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The Aspiring Farmer Blog
Dogs, after escaping, decide on a little nap near the well-house.
Before we got our LGDs we did a ton of research. I talked to some experts, some breeders, our TN extension agent that specializes in LGDs and goats, and I read and read online. There’s really some fantastic resources out there if you just keep digging. There's always two sides to a coin and for a lot of decisions we would have to take a stand on one side of the fence. Well, one piece of advice was universally on one side all the time. Get your livestock before you get your dogs.
Simple enough. So that’s what we did. Aside from Sophie (who was a last minute gift, so we couldn’t avoid that one), we waited to get the adult LGDs (Izzy and Sheba) until we had some goats and we felt comfortable enough with our situation to introduce them to dogs. After a week or two with the goats we decided to pick up our dogs (we had finalized an agreement earlier in the year for a flexible pick-up date) and everything went very smoothly. The dogs got along great with the goats (aside from a little assertiveness from our herd queen) and it was less stressful than I anticipated.
BUT. No one told us to keep the stock with the dogs at ALL times. The LGDs are mostly nocturnal and they need something to protect at night as well, or they might get bored and run away. We bring the does into a separate, smaller area at night for milking and that's where they stay until after morning milking. We thought if the dogs and goats were together all day and then separate at night that it would be OK. After all, they were only separated by maybe 100 feet and a fence, not that big of a deal, right? WRONG. The dogs were not happy and, in fact, I think they took it as a sign that the goats weren’t theirs to protect. One girl in particular (Izzy) felt dejected. I could see it in her eyes.
But what do we do? Here’s two brand new dogs that we don’t really know yet and we’re supposed to lock them in the goat area at night? It’s a pretty big area, so there’s lots of room, but what if they got in a little disagreement and injured (or killed) a goat? We didn’t want to take that risk right away. What I SHOULD have done was just put up a cattle panel separator during the night so that the dogs only had a thin barrier between them and the goats. That would let the dogs and goats touch noses, sit along the fence together and still feel like they were supposed to be together. By taking the goats away each night we were sending the wrong signal.
So after a couple escape tricks by the LGDs we learned to trust them and now we leave them in with the goats all the time. Including inside the electrically fenced paddocks in the field. Now we’re on to the next dilemma: What do you do when you have a bunch of electrically fenced paddocks that all need protection?
Get more dogs? We know a lady that has 20 LGDs! Seriously, for something like 300 goats. She runs them in smaller herds to clear land all over the USA. It’s quite impressive. But do we want that many dogs? Could we afford to feed them ($25-$30/week/dog)? I don’t know if that’s the answer.
Should we have some dogs that are only designated to protect the perimeter and some that stay with just the doe (and kids) goat herd? Will the perimeter dogs then get bored since they don’t have an official herd of their own? Also, the pigs, bucks, chickens and whatever other creatures we have out in the fields won’t have their own protection. Hmmm. Farm dilemmas, they’re never ending.
We’ll keep you posted on what we come up with. Until then, these two are sticking with the does.
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