Sheep or LGD first? Newbie questions...

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Sheep or LGD first? Newbie questions...

Postby Coconut Fields » Sat Sep 03, 2011 11:07 am

I've been lurking and reading the forums, getting ready to start working sheep for the first time, on our small farm in the next month or so. I would greatly appreciate some advice and/or opinion:

1. Should I wait until I have more experience with sheep before adding LGDs to the farm?
2. How many dogs to start - 35 acres of pasture, 1-3 grazing groups?
3. Start with pups or mature dogs? They'll have to travel air cargo, can a mature dog be shipped?
4. If more than one, appropriate mix of sexes/intactness?
5. Warm climate breed/coat recommendations. We're in the Caribbean.
6. LGD breeds or crosses that don't tend to roam off the farm as much?

We're on a 40 acre farm. We live and work here. Have been growing organic intensive fruit and vegetables for over ten years with a handful of chickens, on 5 acres, now starting with livestock on the remaining 35 acres of pasture. It's flat but a bit rough with thick stands of guinea grass, some areas of brush, trees, and thorny acacia. We have a few ponds. Our biggest livestock threats are human theft, mongoose (a weasel-like carnivore that eats chickens and eggs) and feral dogs.

I'm easily a few weeks away from completing a night pen for my sheep and purchasing a handful of St. Croix White ewes to get started. Eventually I might have a few Dorper rams, 4-5 beef cows, pastured poultry, and a couple of dairy goats. The plan was to bring the sheep in at night, to a 'dogproofed' enclosure inside of a 100' square training/working pen.

Our farm is bordered on the north and east by a busy rural road. We created a 30' buffer zone from the roadside into the pasture, and then built our perimeter fencing of woven wire topped with barbed wire at that inset. It's 48" woven wire with barbed wire top and bottom (EQIP standard wood and steel post uprights) for perimeter and permanent pasture divisions (and around our ponds). On the outer edge of the 30' buffer zone we have four strand barbed wire (old cattle fencing) 5-10' from the roadside. We have no reason to ever cross the road with the livestock or dogs. There are neighbors to the north with pet dogs. People have a tendency to dump unwanted animals in our area. On our south border, our neighbor is planning to raise meat goats, horses and chickens. He keeps some large intact dogs for personal/home protection, they are generally well fenced.

My plan is to subdivide paddocks within the five permanent pasture divisions with four strands of electric twine, and run a hot wire on the fence offset at 30" to keep animals from rubbing or climbing on the woven wire.

I have practically zero experience with small ruminants and a handful of experience with beef cattle, but in a year or two my loose goal is to have about 150 sheep including a ram group, a pair of dairy goats, 6 beef cows, pastured poultry in rotation. I am tempted to wait until I have more experience with the sheep before adding an LGD to the mix, but on the other hand two feral dogs attacked our chickens last week. I have experience in basic obedience training pet dogs. We keep only female spayed dogs as watchdogs at the houses on the property, they don't roam the property.

My biggest worry with LGDs on our farm is the busy road that borders the N side of all our pastures. In my initial research I liked the shorter haired Kangals and Anatolians. The local university has kept Maremma crosses for years, and has had success against dog attacks but not human theft. I worry about LGDs expanding their territory off our farm. A friend of ours has been bringing down Anatolian/GP crosses from TX but they are open range experienced. I'm not sure they would stay on our 40 acres? Every dog is an individual, I gather...

We have a retail farmstand on our farm twice a week, at least two woven wire fences away from the livestock areas. We also host supervised farm tours regularly, and have farm dinners and other events on the property. From what I've read, LGDs are smart enough to discern real threats from noisy groups of school kids or wedding parties.

Our climate tends to be 85 degrees and breezy, sunny days, in the 70s at night, with passing rain squalls. In the summer months temperatures are slightly higher: in the 80s and 90s and can stay in the 80s at night.

Would greatly appreciate your input on the questions at the top! Thanks for reading all this. Thought more details would be helpful.
Coconut Fields
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Re: Sheep or LGD first? Newbie questions...

Postby Sugar Creek » Sat Sep 03, 2011 1:47 pm

Hello,
I am by no means an expert but maybe it will get something started.
I have one quard dog on 85 acres, an Anatolian-Pyrenees cross, spayed female and have been very satisfied with her work. I run no more than 40 ewes and a small herd of beef cattle, usually one or two groups of grazing sheep. I do have a couple of English Shepherd dogs that exhibit good quardian behavior at night but stay with me, not the sheep, during the day.
The Anatolian cross is mainly active at night when it is above 80 to 85 degrees during the day. She had been a goat quardian when I acquired her at 1 1/2 year old. She bonded with two goats and their kids when I brought her home and ignored the sheep. When I sold the goats she bonded with the sheep in less than a week and now stays with them all the time. She pouts when I get the trailer out, knowing some lambs will soon be gone. She only rarely comes to the house but almost never roams, only rare trips to the creek that runs just outside my property line to cool off and get a drink.
To answer your questions:
Get a spayed female already quarding sheep for previous owner
Already have sheep on your property
Look for as short-haired individual as possible
My dog is absolute death to raccoons and seems to prefer them to dogfood (is this like a mongoose?)
She wags her tail at, but avoids strangers (she puts feral dogs and coyotes on the run with a charge and loud barking)
If you have success with one dog you may then want to add more as you learn.
Fred Simpson
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Re: Sheep or LGD first? Newbie questions...

Postby dog » Sun Sep 04, 2011 2:28 am

get your paddocks all fenced and sorted out first - get the sheep and then the LGD . Go for the best and get yourself a good Kangal - there is a high quality kangal breeder on the forum (Allen Lebovitz) that can advise you. You must train your dog to the farm boundaries and if you do this right then you will not have problems with straying. The kangal is a patrol type LGD so you would need to think out ways for the LGD to move from paddock to paddock 35 acres really only needs one patrol type LGD and a good kangal will handle serious predators with no problem. I have ran 1 kangal across 2000 acres with no problem but then it must be a good quality pure breed dog. You will pay a higher price for a good pure breed but the return from it more then matches the outlay. Allen may also be able to direct you to an adult dog that is ready to work.

as to the Mongoose my experience with them was with the Mauritian Mongoose which is a real mean little so and so. But if its got a neck then the Kangal can handle it.
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Re: Sheep or LGD first? Newbie questions...

Postby Coconut Fields » Sun Sep 04, 2011 3:35 pm

Thanks for the common sense replies! So busy these days I don't know whether I am coming or going. I've got a mile-long list of small fence repairs and tweaks to get out and complete to be more leak-proof. Trying not to get ahead of myself, but don't want to be caught with my pants down either.

Fred thanks for boiling it down. Mongoose are smaller, oilier and stinkier than raccoons. My petite doberman can kill them with some difficulty.

Dog, I'll take a closer look at the Kangals again. Being of small stature, I was leaning away from such large dogs. They seem like they'd be taller than me and could just step over my fences... and yes, mongoose are terribly aggressive, entertainingly fast, and they have necks. 8)
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Re: Sheep or LGD first? Newbie questions...

Postby Janet McNally » Tue Sep 13, 2011 11:54 pm

You definitely want the sheep in place before adding the dog. I think you can start with a pair of dogs if wild dogs are a problem. The puppy or adult question is an 'it depends' kind of answer. First I would check with your air cargo and find out if they can even accept the extra large crate (approx three feet wide, by four feet long and 32-36 inches tall) that is required for a small to medium sized adult LGD, the larger dogs will require something even taller (the head cannot touch the top of the crate when standing or sitting). That alone might answer your question. In general, I feel just weaned puppies seem to travel with less stress than adult LGDs who have never been off the farm before. Most 8 week old puppies will fit into a 19 inch tall crate, and by 9 weeks require a 23 inch tall crate.

If you have an existing predator problem that cannot be resolved, you need to start with adult dogs. However, if the present problem can be removed, then you can start with puppies with the hope the pups will be large enough to thwart future predators. Pups will begin to be helpful at 8 months of age, but really not truly effective until almost 2 years of age.

You state a conflicting problem regarding affinity for people. You both want a dog that will keep away thieves, but be safe around frequent visitors. That is a tough call. Most of the LGD breeds are bite inhibited, so are not usually a real liability, even if they are quite good at being intimidating, but if public interface is an important part of what you do, you really do not want to frighten your visitors! As the ability to be intimidating to people is so variable within each breed I would suggest thoroughly getting to know the sire and dam of the prospective pup. Given the description, I would favor a LGD that likes people rather than one that is intimidating to people.

As to breeds for your climate, the Maremma has individuals who can shed very well into a light summer coat. The Maremma also stays very tight with the flock and would work well on 35 acres. The Spanish Mastiff is well adapted to a hot climate, and has a short coat, and is generally very friendly with visitors that you greet, yet wary when the flock owners are absent. The SM might prefer a larger territory than 35 acres, and is more inclined to kill the predator (so if for example...wandering neighboring pets is an issue you might want to rethink that). The Kangal is another breed adapted to the warmer climate, but I would think you would want an even larger property.

Hope this helps.

Janet
Janet McNally
Tamarack Prolific and Ile de France crosses
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Re: Sheep or LGD first? Newbie questions...

Postby dog » Wed Sep 14, 2011 12:50 am

The Kangal is another breed adapted to the warmer climate, but I would think you would want an even larger property.

a kangal will handle 40 acres with no problem For a kangal you need some variation of the terrain ie some high spots etc - on a flat 40 acres I would suggest a different type of dog. The kangal will handle cold as well as hot - they tend to adjust their coat growth to match the conditions The kangal likes to over look its flock usually digging a hole on a high spot where it can lay and just look out - it may have several of these spots around the paddock, it will patrol the boundary several times during the night and then return to its high spots it can walk thro the flock without disturbing it and as a last resort it can move the flock but generally it does all its work by patrol and ambush, for a pure breed kangal you need to learn its calls it basically has 3 different types of bark - the first is simply a warning bark or rumble the second is more forceful and is designed to scare the predator the third is the full bark which can be heard some distance away and usually denotes it is on the chase - most humans back off on the first rumble (bit like a ridge back)
If you have visitors to the farm this cause no problem to the kangal they will treat them as suspicious at first maybe circling around at a distance then depending on how you react to the visitors move in for a lean or simply go back to the sheep. They take their clues on this from you. If they come across some one alone in the paddocks then again they treat them as suspicious and circle around them Kangals will not or should not bite but they can lay a person down very easily – usually the bark will result in the person retreating.
We have problems with sheep duffers – people that want a leg of lamb but don’t want to pay for it – they catch a sheep and take the two legs leaving the rest in the paddock – sharka used to knock them over and lay on them with a continuous ‘rumble’ till I phoned the police and they came. So unless your visitors are serial killers or such they should have no problem with a kangal.

The first meeting with an adult Kangal for the average person can be stress full but once the dog is sure that that person is no threat to the flock it will appear to ignore them. How ever if a Kangal takes a dislike to you which does happen then your life is not worth living I had a neighbor who wanted to see what the kangal would do if he attacked me and he came up behind me and pretended that he was about to hit me – he could never go into the sheep paddocks and every time he came to visit the dog would follow him and watch him.

However before you decide on a dog you need to work out if you need a dog that patrols and thus can protect more then one mob of sheep or one that stays with the flock, what type of predator you have will also determine the size of dog – although the true LGD is not design to kill but to protect size does not always matter – the flock type dog can usually move the flock away from danger and front a predator the patrol type dog protects by ambush and scent marking basically the same as a predator does but it does have the size and usually the bark to confront most large predators. With the flock dog – if you can fence to keep the sheep in then you also keep the dog in with a patrol type dog the fences need to be spot on – on a chase the dog needs to stop or be stopped at the fence line.
The aim of the LGD protected farm is to make it easier for a predator to eat your neighbors stock rather then yours.
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Re: Sheep or LGD first? Newbie questions...

Postby dog » Wed Sep 14, 2011 12:54 am

Mongoose are smaller, oilier and stinkier than raccoons

how come you have mongoose there - they are not native to the America's
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Re: Sheep or LGD first? Newbie questions...

Postby dhibbeln » Wed Sep 14, 2011 7:55 pm

I think I'd get my perimter fences in first.
and make a paddock up of about 5 acres.
Put in a few sheep and see how the thrive on what forage you have.
Adapt your forrage and then add some more sheep.
then spend some money on sorting and handling equipment.
learn from the sheep first...
When you get enough sheep that you can't get them do what you want with a bucket of grain,
then think about getting the dog(s)...
NE of Albany, NY & 1,543 ft from VT
Dall Hollow Farm
Texas Dalls & they're NOT goats!
home of "stotting" lambs
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Re: Sheep or LGD first? Newbie questions...

Postby Coconut Fields » Thu Sep 15, 2011 6:20 am

Thank you Janet, dog and Dave for the thoughtful responses. A lot to consider and absorb! Since it's such a long-term choice/investment/relationship, I want to give due diligence to choosing the dog that will work best in our situation.

Our property is pretty flat. There's a 150' slope at one end and a few hillocks where former brush piles have decomposed, and berms at the end of dams (ponds), but we are at the base of a line of hills. A bit too small and boring for a Kangal perhaps.

Dog, you're right about mongoose not belonging here. They're expats, were imported to the Virgin Islands by European sugar cane plantation owners in the 1700s to 'solve' the rat infestation problem. Since mongoose are diurnal and rats nocturnal it was not effective IPM. They also imported cane toads. To this day these two species have thrived here and continue to be a major threat to biodiversity in a mostly closed island ecosystem. (The deer they brought in have also survived and are a farm and traffic liability :roll: .)

We're in the midst of a supplier/pond construction/cargo nightmare, but I will be back to these boards soon with more questions! In the meantime I'm working out my frustrations on the tpost driver building paddocks and patching leaks... Thank you !!!
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