There are plenty of predators that would like to share dinner with your goats. The most common predators of domestic goats are possibly coyotes and neighbourhood dog packs, but wolf, bear, and cougar numbers are also on the increase, contributing to the danger of our goats running. Humans have also been known to steal goats, although they may not be the predators most frequently thought of. How do we safely hold our goats? To keep your goats as healthy as possible, there are a variety of precautions.
Make your fencing stable. It will help minimise losses tremendously by preventing your goats from wandering and stopping predators from entering their space. A hot wire is a good barrier to predators along the top and bottom of the fence. Be sure to check it regularly to make sure it doesn’t break anywhere.
When you have a lot of predators, or very brazen ones, keep your goats locked up at night. During the night, our goats are able to come and go from the barn to the pasture at will because our cattle guardian dogs (LGD) prevent the predators from getting near. It’s good to keep the stock locked up at night if you don’t have livestock guardians, or if you have loads of predators.
Clean up quickly after kiddies. Let the afterbirth be eaten or buried quickly by the doe or LGD. Also make 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 only bring them that much closer to your farm and might inspire them to check out some of the live animals.
Hold young children healthy. The easiest prey is small children. They should be held in an area which is well protected. Children with their dams are less vulnerable to predation than children raised away from the herd. For children raised separately, an LGD may be a successful caretaker. When they are not in the same pen as the kids, they can also defend the kids. Large birds of prey will take small children away, so keep that in mind as well. A successful LGD can also defend itself against airborne predators.
Get a Guardian for Livestock!
There are always animals that can get through and attempt to eat your goats, even with all the precautions taken above. AProtecting livestock livestock guardian animal is likely the most common method to protecting livestock. Typically, one of the livestock guardian dog (LGD) breeds is a dog. Llamas and donkeys have been used as guardians of livestock as well, but I have no first-hand experience with them. Livestock guardian dogs have been trained to protect livestock, mostly sheep and goats, from all their predators for hundreds of years. By marking their territory and barking, most LGD breeds mainly work. It stops the predator from even entering your herd. They smell the dog, hear the bark of his alarm and decide to find a meal that is faster. If the predator is not intelligent enough or hungry enough to take the chance, they will encounter a big, brave dog willing to give his life to defend his herd if necessary. In reality, he could at least find two dogs, as they do best in teams. A single dog can be taken down by a pack of coyotes, but if you have two or more, the dogs are far more likely to win.
His weight in gold is worth a well-bred LGD that is brought up right. They also have a very active role in the daily care of the herd, in addition to preventing losses of stock to predators. When they go out to graze, the herd depends on the dogs to go with them, return to the barn when it gives an alarm bark, and look after them if one gets injured. My Maremma is very good at knowing whether a goat is sick or doesn’t feel good. Each doe is tested several times a day by sniffing down their spine and checking to make sure everything is perfect. If something is amiss outside, they may also warn you. They seem to have a bark for each case, from a stranger coming to the goats being out or trapped in the fence. What we need to do is try to understand what they are saying to us!
Cleaning the children, shielding them from malicious goats and predators, cleaning up the afterbirth, birthing fluids and still-born children (keeping smells of predators as well as making it cleaner) and will also help clean the doe. A good LGD will also assist with births. Young dogs & puppies should always be monitored with young children, particularly at birth, but they are invaluable once they are older and have proven to be trustworthy, especially when there is a birth that you can not attend.
Tips if you know that there are predators in your area:
Keep a light on or add a light triggered by motion in the barn-yard
Play music in the barn or on the radio (something soothing like classical, do not use rock-and-roll as it has been shown to be detrimental to animal health and even reduces milk production)
Keep the goats awake at night in the barn
Make sure that the fencing is tight and stable and that all hot wires live
This one might sound weird, but it may work well. You should ‘mark your territory’ yourself if you don’t have an LGD to mark the property for you…