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 Maremmas, 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 to 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.

Made in America Meets Sustainability

We’re different. Pure American Naturals (PAN) combines the Made in America ethos with environmental sustainability to produce high-quality, humane products.

We know where our yarn comes from. Do you?

What is Pure American Naturals?

PAN is a producer of luxurious mohair and merino wool blend yarns and fashions.   Every facet of the PAN mission is American made and processed, from the goats on our farm to the spinneries that create our yarn. See for yourself: Visit our farm.

Why Pure American Naturals?

  • Humane treatment of animals ensures high-quality fibers.
  • Sustainable practices means helping to protect our planet.
  • American-made products from American-based companies.

The difference is with our animals.

  • Mohair shearing of Angora goats takes place twice a year; merino shearing of sheep takes place once a year.
  • Each fleece is uniquely bagged and identified.
  • Quality control ensures removal of foreign materials and stained and low-quality fibers

The difference is with our people.

  • Carding (using wire brushes to comb the mohair and wool to align fibers in parallel) is carefully done by our people and our machines.
  • Our partner network of spinneries use precision and attention to detail to create yarns that are strong, unique and luxurious

The difference is with you.

  • The initial process ends with you using our yarns to knit or weave fashionable garments.
  • Using our products means helping to promote American-made, sustainable products.
  • We want to hear from people like you.

Sustainable, Renewable, American-Made

Click Here to Request More Information About PAN