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.

http://www.lgd.org/

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

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

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.

The Sheer Joy of Sharing about Shearing

Friday was one of the most anticipated days of the year at the Glen Cauffman Farm: Shearing Day! Twice each year, our pampered goats donate their lustrous fleeces in this celebrated event, once before the winter and once again in the early spring.  Last week’s shearing marks the beginning of a new season when the herd repopulates and rejuvenates, bringing new life and an air of spring excitement to the farm.

Shearing day is significant in the time honored process of producing the beautiful, natural, and sustainable fibers of high-quality mohair wool. Our well-cared for goats seemed pleased to share their coats as a way of reciprocating the affection and attention given to them throughout the year. Each goat cooperatively participated in the occasion, almost as if to say, “Thank you for all the tender loving care. Here’s what I am giving back to you. Please do something beautiful with it.”

And beautiful their coats are, year after year! This shearing day was no exception, as many of our goats have been proven, through scientific evaluation of their hair, to produce mohair of superior quality! By day’s end, the entire herd stood ready to begin growing a new summer fleece for the next shearing in October.Shearing day gives us “cause to pause” and reflect upon how healthy and renewable mohair is, and how these little goats provide such great benefits to both industry and our environment. The delicate ringlets of fine hair from our four-legged family members contribute to making the most durable, comfortable, and fashionable material in the clothing market.

As this spring’s fleeces begin the journey from the farm to the fashion runway, we’re looking ahead to our next big event: kidding is just around the corner! We are so excited to say that we’re expecting many twins, maybe even triplets this year. Dozens of kids will be born soon, and the Cauffman Farm will again experience the bustle and fervor of new life in spring. Celebrate with us by checking in on the latest developments. We’ll have “baby pictures” for you soon!