The Livestock Guardians of Pure American Naturals

In traditional agriculture, one of the biggest concerns facing livestock producers is predation of the flock. In ancient times, as today, one of the methods used to protect the flock was livestock guardian animals. From the common to uncommon, we’ll take a look at some of the animals used on the farm to protect the Angora herd of Pure American Naturals.
At least as far back as 6,000 years ago, the shepherds and goat herdsmen of what is now known as Turkey have been using dogs to protect their precious flocks. From that time gone by, the Anatolian Shepherd has been developed to safeguard his flock from bears, roving dogs, and wolves. Other breeds developed with the purpose of safeguarding livestock include the fluffy white Great Pyrenees and Italian Maremma, but don’t let those puffy coats fool you; these dogs are all business. While Collies and Australian Shepherds are commonly known to drive herds and flocks for the stockman, Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGDs) are bred with the sole intent of protecting their furry or wooly charges from predation, whether two-legged or four. In my own experience with LGDs I have seen two adolescent female Maremma, weighing a stout 80 pounds each, drive off a pack of coyotes with single-minded efficiency. At PAN we have employed Great Pyrenees guardians with great success.

In more recent years, research has shown that using lethal force (guns or traps) against predators, and particularly coyotes, has a staggering reverse effect on the population.  While the immediate drop in numbers provides a momentary lull in predator attacks, the wild dogs themselves rapidly reproduce to fill the void in the ecosystem.  For this reason a small but rising number of producers throughout the United States have turned to less commonplace means of protecting their stock and livelihoods.  Among the less common livestock protection animals to see a rise in popularity are llamas and donkeys.  These two animals have an instinctual hatred of dogs and will not hesitate to drive off a pack of coyotes in order to protect their smaller herd-mates.   When our last elderly LGD passed on, Glen researched and brought in two rescue llamas; Ms. Scarlet and Mr. White.  Since joining the herd, they’ve done a phenomenal job of patrolling and protecting the herds and remain ever vigilant in their duties.
From a home front standpoint, we also employ a rather odd looking creature as guardian of the gate.  Guinness the Guinea, who seems to have experienced an identity crisis, roosts with the Peafowl and will raise the alarm like the best guard dog at the approach of cars, delivery trucks, and errant falling leaves.  If his stunning good looks don’t attract your attention, his screech of alarm will most certainly turn your head.
From dogs to dodos, nee guinea fowl, we have employed a host of livestock guardians at Pure American Naturals to ensure the safety and sustainability of the herd.  As stewards of the land, we also take the guardians’ care very seriously. Just as we provide the highest level of caring for the herd of capricious goats they protect, we provide the fowl and llamas with the same level of holistic care.  If you are interested in learning more about livestock guardians, feel free to contact Christina or check out the following links.

Do You Need a Livestock Guardian Animal? Here’s What to Consider

Got Predators? Don’t Shoot. Get a Llama.

PA Preferred: A Collaborative Endeavor

Recently Pure American Naturals has been accepted for inclusion under the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s PA Preferred brand.  PA Preferred is the officially recognized branding program of products grown or made in Pennsylvania. Originally designed to help consumers easily identify products produced in Pennsylvania, the program has grown to include thousands of companies across the Commonwealth. From fresh fruits and vegetables to farmers’ markets, plant nurseries, fiber mills, restaurants, hardwood products, wineries, and Christmas trees, PA Preferred represents the dynamic diversity of the Keystone state’s agriculture.

The program is a collaborative effort between the State’s Department of Agriculture, its several thousand members, and the conscientious consumers who support the shop local, support local initiative.  With its bright blue and gold labeling, Pennsylvanians are able to shop for affordable, locally produced fruits and vegetables, wines, cheeses, and so much more.  This is where PAN comes in; our friendly little goats grow their lush mohair locks on little more than the high quality forages native to Pennsylvania, which is in turn milled into sustainably produced fashion items.  Our Pure American Naturals products are grown, milled, and produced all within the Commonwealth.  There are guidelines that allow the inclusion of a limited percentage of outside materials; the luxurious Merino wool used in our socks is produced in Texas, as part of our partnership with Hillingdon Ranch, however this is a minor percentage in the finished product.

For more information about the PA Preferred program, or to see if you may qualify as a PA Preferred Member, click here.

Mani/Pedi Day at the Farm


Just as with other hooved creatures, goat hooves grow continuously throughout their lifetime.  Due to a multitude of factors, including but not limited to nutrition, genetics, and environment, some goats naturally retain better hoof health than others.  Just as humans with poor posture experience aches and pains, goats that do not have proper hoof angles and maintenance can experience a decrease in their overall wellbeing.  When their hooves are misshapen they can lose condition, experience decreased appetite, and even risk becoming unhealthy.  We know from experience that the socks made from our goats’ lovely mohair help our feet feel amazing, we want to return the favor in ensuring our goats’ foot comfort, continued health and vitality.  For these reasons, we as stewards of the farm must strive to maintain optimum health of our cloven hooved friends.

About a month ago, in early December, a group of dedicated handlers came together at the Glen Cauffman Farm to provide manicures and pedicures for the Angora goats that make up the Pure American Naturals herd.  Among the group were farm owner Glen Cauffman, our favorite Holistic Veterinarian Dr. Judith Shoemaker, Herdsman Wyett Johnson, his lovely assistant Emily D, and yours truly.  I have found over the course of nearly two decades of experience with these capricious creatures, there are almost as many ways to trim the hooves on a goat as there are goat enthusiasts in the world.  From the tools used, to the method of restraint, the old adage about there being more than one way to accomplish a task certainly holds true to trimming goat hooves.  As owner and herdsman to a small dairy herd, I train my does to jump up onto their milking stand twice a day for milking.  This method enables me to comfortably examine them for body condition, coat condition, and overall health.  Because they know they’ll get a little grain for cooperating, hoof trimming is generally a relaxed, pleasant experience with my small, mixed herd.  On a larger scale operation, such as the Pure American Naturals herd of over 150 Angora goats; visually inspecting and manually trimming hooves requires a slightly different tactic.  Here, we use a mechanical device which safely and securely lifts and flips each goat into a cradle so that they may have their hooves trimmed in a calm, relaxed manner.  This device, which was specifically designed for the safety and wellbeing of sheep and goats, also ensures that the handlers involved with hoof trimming aren’t sporting aching backs at the end of the day.

Once in position, each hoof is visually inspected to determine how much overgrowth may need to be removed.  The goats here typically only require quarterly hoof trimmings, though some do receive more frequent maintenance.  Hoof trimming for the entire herd is usually broken up over a series of days, allowing the handlers to work at a comfortable pace and avoiding over exertion.  A full grown Angora buck (male) can weigh in the neighborhood of 200 pounds, does (females) tend to range between 80 to 150 pounds, depending on stage of life.  Using the hi-roller apparatus for all but the largest bucks allows the handlers to easily restrain each goat, without fear of back strains or danger to the animal.

The actual trimming process is completed with specialized hoof trimming shears, which are carefully maintained to ensure a sharp edge. This in turn ensures each trim is done quickly and with minimal trauma to the goat or handler.  Dull blades can lead to improper hoof angle due to irregular cuts, strained hand and wrist from struggling to trim the hard hoof material, and overall undue stress to the handler and goat as dull blades slow the process.  With the sharp shears in hand, the handlers carefully remove any debris from the hoof and trim excess growth to maintain proper hoof and leg angle (see images below).  With practice and patience, we routinely trim roughly 50 goats in a single day, with little to no stress to our beloved Angoras or ourselves.

At the time of trimming, each goat is also checked for body condition, FAMACHA score, and weight.  These factors all play a part in the maintenance and selection process of the herd; goats with chronic hoof issues, as well as those individuals with chronic immune defficiency, are considered for removal from the breeding herd as these concerns correlate to subpar mohair production and decreased reproductive vigor.  The timing of hoof trimming and overall herd health checks is also carefully planned; the next trimming will be due prior to the time the does are due to start kidding.  At that time, they will have been shorn of their winter locks and will be ready to be mothers and venture out into the spring pastures with their kids and begin growing their luxurious summer attire while teaching the newest members of the herd which forages are the most delicious.

Love Is In The Air, But Not For Long!

A handsome young buck and his lady love slip away from the herd for a little romance.

Fall has given way to winter here in central Pennsylvania, and with that the breeding season has come and gone.  Here at Pure American Naturals we employ a short, 4-6 week breeding period to ensure that our lovely matriarchs are kidding, or giving birth, during the verdant month of April. With its gentler weather, green grass and sunshine, April breathes new life into all members of the farm. The main goal of Pure American Naturals is to maintain a sustainable symbiosis between the herd and the land on which it grazes.  By maintaining a short window of breeding opportunity, we are creating natural selection for high reproductive efficiency and ease of management.  And we are able to reduce the strain placed on the handlers during kidding time by reducing the number of nights they have to monitor the moms, so that mothers can give birth safely and the kids can be assisted, if necessary, in getting their first meals of colostrum and in staying  warm in the nursery.

A mature buck surveying his harem.

In the two weeks prior to being introduced to their intended suitors, each doe, or female goat, is given a pre-breeding diet of increased grains, in addition to the nutrient rich Alfalfa hay and mixed pasture forage she enjoys. This improved nutritional plane tends to improve overall productivity and has even increased the rate of twinning in some herds.  Each step in the process is taken with a keen eye towards sustainability; we want our herd to remain happy and healthy as they bring new life to the farm, in turn they can put their energy towards growing the luscious locks of fiber that our partners have come to know and appreciate. Furthermore, by maintaining a high level of breeding efficiency, we are reducing the amount of stress placed on the does by the exuberant advances of the breeding bucks, which also benefit by not being allowed to wear themselves out chasing the ladies!

PAN Nominated for 2014 Martha Stewart American Made Award

Martha Stewart - American Made 2014 - Nominee Badge We here at Pure American Naturals are happy to announce we have been nominated for a 2014 Martha Stewart American Made Award! We feel quite honored to be a nominee for this prestigious accolade, so we wanted to share our good news with everyone.

We pride ourselves not just on our sustainable products, farm, pastures and processes, but also on our high quality mohair fibers and yarns. Our animals are treated humanely and happily live in our beautiful pastures among the rolling hills of Central Pennsylvania. Happy goats mean top quality fiber for our mohair, which means top quality apparel and our featured Reward mohair socks. This urban-farm connection feeds into Americans’ increasing need to buy products that aren’t just made here in America but are also environmentally friendly.

The Martha Stewart American Made Awards spotlight “the next generation of great American makers: entrepreneurs, artisans, and small-business owners who are creating beautiful, inspiring, useful products; pioneering new industries; improving local communities; and changing the way we eat, shop, work, and live.” The fact that Pure American Naturals is included in this elite group of nominees tells us we must be doing something right! It means that our apparel, mohair and the way we do business is being recognized as a forerunner of the shift in the way Americans are looking at the environment and what we can all be doing to help Mother Nature.

Our highest priority is sustainability. We believe in “eco-fashion” – the idea that a company can be socially responsible, “green” and Earth friendly and still create an excellent product. The end result is satisfaction in knowing what we produce will have a minimal impact on the environment and will help with other sustainability efforts.

Get more information about the 2014 Martha Stewart American Made Awards. And for more information on Pure American Naturals, call 717-580-1416 or Contact Us.