VIDEO: Man’s best friend finds new buddies in emu farm
THEY may be known as man's best friend but, on one farm, dogs are better friends with emus.
Following signs of a possible fox problem, Marburg-based emu farmers Sarah and Steven Schmidt decided to dig their fox-proof fence a little deeper into the ground.
"We had never noticed a problem, because we had the fox fence," Ms Schmidt said.
"But suddenly they were digging under the fence so we put an extra fence around."
Then, on the advice of their friend, they looked into expanding their menagerie to accommodate puppies.
"It's like in the movie Oddball where they used the maremma (sheepdog) on the penguin island … the foxes were getting the penguins and they put the maremma out there and it kept the foxes away," Ms Schmidt said.
"Someone said to us we should get the maremmas - that would keep foxes out."
The way it works is simple - as long as you introduce maremma puppies to emu chicks while both animals are young.
"The pup and the baby chicks grow up together and the maremma protects the baby chicks and keep the foxes away," Ms Schmidt said.
"They are renowned for protecting flocks and apparently can look after sheep and cattle and all sorts."
Emu Heaven farms span two properties - one in Marburg on 20 acres and one in Coleyville on 100 acres.
Following breeding season, almost 900 emu chicks will be raised from the egg to maturity, across the two properties.
Six months ago, Sarah and Steven adopted four maremma puppies - Sky, Moon, Sun and Cloud - to integrate with their birds in preparation for breeding season.
Already, the animals are getting along.
"The dogs are fiercely protective of the chicks," Ms Schmidt said.
"And they seem quite happy together - the emus are fine with the dogs and the dogs are fine with the emus."
Emu Heaven was established in Marburg more than 20 years ago and expanded to a second property in Coleyville in the past five years.
The farm produces emu products including eggs, feathers and emu oil.
"The benefits of the oil are it's a natural anti-inflammatory, it has vitamin E, omegas 3, 5, 6 and 7 and vitamin K2," Ms Schmidt said.
"It's a very healthy oil."