WASHINGTON (AP) _ When cows and sheep are herded together, coyotes are more likely to stay away, Agriculture Department researchers say.

In a three-year study, conducted on the 193,000-acre Jornada Experimental Range near Las Cruces, N.M., losses were reduced from half a flock of about 150 sheep to none.

''We've seen a cow face down a coyote more than once and force it to make a hasty exit,'' range scientist Dean Anderson said.

USDA said sheep losses to coyotes cost ranchers about $5 million a year.

Putting cows and sheep on the same range also had environmental benefits, Anderson said. Overgrazing was less of a problem because cattle eat mainly grass, and sheep prefer shrubs and broadleaf plants.

And it's an inexpensive way to fight herd losses from marauding coyotes, the department said. Fencing costs that can approach $2,000 a mile for sheep may be cut in half and training the sheep to assimilate with the cows runs at most 50 cents per lamb, researchers said.

The training costs drop when more sheep are added to the original group.

Anderson and the other researchers started by grouping young sheep and calves in small paddocks, adding guard dogs for ''extra insurance.''

Anderson recommended penning seven sheep and three cows together for the bonding period.

Researchers hope to identify which sheep form the strongest bonds with their 1,200-pound protectors and then breed that trait into other sheep.

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WASHINGTON (AP) - The Agriculture Department is proposing that Germany be declared free of two destructive livestock diseases, clearing the way for the import of more meat and dairy products into the United States.

Because there is limited U.S. demand for German livestock products, the department said Monday it does not expect the proposal to have a major impact on current trade patterns.

Billy Johnson of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said the proposal is based on information provided by the German government and on inspections the department performed overseas.

The agency considers declaring a country free of foot-and-mouth disease and rinderpest, both communicable diseases, if no cases are reported and no animals vaccinated for at least a year.

Germany has not had a case of rinderpest, a virus that afflicts cattle and bison, since 1870.

Vaccinations for foot-and-mouth disease, a highly infectious disease of cattle and other cloven-hoofed animals, ended in 1991, with the last major outbreak in Germany occurring in 1988.