Making the Decision

Here's your situation-you have, or are planning to have a herd of goats. An integral part of your business (or hobby) plan is keeping your goats safe, whole, and healthy. You need to consider housing, feed, medications, breeding, fencing, and … protection.

"Goats are tough, they have big horns and can protect themselves." "We've never had any problem." "Our house dogs will chase away anything that threatens our place or our animals." "We just don't have any predators here." "We have good fences, they'll keep anything out." "I'll take care of any predators." These are a few of the lines we've heard from people considering the protection aspect of their business plan. Some are said in good faith; some are delivered in sublime ignorance; and others are excuses to do nothing.

The fact is that if you raise goats, sooner or later, you will have predators attack your herd. Since 1980, the population of the United States has increased to roughly 286million people according to the 2000 census. These 286 million people own about 53 million dogs. If everyone restrained their dogs with fences or leashes they would pose no problems for stock owners. As it is, domestic dogs are the number one stock killer in the United States. The chances of meeting your neighbor's dog over the body of one of your goats just keep growing, right along with the population. Along with the growth of the dog population, coyotes (the second most common predator in the United States) have been forced to adapt to the encroachment of humans and they've done a splendid job of it. The coyote population has not only grown, but become much wiser in the ways of humans. Coyotes also sometimes breed with domestic dogs to whelp a canine (called coydogs) that embodies the worst of both worlds, a wild predator that has no fear of humans.

Add to the dog/coyote mix, the fact that the Endangered Species Act, coupled with federal re-population programs involving cougar, wolves, and bear have not only increased the traditional large predator population and moved it into areas where they were formerly extinct, but makes dealing with these predators more a process of having a good lawyer rather than a good rifle. Throw in a few of the smaller wild predators like bobcats and foxes and you have a total combination that virtually guarantees that you, at some point, will be the recipient of some predator's attention.

The question really becomes, not, if you'll be visited by a predator, but, "When will it happen and what will I do about it?" Your choices, as with so many things these days, are legion. You will find people using llamas, donkeys, non-LGD dogs of many different breeds, and LGDs of every breed and mix of breeds that you can imagine. The interesting thing is that almost everyone thinks their idea for protecting their herd is the "best."

You'll first need to decide if you want a dog or a llama or a donkey. Rest assured that llamas and donkeys can work effectively as guardians. You can find many people who use them and are well satisfied. If you go this route, be sure to talk to people who have successfully used the species of animal you want to use and listen closely to what they have to say. We chose dogs for two reasons: 1) we belong to the group of people who have used these animals unsuccessfully - through ignorance no doubt, and 2) we realized that carnivores not only would think llamas and donkeys are tasty but with pack size or brute strength and agility be able partake of that tasty meal.

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