Keep Your Goats Safe!

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There are many predators who would like to have your goats for dinner.  Coyotes and neighborhood dog packs are probably the most common predators to domestic goats, but wolf, bear, and cougar populations are also on the rise, adding to the risk our goats run.  Humans have also been know to steal goats, even though they may not be the most commonly thought of predators.  How can we keep our goats safe?  There are a number of precautions to make your goats as safe as possible.

Secure your fencing.  Preventing your goats from roaming and keeping predators from entering their space can help reduce losses immensely.  A hot wire along the top and bottom of the fence is a good deterrent to predators.  Be sure to check it frequently to be sure it is not shorting out anywhere.

Keep your goats locked up at night if you have a lots of predators, or very bold ones. Our goats are allowed to come and go from the barn to the pasture at will during the night because our livestock guardian dogs (LGD) keep the predators from coming near.  If you do not have livestock guardians, or if you have a lot of predators, it is good to keep the stock locked up at night.

Clean up after kiddings quickly.  Let the doe or LGD eat the afterbirth or bury it quickly.  Also be sure any animal that dies is disposed of quickly - and don't throw the carcase out in the woods or out a ways for the coyotes, it will just bring them that much closer to your farm and may encourage them to try out some of the live animals.

Keep young kids safe.  Young kids are the easiest prey.  They should be kept in a well secured area.  Kids with their dams are less prone to predation than kids that are raised away from the herd.  An LGD can be a good caretaker for kids raised separately.  They can even protect the kids if they are not in the same pen as the kids.  Small kids can be carried off by large birds of prey, so keep that in mind also.  A good LGD can protect against airborn predators as well.

Get a Livestock Guardian!

Even with all the precautions taken above, there are still animals that can get through and try to eat your goats.  The most common approach to protecting livestock is probably aProtecting livestock livestock guardian animal.  Usually a dog of one of the livestock guardian dog (LGD) breeds.  Llamas and donkeys have also been used as livestock guardians, but I do not have any first hand experience with them.  Livestock guardian dogs have been bred for hundreds of years to protect livestock, primarily sheep and goats, from all their predators.  Most LGD breeds primarily work by marking their territory and barking.  This keeps the predator from even coming close to your herd.  They smell the dog, hear his warning bark and decide to find an easier meal.  If the predator isn't smart enough, or is hungry enough to take the risk, they will find a strong, brave dog who is ready to give his life, if needed, to protect his herd.  Actually, he should find at least two dogs at least as they do best in teams.  A pack of coyotes can take down a single dog, but if you have two or more, the dogs are much more likely to win.

A well bred LGD that is brought up correctly is worth his weight in gold.  In addition to preventing losses of stock to predators, they have a very active part in the day-to-day care of the herd as well.  The herd comes to depend on the dogs to go with them when they go out to pasture, return to the barn when he gives a warning bark, and look after them if one gets hurt.  My Maremma is really good about knowing when a goat is sick or not feeling well.  He checks each doe several times a day - sniffing down their spine and checking to be sure all is well.  They can also alert you to when something is amiss outside.  From a stranger visiting to the goats being out or stuck in the fence, they seem to have a bark for each situation.  We just have to learn to understand what they are telling us! 

A good LGD will also help with births - cleaning the kids, protecting them from aggressive goats and predators, cleaning up the afterbirth, birthing fluids and still born kids (keeping smells from predators as well as making things cleaner) and will also help clean the doe.  Young dogs & puppies should always be supervised with young kids and especially at birthings, but once they are older, and have proven themselves to be reliable, they are invaluable - especially when there is a birth that you cannot attend.


Tips if You Know Predators are in Your Area: