L., White, P.C.L. & Harris, S. (2002) The costs of foxes to agricultural interests in Britain. Report to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Southwater, West Sussex.