The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services division has saved dairy operations and others in Curry and Roosevelt counties an estimated $2 million through a program that captures and kills coyotes, according to USDA officials.
Brian Archuleta, New Mexico southeast district supervisor for the USDA, said coyotes are an issue for dairies because they kill and injure calves.
Archuleta said there was $7,000 worth of actual damage done to Roosevelt County dairy calves in the last fiscal year (July 2011-June 2012) and more than $31,000 worth for Curry County dairy calves.
He estimates the USDA saved Roosevelt County more than $90,000 in the last fiscal year and $1.1 million for Curry County with its proactive program of capturing and killing coyotes.
"Our program is designed to help city and county entities with issues regarding predators," Archuleta said. "Anybody in Roosevelt County having problems with predators, whether dairy or other, can call and request our assistance, because they are part of a contract."
Archuleta and local Roosevelt County dairy officials said coyotes don't bother cows for fear of being trampled, but prey on the much smaller calves instead.
Archuleta said Roosevelt County has contracted the USDA for full-time services and Curry County for part time services.
Roosevelt County pays the USDA $33,000 annually for full time services.
He said along with euthanizing coyotes for dairies and others, USDA officials also provide suggestions for keeping coyotes away from vulnerable animals. Among them, erecting wire fence that extends to the ground.
"We're only allowed to work on properties which request our assistance," Archuleta said. "Right now (for 2012) in Roosevelt County, we've had 37 calves killed with a dollar damage of $26,500."
Roosevelt County dairymen agreed that wire fencing is the best way to keep coyotes out, along with keeping dogs around a dairy.
Abraham Davalos, foreman for Western Star Dairy in Roosevelt County, said they keep their calves in calf hutches with 48-inch tall wire fence around it.
He said with the fence , his dairy only had to call the USDA one time and that was to remove a skunk.
Alice Visser, co-owner of Parkland Dairy in Roosevelt County, said she keeps three dogs on her dairy for a reason.
"They get close and these guys forewarn us," she said of her dogs, adding that coyotes have never eaten her live calves, only the dead ones.
"They don't mess with cows either," she said. "They look at them and go 'oh, that's bigger than me.'"
Archuleta said Roosevelt County is important to the USDA program because there is so much rural area with predators in the county.
"They are getting a big bang for their buck on the amount of damage we prevent," Archuleta said of Roosevelt County.