for people who love the littlest dairy goats
I've been thinking a lot about getting a livestock guardian dog, and I'd really like to. I currently have just two doelings that live in a nice big pen, with a little barn. Right now I'm locking them in the barn at night (for about 8-9 hours) and let them out as soon as I wake up (which is pretty early), but I really don't want to do this permanently. The "barn" is only 9'x9', and I hate having them cramped in there all night. I'm in Arizona, so around here we have coyotes (which have been spotted on our land, despite it all being fenced), and we also have bobcats and mountain lions.
My question is, what breeds can be used as LGD's? I know most people use breeds like Great Pyrenees, or Anatolian, but I think it would be easier to convince my parents if I was looking at a smaller breed. Would something like a border collie or an Australian shepherd work? We have 4 German shepherds, but I can't use them because they have such a high... killing instinct, I suppose you would say.
Does it matter if the LGD is a male or female, and if they're fixed or intact?
LGDs must be large to be effective, and you really need one of the livestock guardian breeds because they have the temperament to chill out with livestock. Border collie and Australian shepherds are herding dogs, and they would drive your goats crazy if they were left with them all day.
Here's an example of the difference between one of our LGDs and our English shepherd -- if an LGD finds a raccoon or whatever, they kill them. Our Anatolian killed his first raccoon when he was 8 months old. He grabbed it and shook it until it was dead. One day we heard our English shepherd barking wildly in the yard next to our house. I went out there to find him running in circles around a opossum. Rather than kill it, he wanted to herd it, even though he had no idea where it should go.
Having fixed dogs is a much better idea when they are outside. Intact males are more likely to wander, and you can have a lot of trouble keeping a LGD home. Historically they were used to guard thousands of acres, so some of them can be a real challenge to keep fenced it. It is also important to know that there are cases where a coyote or even a wolf has gotten a dog pregnant, so if you have an intact female dog, you want to be sure that she is locked up when in heat so that you don't have any accidental breedings.
Okay, that definitely makes sense. I would plan on getting a fixed dog.
So the goat pen is about 30x40 ft (so about 1200 square ft?I used a calculator and that's what it said.) would that be to small for an LGD?
In my situation, would you recommend getting an LGD, or do you think it's okay that the two does spend the night in their "barn"?
I would just put the does in the barn at night. Our original milking stall was 10 x 10, which is where our milkers would spend the night, and my only complaint is that after about five or six does, the manure would build up insanely fast, so it's fine for two does overnight.
I would not put a LGD in a pen that small -- and actually, I will add for anyone else reading this, the only reason you can get away with having your goats in a pen that small and not rotating is because you're in Arizona, which is very dry and hot, so that is NOT a great home for intestinal worms on the pasture. The eggs and subsequent larvae in your goats' poop doesn't really have a chance for survival on pasture with zero moisture most of the time and extremely high temperatures that go way beyond 90 degrees.
Definitely makes sense. So for right now I'll keep doing what I'm doing, but in a few years when I have more does, I'll expand my pen and get an LGD.
Thanks for your quick responses!
We have no guard dogs - wouldn't work so well for us with our house dogs and all. We have good fencing - sheep and goat 4x4 inch squares - hot wire on the outside and lots of Niteguard flashing red lights on corner posts and gates - and I leave a radio playing in my milk area. We have cougars - bob cats and bears. Nothing has bothered us so far and when we let the animals roam the property I am usually close by or with them, or my husband is and our collie and terrior. My husband keeps game cameras in several places and if he sees any signs of danger to the goats he does a little target shooting hoping that keeps them on guard. he also checks the bank of the river for tracks often. All our animals are closed in to penned areas that join each other at night or if we leave during the day. They only roam when we are here which is most of the time. Hope this helps you a little.