Painted Hand Farm is a 20 acre Civil War era farm located in Cumberland county, Pennsylvania. We raise meat goats, veal calves, turkeys and organic vegetables using humane and sustainable agricultural practices.
Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGD)--large, aloof, independent breeds such as the Anatolian Shepherd, Kuvaz, Maremma, Burmese Mountain Dog, Komondor and of course, the Great Pyrenees. Unlike herding dogs that depend on livestock's inherent fear of predators, these gentle giants bond with the herd moving effortlessly among the flock.
Many producers choose to keep LGDs to ward off predators such as coyote and mountain lions. More often, as we have, producers employ LGDs to ward off neighbors' domestic dogs that roam free and harass livestock. However, LGDs can do much more than keep the flock safe as I found out yesterday during the morning feeding.
Although we interact with our herd of nearly 50 does daily, close inspection of each animal is not possible. We check for the obvious such as limping, scours, poor condition, etc., but subtle anomalies can be easily overlooked.
Two thirds of the herd is currently bred. After tossing hay, I was walking around the herd checking the girls out when I noticed El Jefe, our Great Pyrenees, was keen on one particular doe. His nose was glued to her hind end as she moved around to get at the hay. Taking a closer look, I realized the young doe had either aborted or was about to abort.
Thanks to my LGD identifying the problem, I was able to bring the doe out of the pasture and into the barn for close monitoring before additional problems, such as possible infection, occurred.
Many producers only factor in the cost savings of livestock protected from predators, however, a good working LGD can alert you to early problems within large herds and flocks, thus saving you even more effort and money in the long run.
Sandra is a witty writer, farmer and damn good cook who has been slicing her finger open on the cutting edge of the sustainable agriculture and local foods movements for the last twenty five years. Her books, How to Sell At Farmers Market and How To Kiss A Chicken On The Lips will be published in Spring 2013.