Welcome to Jerusalem Ridge Farm's articles page. Ray often publishes goat-related informational articles in newspapers and magazines and we will be using this space as an on-line repository to allow you access to them. Feel free to use them for association or club newsletters, but please let us know that you have used it, just for our records. Remember, any information shared here is strictly the idea of the author and should only be used in conjunction with veterinary advice and your own good judgement. Thanks for visiting... stop by frequently!
So the question arises, how do you manage rotational, strip or spot grazing or off-farm brush clearing without building a miniature Fort Knox? It’s not simple, but it can be done by choosing the right temporary fence.
The most important thing to remember is that the goats probably won’t want to challenge the fence if they have the food, water and minerals they want. When an area is grazed or browsed down, the goats start looking for “greener pastures” and go over, under, around or through the fence; one more reason to use temporary fence and move the goats frequently. When I talk about temporary fence, I always mean electrified and it helps if the goats have been trained to respect an electric fence. A hot fence is also a good predator deterrent.
The real heart of a temporary fencing set-up is the charger/energizer. I have experimented with a number of types of temporary fencing and have found most of them to work satisfactorily if appropriately grounded and electrified and properly managed.
I frequently get calls from folks who say they can’t keep their goats in an electric fence – temporary or permanent. In most cases, their problem has been a charger or energizer that has insufficient output. Many farm stores and discount stores sell electric fencing arrangements designed for pets or horses. About 700 volts of output can contain even short haired cattle. To make an impression on a goat, you will most likely need at least 2,000 volts. I try to maintain at least 3,000 on my temporary fences and around 7,000 on my permanent high-tensile. In other words, don’t scrimp on your energizer. Get all the juice your budget can support. Good solar chargers can be pricey, but the peace of mind afforded by knowing you can trust them to check the wanderlust of your wayward goats is well worth the investment. Many of the better solar or portable chargers actually replace the standard gel-pack battery with a deep-cycle marine battery like the ones used for running trolling motors or starting boat motors. Low impedance chargers also tend to be a little more user-friendly than the high impedance variety.
As I mentioned, grounding is also a major issue. Dr. An Peischel of Tennessee State University has suggested attaching to a long piece of metal pipe packed with moist Bentonite and sealed on both ends. The pipe is simply laid atop the soil and provides an adequate ground. Many fencing companies also offer products that provide solutions to this problem. To get the best service out of your energizer, you must have a good grounding system.
For the fence itself, I’ve experiment with many types of reusable materials, including polywire, polytape (as is used in temporary horse fencing) and electrified netting. All worked very well, but I tend to gravitate to the netting for its quickness and ease of use.
Electrified netting is available from a number of distributors and comes in all shapes, sizes and lengths. Its main selling point with me is that the fence is completely self-contained, with step-in post woven right in. Alone, I can stretch and set netting in a matter of minutes. It also gives me the flexibility of being able to fence irregularly-shaped areas and not having to worry about long, straight runs. The netting must, however, be properly handled when taken up and stored to avoid tangles and damage. Even so, slight damages are easily repaired by tying additional material into the netting. The cost is comparable to using polywire or polytape with non-conductive step-in posts.
When using polywire, I use five strands and make the fence about four feet high, electrifying all strands. If the tape is used, three to four stands will suffice, depending on the width of the tape. Make sure when using tape that you allow an occasional twist to help with wind resistance. I have found the polywire to be easier to keep tight and maintain than the tape, but the tape is far more visible. I prefer the polywire or tape when I need to leave the fence in place a little longer. Netting must be moved before high grass and weeds become entangled with it, creating a mess and shortening the life of the product.
This article should serve as an introduction to the concept of temporary fencing, but should not be considered the final word on the topic by any means. As with any venture, I recommend lots of research. There are plenty of companies that make temporary fencing supplies and provide countless suggestions to improve your success.
A light mist hovers over verdant rolling fields and dozens of clean, white goats graze contentedly on the hillside…then there’s a knock on the door and I wake up. I love visits from the neighbors, but I sure wish the opening line of the conversation would be something other than “Sorry to bother you Mr. Bowman, but your goats are out again.”
Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m the world’s worst goat rancher. In fact, I can build a pretty fair fence. I don’t want would-be goat herders to think the capricious caprines are impossible to contain, but the truth of the matter is that sometimes the little Houdinis do get out. In this article we will deal a little with getting the escape artists back in the pen. In a later issue, we’ll look at what it takes to keep them there.
First, why are they getting out? Is the grass really greener on the other side of the fence? Usually, no. Goats are curious critters with a mild case of wanderlust, which generally is not too far ranging. Mine mostly stay in sight of the barn. If your next-door neighbor is a landscape artist, however, you could be in for some major problems!
A big doe of mine, which I affectionately refer to as Freight Train, decided one day to go visiting. The voice on the other end of the phone very calmly stated, “Mr. Bowman, I think one of your goats is on my back porch.” Sure enough, the Train had decided the neighbor’s deck would be a delightful place to nap in the sun, right next to the fishpond! Thankfully, she chose not to snack on any of the ornamental schrubs and flowering plants. After a brief goat rodeo, my long-suffering wife and I managed to convince the Train to come home, with one terra cotta flowerpot being the only casualty. Amusing as it might now sound, it wasn’t that funny at the time.
Two of the most effective tools in recapturing the little fugitives after a mass escape are a shepherd’s crook and whatever you carry their food in. Often, all it takes is a scoop of feed in the bottom of the plastic bucket I feed with. I smack the side of the bucket a couple of times and rattle the contents around a little to get their attention and it’s sort of like ringing the dinner bell. Here they come, just open the gate and let them follow you in. Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy. If they’ve buried their heads in a lush bank of lespedeza or a thick copse of multi-flora rose, the shepherd’s crook might be the answer. By using the crook as an extension of my right arm, I can sometimes haze the goats in the direction I wish them to proceed. Now, a four-foot section of PVC pipe works just as well for this maneuver, but that crooked end of a staff can sometimes be invaluable for reaching out and snatching a balky kid or hooking the horns of an adult goat to influence their direction of travel.
If you show your stock, bringing in the prodigal might be as simple as slipping a chain around it’s neck, snapping on a lead shank and trotting back to the barn. (I should be so lucky!)
For centuries, shepherds in the British Isles have used border collies as their principal assistants in managing considerable flocks of sheep. Do BC’s work for goats? You’ll get a lot of varying opinions, but my feeling is that they are a terrific labor saver. My collie Jake is about a year and a half old and very immature, but he has shown great promise the limited number of times I’ve allowed him to work the goats. With a little training, refinement and maturity I think he’ll be priceless for goat round-ups. Border collies can be a bit precocious, however. At a recent sale, a mature Boer doe was presented minus the tips of her ears, which had been nipped off by a border collie. Even with this slight cosmetic impairment, she was one of the top-priced does at the sale. One note of caution, however: goats are always easier to control if handled calmly and quietly. An out-of-control, high-strung border collie could prove to be your worst nightmare, busting goats from here to Christmas. The dog must be well trained, under control and have a full understanding of its job. By the way, keep your herding dog away from your guardian dog or you might end up with an expensive chew toy for your Great Pyrenees.
Those of you who have had goats for awhile can relate to some of my experiences and doubtless have a number of your own, sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking. For those new to the game, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Goats are occasionally a challenge, but they are well worth the effort. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I hear someone at the door.
One morning recently, I noticed a couple of the does were loosing some hair on their lower legs and the exposed skin was dry and crusty just above the hooves. The symptoms suggested Chorioptic mange.
All goat producers are concerned with internal parasites. External parasites, though not as frequent, can also take a major toll on herd health.
Mange, caused by an infestation of mites, is common to many domestic animals. Goats are susceptible to four different types of mange.
Chorioptic Mange – Often called leg mange, this condition is caused by Chorioptes caprae, a mite that infests the skin of a goat’s lower leg. This condition is unsightly and causes irritation and stress. Animals that are housed in winter or are intensively managed in smaller areas are more prone to the condition than grazing animals.
Psorioptic Mange – Here the offender is Psorioptes communis caprae, a mite found mainly in the ears, sometimes extending to the poll and down the legs, whereas chorioptic mange starts at the bottom and works its way up. Goats with this condition will exhibit some irritation around the ears, usually accompanied by head shaking.
Sarcoptic Mange – Sarcoptic mange, sometimes called Scabbies, is found in many animals; however it is especially serious in goats. Sarcoptes scabei is the culprit here. These critters burrow into the skin, making topical treatments less effective. The eggs are laid, then the hatched nymphs work their way to the surface of the skin where they become adults and start the process over again. Scabby patches of irritated skin are the outward manifestation of this condition. Affected animals become highly stressed and begin to lose body condition.
Demodectic Mange – A chronic inflammation and the development of small abscesses or cysts may be the warning signs of the invasion of Demodex caprae, which attacks the hair follicles and sebaceous glands of the skin. The neck, chest and shoulders of the animal may be affected the most. Death may result in the most severely affected animals.
Biting and blood sucking lice can also be a goat rancher’s nightmare. Unlike the microscopic mites, lice can be observed with the naked eye by parting the hair and examining the skin around the base of the hair. Goats with a lice infestation will be seen vigorously scratching themselves with their horns or hooves and biting and pulling at their hair. Sickly goats that appear chronically malnourished and “wormy” should probably be culled from the herd to avoid their becoming hosts for external parasites.
These notes are offered as guidelines and should only be used to aid in consultation with your veterinarian to formulate a course of treatment. As with internal parasites, most treatments will be with off-label medications and should be administered on the advice of a vet, which is why this article does not suggest methods of treatment.
Treatment of all these conditions goes back to elimination of the causative agent – the bugs. When an infestation is detected, the entire herd should be treated. Often an animal can be a carrier and not show outward symptoms.
As always, the best defense is a good offense. A dedication to herd health, accurate record keeping and good management practices can help you avoid many problems. For those times that do require action, help your vet understand the physiology of goats and keep their number on speed dial!
(First published in The Farmer's Pride in July 2003 - I still miss Dick and I still get a little blurry-eyed when I re-read this piece.)
By most accounts, it’s been a mighty rough spring for farmers in the Commonwealth. Here it is mid-June and some folks along Flat Creek are just now getting their tobacco set. It’s been near impossible to get three or four good days without rain so you could get the hay in.
Thanks to the assistance of my friend and mentor (or maybe that’s tormentor) John Duvall, I do have some fair roll bales sitting in the fields. Had Flat Creek not jumped its banks a few weeks ago and flatten three acres or so, I’d have a few more. But I guess I’d best not complain. One of my neighbors cut their hay the morning of that flash flood and a good bit of it wound up making its way to the Kentucky River. What was left got a good soaking.
While I mused (OK, whined) about the over-mature state of my hay, John pointed out that at least I had some and my goats would have something besides snowballs to eat next winter. Besides, there’s plenty of time for another cutting or two. A little tough hay is not the end of the world. Dick Rayborn used to remind me of that all the time.
For a while there, it seemed like every time I laid down a field of hay, it got rained on. Chuck Doan would tease me and say, “My tobacco sure could use some water. What would I have to pay you to get you to mow your hay?” Dick would counter with one of his many pearls of wisdom, something akin to “well, it ain’t the best hay in the world, but it’ll at least keep their ribs from stickin’ together.” A genuine homespun philosopher, he always managed to put things in perspective.
Unfortunately, we lost Dick just over a year ago, right around Christmas time. The good thing for me is, I had him around when I needed him the most. When I bought my farm, I hadn’t been involved in anything agricultural for more than three decades. The last hay I had worked in was cut with a sickle bar mower behind a Ford 8-N. Disc mowers and roll balers weren’t even a gleam in anybody’s eye. So, there I was trying to re-learn farming and having no one handy to turn to for advice. My father and my Uncle Gus, both of whom I grew up watching farm, were deceased. My father-in-law knew the land, but he was over 200 miles away. Dick owned the farm next to mine, so at a time when I needed him most, I met my new neighbor.
He was sitting on a 6100 Ford tractor, getting ready to rake the field in the creek bottom of my new farm. The previous owners had inherited the place and allowed him to mow the field for the hay. I introduced myself and he explained the agreement. I told him that, until I got the fences fixed and started stocking the place, he could continue on with the same deal, then we’d work out something else. That was probably the best bargain I ever struck.
Until his health began to fail, Dick helped me with everything I attempted to do on the farm. Since I wasn’t living there at the time, he also served as caretaker and kept an eye on the place when I had to be away on business. He loaned me equipment and patiently helped me repair it when it broke down. I learned a great deal from him and benefited tremendously from his experience, but I valued his friendship even more.
We’d often discuss buying and selling property, and his reasoning was always the same. “You know, Ray,” he would opine “the thing about land is, they ain’t making no more of it.”
Well Dick, they ain’t making any more like you, either. I miss you, old buddy.
Wait a minute... I’m a goat rancher. Why would I need to chemically control weeds with a whole field full of organic, four-legged weed eaters. When I called his bluff, he immediately hung up. I went on out to work on the fence and thought no more about it.
Recently, posts have been showing up on several goat listserves that have a remarkably familiar modus operandi.
The phone rings in the early morning hours and a guy claims to be from some lab or another (they frequently change names.) He says they have just received FDA/USDA approval on a new dewormer for goats. It’s actually safe for all animals, given orally, dosage by weight. Sunday Miles of Countrywoods Farm in Michigan (www.countrywoodsfarm.com ) described her recent experience in a post to ChevonTalk: “I kept this guy on the phone for nearly a half hour... it sure sounds good but like the old saying... if it sounds to good to be true... it probably is!
“They do not take credit cards nor over the phone checks... not that I would have given him any info but his explanation for that is that the company is owned by 2 old fellows who are very "old school"... oh yea, they have no website either!!! Told him I did not want anything else to spend on before Christmas, so he set up delivery for beginning of Jan. It will be shipped by UPS, COD of course... I plan to check them out further. Oh, I also asked for a catalogue or literature on the products available... he answered with... it was to costly to send those out but everything is going to be packaged with the dewormer... “I can't believe people just hand them over checks... I'm at least going to make them pay for round trip shipping and a long phone call!!!”
Apparently, I was lucky just to have my caller hang up on me. Similar accounts from other websites indicate that, when confronted, the caller becomes extremely rude and verbally abusive, adopting a “winning through intimidation” attitude.
The unfortunate individuals who do order the stuff get a half-pint or so of some kind of magic elixir labeled for use in horses, but the salesman claims the product could be used on all animals, including dogs and cats. To make matters worse, about two weeks later another package shows up with a second bottle of the “medicine” and an explanation that your agreement was for two bottles which, with shipping and COD charges, end up costing over $200! Apparently, if you keep accepting the stuff, they just keep sending it.
Goat producers aren’t the only ones being targeted by this scam. Reports are turning up all over the internet from alpaca breeders, sheep growers and horse enthusiasts. Also, it’s not the first time someone’s tried this. There are reports of an almost identical racket from 2001.
The point here is Caveat Emptor - let the buyer beware! Since these folks don’t take electronic drafts or credit cards there’s not much chance for identity theft, but the down side is that some poor folks are getting suckered into buying a seemingly useless product. Obviously, these guys are flying under the radar in states that have “no-call” lists like Kentucky. If someone calls with an offer like this, collect as much information as you safely can and turn it over to your local or state consumer protection agency.
Goat producers are constantly faced with parasite problems and the idea of a “magic bullet” is understandably very attractive. Also, cattle producers and grass farmers (who haven’t found out about goats) are always looking for an effective way to eliminate weeds in their pastures. However, if enough folks are aware of theses scams maybe they’ll stay away from these snake oil telemarketers and stick with proven and accepted methods for dealing with their problems. Remember, if the hucksters weren’t making money off it, they wouldn’t be doing it.
**Internet chat groups and listserves are a good way to share all sorts of information. A couple of the resources used for this article were chevontalk and boergoats , both at www.yahoo.com. Ed.
Shelter - Goats don’t really need anything elaborate during the winter, but they do need a place where they can be reasonably dry and escape the wind. A simple three sided run-in shed with the opening facing away from prevailing winds is usually enough. Toss in some loose straw for clean bedding and it’s down-right cozy. We have a number of metal huts scattered around the pastures, but most of my goats have access to an area of my tobacco barn (currently being converted to a goat barn) where they congregate in the evenings and snuggle together to share their body warmth. Winter kidding’s a whole different matter and that deserves an article all its own.
Food - Perhaps the biggest difference in feeding through the winter is an increased reliance on hay. Even though some browse is available year-round on our farm, I like to keep the goats close to the barn for shelter and security as much as anything else. Hay is abundant on my place, though perhaps not the highest quality. Lower quality hay doesn’t give them the level of nutrients they really need, but it does provide bulk and fiber to keep their digestive system active. That activity helps keep up their core body temperature. Lower quality hay may actually stimulate them to eat more and stay warmer in the process.
Square bales are more efficient to feed in the winter, but round bales may be more available and cost effective. Goats can spoil a lot of hay when eating round bales, so a good collapsible feeder is a wise investment, especially if it keeps the bale up off the ground. Collapsible roll bale feeders are sometimes not easy to find, which is why I currently don’t have one. Again, I have an abundance of modest quality roll bales, so I can afford to be a little extravagant right now. Let’s see how I feel next spring when I have to clean up the mess!
Another thing to consider about roll bales is their safety. Goats tend to eat the centers and sides, causing the bale to “mushroom.” Keep an eye on them and knock the tops off those mushrooms so they don’t fall on the goats, especially the kids, resulting in injury or suffocation.
Supplemental feeding of grain and pellets during the winter is perhaps more an economic decision than a nutritional one. Goats have survived for centuries without supplemental feeding but their body condition may not be as good as you would like without a little grain or feed.. Goats get pretty fuzzy in the winter, so simply looking won’t give you an accurate picture of their body condition. Run your fingers over the animal to feel the condition rather than see it, then decide if additional feeding is necessary to achieve the condition you want and does it make sense to incur the cost of higher feed bills. Of course, lactating does probably will need additional feeding to keep themselves and the babies healthy.
Water - One of the most frequently overlooked elements of winter livestock management is the ready and constant availability of fresh water. We change water regularly and use heaters in the stock tanks. Not only do the heaters keep the water from freezing, but the goats seem to drink more water when the chill is off it a little. The more water they drink, the better they process their food, going back to what was said earlier about digestion and body heat production.
Minerals - Goats need to be encouraged to keep up their mineral intake through the winter. Free-choice minerals should be checked often to make sure they are abundantly available, loose and palatable. Dampness causes loose minerals to clump, making them more difficult for the goat to consume. While mineral blocks are not as efficient for use with goats, softer molasses or protein blocks work well, according to Goat Rancher Magazine editor Terry Hankins (Dec. 2003 issue). Hankins suggests that goat-specific blocks provide extra protein, vitamins and minerals that are especially useful during winter. It is important to use blocks that are formulated for goats in order to provide the proper balance of dietary elements required. Again, this decision may be driven by economics.
When all is said and done, one of the most important elements of care in winter (or any season, for that matter) is constant monitoring of the herd. Watch for that animal that is weak and may need a little special care and attention. Like humans, some goats may become more stressed during cold weather. Casting a critical eye over the herd every day can help determine where problems may exist. A good time to have a look at those animals is when you feed, drop hay, refresh water tanks and check minerals. It’s great when the plan comes together!
Kentucky is a hard place to grow goats that don’t require some pretty regular foot care. With an abundance of rain (most years) and comparably soft ground, goat hooves grow unchecked without some human intervention. A goat with foot problems is unthrifty, having difficulty in standing to eat, browse or drink. Not only does this impact the health of the goat, but it can substantially reduce profitability for the producer. It’s also extremely difficult for a pregnant doe with sore feet to kid successfully. Sore feet cause stress, and unless measures are taken to correct the problem, the animal will loose body condition and in some extreme cases death may occur from malnutrition or dehydration. In this article, we’ll look at some of the causes of foot problems and some treatments and prevention. As always, a reminder that these are the observations and suggestions of a fellow producer, not a medical professional. Always consult your veterinarian when herd health issues arise.
As you look out into the pasture, you notice some of your goats limping. The first thing to determine is what’s causing the problem. Hoof rot, hoof scald or hoof abscess could be the culprit, but what’s the difference?
Hoof rot and hoof scald are both caused by common bacteria that thrive in moist, overcrowded conditions. Hoof rot affects the sole and walls of the foot, while hoof scald develops between the toes. Overgrown hooves trap manure and moist dirt that exacerbate the problem. Both diseases are extremely contagious, so don’t expect isolated cases of either, especially in more intensive operations. If you happen to be visiting another farm and notice limping goats, clean your boots with a chlorine bleach solution before you carry the problem onto your fields.
Hoof abscesses result from an infection caused by damage to a hoof like a puncture or a split. There is also the potential of tetanus, so it’s important the animals be up to date on CD/T vaccinations.
The good news is, all three of these conditions can usually be prevented with proper management. Keeping hooves trimmed, providing adequate access to minerals, eliminating any overcrowding conditions, maintaining dry bedding and avoiding standing water or overly muddy areas can stop many problems before they start. Graveled areas around your barns and shelters provide the goats a drier place to walk and also help with foot trimming by wearing down the hooves. A pile of rocks for them to play on also helps keep hooves in shape and can provide hours of entertainment for you and the goats!
If your working facility supports it, a non-toxic and non-irritating antibacterial footbath may help curb the incidence of foot problems.
When problems start to appear, trimming is usually the first step in treatment. Be careful not to trim too close as to “quick” the animal, which will only make matters worse. Remove any material that may appear infected or likely to cause infection, then thoroughly clean the hoof. Disinfect the trimmers after each animal to prevent spread of any infection. Hydrogen peroxide works well for cleaning the foot and there are a number of commercially available products that both treat and seal the hoof. With hoof scald, a cotton ball or gauze patch soaked in iodine and placed between the toes will speed the healing if the animal can be contained, isolated and treated. Consult your veterinarian to see if the use of injectable antibiotics is advisable for these conditions.
Out west where the climate is arid and the soil is sandy and rocky, they aren’t faced with as much of a challenge in the area of hoof health. But then again, they don’t enjoy the lush vegetation and abundant browse we have here in the Commonwealth, so things balance out pretty nicely.
You can find additional goat health-related information on Suzanne Gasparotto’s Onion Creek Ranch website, www.tennesseemeatgoats.com, or Jack and Anita Mauldin’s website, www.jackmauldin.com. Another useful site is www.goat911.com.
Gracia is a two and a half-year-old Polish Tatra which Jeff and wife Becky had flown from Poland as a pup. “The Tatra breed is very pure in its genetics, not being bred for anything but protecting their flock - and that’s what they do in Poland,” say Jeff. “This summer she fended off a coyote from the goat heard. The coyote was a big 65 pound male when I weighed it.” Of course Gracia is no lightweight herself. She weighs about 125 pounds.
Known by several names including Owczarek Podhalanski, Polish Mountain Dog, and Tatra Mountain Sheepdog, the breed is represented by a large size dog whose solid white coat is 2-4 inches long and self-cleaning. Tatras are an easy going sort, but they never forget their main purpose as protector of the flock or herd, whatever species that happens to be. They can fit into different roles depending on how they are raised. They are just as comfortable in the role of a family dog as they are out in the pasture protecting the flock or herd.
The Polish word for sheep is owca and the owczarek (pronounced 'of-shar-ek' means sheepdog. This breed hails from a region in southern Poland close by the Tatra Mountains. It is a courageous, tough, weather-resistant, independent, calm giant of a dog, standing up to 34 inches at the shoulder. Its rich coat is so thick that combings from it are used for making woollen garments. The Tatra is a heavily built mountain dog which is an out-and out livestock protector, with little interest in other ways of life. Attempts have been made to employ it for police, military or traction work, and as an urban guard dog, but although it is reasonably adaptable, it is only truly at home in the high pastures in the company of its charges. This imposing guard is closely related to the Hungarian Kuvasz and the Slovakian Shepherd Dog. All three breeds have heavy bodies, long bushy tails and solid, creamy-white coats. It would take an expert to distinguish between them at a glance. In the 1980s an American serviceman in Poland fell in love with this dog and imported three of them to the United States, where they formed the basis of a North American population and led to the formation of the Polish Tatra Sheepdog Club of America.
For more information on Gracia and the Tatra breed, visit Jeff’s web site at http://www.bluegrassboergoats.com/.
“Sharplaninec... they’re kinda rare in this country,” she said. So, being the inquisitive type, I began to research this truly remarkable breed of LGD. Actually, there’s only a few hundred of them here, having been imported and bred in the United States since the mid 1970's.
Pronounced shar-pla-nee-natz, sometimes called Shar Planinetz, Shara, Sarplaninec, Sharplaninec, Le Charplaninatz and Sharplaninatz, this very ancient breed was developed as a guardian for sheep flocks in the mountains of Macedonia. The different spelling depends on the country the dog comes from. Historians believe that this breed may have been the palace dogs of Alexander the Great over 2000 years ago.
In 1930 the breed was recognized as the Illyrian sheep dog by the International Canine Federation (FCI), at that time only 257 dogs were registered. The name was changed in 1958 to Sharplaninec, after the Sar Planina Mountains. During W.W. II many of these dogs were left on their own in the wild and survived. After the war, dedicated shepherds systematically bred them and re-established their numbers. Today there are about two thousand, many still in their homeland. The popularity of the breed in Europe and America, however, may be the vehicle back to large numbers. Certainly, anyone who has formed a bond with a Sharplaninec knows the fantastic characteristics of the breed that make it worth promoting.
Despite being slightly smaller than many other livestock guarding breeds, the Sharplaninec is characterized by extraordinary strength and large teeth, making it a formidable adversary of predatory animals. This breed has a typical livestock guarding temperament: highly intelligent and independent; devoted to family members and wary of strangers; calm and steady but fearless and quick to react to perceived threat. The dogs are valued for their beauty, courage, and intelligence. As the Mini Atlas of Dog Breeds states, "Not a brainless tailwagger, the Sharplaninec is a very discerning dog who chooses friends carefully and trusts no one completely...except for his one master to whom he is most loyal.” Stories about the dog's heroics in their native land are common. Wolves and bear are the predators in the mountains, and sheep their hope for prey. The Sharplaninec stands between the two. The shepherds of Yugoslavia prize these dogs. Two dogs can protect a flock of 15,000 sheep. One can fight several wolves and emerge victorious.
Jane’s dog, Kirby, is a phenotype for the bred. Strong, but gentle around humans and “his” goats, Kirby presents a formidable challenge for potential predators. Kirby was “rescued” after a buyer contracted with his breeder to hold him for six months, then backed out on the deal. Most buyers were looking for puppies, so Kirby’s future was in doubt until Jane came along and put him to work. Now he and a Great Pyrenees/Maremma/Anatolian cross keep a close eye on the Cedar Ridge goats.
Every goat person has their own idea of what constitutes a good LGD, and some might see no need for one in their particular operation. Some breeds are far more available than the Sharplaninec, and that certainly would be a determining factor in making a decision on what dog to use. In coming issues we’ll be profiling other breeds, especially the more rare and unique dogs like the Shar and last issue’s featured breed, the Polish Tatra. We’ll also take a look at other types of guardian animals, like llamas and donkeys. When it comes to livestock, you have to protect your investment. For that, these animals are worth their weight in gold.
For more information about the Sharplaninec, visit these web sites:
THE SHARPLANINEC CLUB INTERNATIONAL http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Bluffs/8220/
ERA’S SARPLANINAC http://www.eraspet.com/index.htm
SHARPLANINEC RESCUE U.S. http://www.flockguard.org/rescue_shar.htm