Hello Northern Virginia/Eastern West Virginia/Southern Maryland! We are now selling products on Local Line, an online platform that acts like a farms market. We have several pickup locations in the area, including our farm in Waterford VA, a pickup location in Middleburg VA, in collaboration with other farms, and starting on May 8th we will also have a pickup location in Leesburg VA. See below for addresses. If you send us a message we might be able to deliver, given enough notice and circumstances permitting. This pandemic has caused a lot of problems for small businesses and farms as well as individuals and their families, so supporting businesses like Kathy Ann’s Farm can go a long way. We have products to help you during these crazy times, such as reusable cotton face masks, free-range eggs, jams and jellies (local sale only), soaps we’ve made from our goat’s milk and more! Check out our Local Line online store by clicking here to see all of our locally available products.
Pickup Locations: 1. Kathy Ann’s Farm, Waterford VA 2. The Ag District, Middleburg VA 3. National Conference Center in Leesburg VA (starting May 8th)
We would like to thank the team at Loudoun Economic Development and Take Loudoun Home for the unwavering support they have shown local businesses and farms.
Whether you already have an LGD with a strong desire to wander, you have a puppy, or you are considering an LGD, one of the big conversations you need to have is fencing. All LGD breeds are known to wander, and historically this has been because farmers lived and moved with their sheep. Farmers either didn’t have fencing, or they were nomadic farmers (sometimes called nomadic pastoralism, or simply, pastoralism). This meant for livestock guardian dogs that their territory was as far as the eye could see.
Nowadays, this style of farming is not as popular, and most farmers and ranchers have property lines and fences they must adhere to. LGDs still see their territory as going beyond the fence line to wherever they can see. LGDs can easily cover hundreds of miles and claim it as their territory. LGDs can be very smart and stubborn, and will often try to go beyond the fence, by any means necessary. Some LGDs will dig, others will jump, and some will even climb a fence to get out. This is obviously problematic, because a) loose dogs are a hazard to themselves and others and b) they have just left their livestock charges unprotected.
Let’s talk about fencing, as not every fence is created equally. If you have livestock then you already have some type of fencing. Most LGDs will be able to get out of fences that are under six feet tall or that are invisible. A lot of us farmers don’t have six foot fences. At Kathy Ann’s Farm our fencing height varies in places, but on average is around four to four and a half feet tall. Our fencing is mostly for sheep and goats, with chicken wire around the area we keep our poultry. It’s unrealistic to expect to uproot existing fencing and build a whole new fence for your LGD, so if you don’t have six-foot no-climb fencing, don’t fret. Some LGDs will find a way to get over or under no-climb fencing too! Here are a couple of options you can use to dissuade them.
Sport Dog System / Invisible Fence (requires electricity) – uses a collar on the dog and wire around the containment area
Hotwire – uses an electric fence controller, wire, grounding rod, and insulators to attach the wire to the fence
Panels for covering gaps (ex: on gates) – we use cattle panels, but there are multiple options out there, and you will need something like zipties to attach it
We do not recommend invisible-only fencing, and this is because LGDs will often go through the invisible fence if there is a threat on the other side. There have been cases of LGDs going outside the invisible fence and getting stuck out there because they’ll get shocked again when they return. This can also separate them from other LGDs if you have multiple, and if there is a threat such as a pack of coyotes, you have just made your lone LGD an easy target. Invisible fencing also doesn’t protect your livestock or poultry from predators, so by itself it’s not much use. That being said, if you combine it with an existing physical fence it can act as a reinforcer to your physical fence. Often times you don’t need to bury it, you can attach it to your physical fence and it will work the same. Many people have had success with this method of reinforcing their fences.
Another type of reinforcer is hot wire. We use this on some of our pastures. We love hot wire because we use a solar electric fence controller, which means we don’t need to worry if the power goes out. We use the American FarmWorks 5-Mile Solar Low Impedance Charger, which holds enough power to work for three weeks without sunlight. If you have more acreage you can get 10-15 mile fence chargers. Likewise, if you have a smaller acreage you can get 2-3 mile fence chargers. Even on cloudy days this thing will continue to charge itself. An additional advantage to this fence reinforcer is you can place it on top of the existing fence for jumpers/climbers, and you can put it on the bottom of the fence for diggers. You can even use multiple if you have a dog that does all three methods of escaping. If you move between pastures this charger can be moved as well, and it can fit on multiple fence types. It can also help keep out predators and pests (such as deer) if they touch the wire, and it works for and is safe for livestock. This is our go-to option for fence reinforcement.
Now hot wire can’t go across gates, but we have another solution. I’m not sure if there’s a name for this, but I personally think of it as a “gate topper.” It’s made from cattle panels and is bent and attached to the gate. Some people have done this around their entire fence to stop jumpers, but depending on how large your fence is that can be a very time consuming task. On some gates you might need multiple panels to cover the gaps. You want to bend the panel slightly inwards, towards the inside of the pasture. This can help stop jumpers and climbers from getting over. We have slight gaps in our one here, but Calypso has not tried to get over this way since we’ve installed it.
Some dogs are very determined escape artists, like our own Calypso. She will normally respect the fence line, but when she is in heat she will gladly jump the fence to find a mate. In this instance the only way to stop her is to crate her inside for the duration of her heat cycle. This brings up a good point, which is unless you are actively breeding your LGD or waiting for them to grow old enough to be fixed, they should be spayed or neutered. While it won’t stop them from roaming, it will stop them from roaming for the sole purpose of mating. A bitch in heat will draw males for miles, and she will want to leave if a male does not come to her. If you are waiting to spay/neuter until the dog is mature, or if you plan on breeding, you may need to lock the dog up during heat cycles. It’s frustrating and neither you nor the dog are particularly happy, but you don’t want an unwanted litter or the dog to get bred by an unwanted sire. Calypso has to be crated in the house when she is in heat because she has gotten out of every containment system we have tried. Sometimes a crate is your only option, but for most LGDs fence reinforcers will work.
A neat fencing thing you should be aware of is something called a jump gate. We do not currently have any at Kathy Ann’s Farm but we hope to install some in the future. A jump gate is a gate that can be used on fences between pastures or for areas you only want your LGD to go into. It can be very tricky to keep your livestock (read: goats) out of certain areas. If you want your LGD to guard multiple pastures, but you don’t want the rest of your animals going into the various pastures you need a jump gate. It’s a triangular hole in the fence that is off the ground by a few feet. You’ll have to train your dog to go through it but once they do they’ll be able to travel between pastures without letting the livestock do the same. Now this won’t work for some LGDs while they are puppies or if they are too old to jump. It also will not work if your pastures are not right next to one another. We have three pastures that share a fence line and we would love to have our LGDs go between the pastures. You can also add a closure/door to close the jump gate if you want to deny access at some point. I recommending searching images on Google to see the different kind of jump gates out there. Check out the video above to learn more about these handy gates!
A note about signage: while signs are not always necessary, depending on where you live they can be very helpful. We have no trespassing signs on every pasture fence. This is advice that we were given in case someone comes onto our property and harms or steals one of our animals. While we don’t have a large problem with this in our area, it does happen. If you do have a big problem with theft or harm of animals in your area it is recommended to put up cameras too. If you do this it’s a good idea to put signs up mentioning the cameras to help deter people in the first place. We have signs that say LIVESTOCK GUARDIAN DOG ON DUTY, DO NOT ENTER WITHOUT ESCORT as a deterrent as well. It’s important to know that some states are particular about signs like this and may take it as an admission that your dog is dangerous, so check out your state’s laws first. We have a sign that says PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS as well. Even though we are rural, we share a road with our neighbors and they like to come watch the animals at times. We also do farm tours and we don’t want people giving our livestock something potentially dangerous. Lastly, we have a sign that says ELECTRIC FENCE, DO NOT TOUCH for our hotwire fencing. This one we put up because we often get children on our farm tours and we don’t want them climbing the fence and touching the hot wire. Signs are not required for your fencing, and if you only get one type of sign I would recommend the NO TRESPASSING sign. It’s clear and succinct.
To sum things up: intact LGDs are more likely to wander, but all LGDs have the desire to roam. It is up to us to keep them safe by keeping them contained. We discussed fence reinforcers such as sport dog or invisible fence systems, hot wire, and “gate toppers” made from cattle panels. Your personal situation, your budget, your property and current fencing, and your LGD will determine the best solution for you. If you are an experienced trainer and have trained your dog with an e collar you can also try that, but it requires you to be vigilant while your LGD is trying to escape and if you miss them getting out it can take a while to train. As with all dog training, prevention is easier than correction. If you have fence reinforcers in place before your LGD tests the fence, they may try once and never again. If your LGD is already an escape artist it might take them a few times trying the fence reinforcers and getting shocked before they stop. I am very excited about jump gates because it was not something I knew about a year ago, so I hope you find them helpful. As always, let us know if you have any questions!
The next few months mark the beginning of lambing and kidding season. This is an equally exciting and busy time for us farmers. We all love baby animals, and this is one of our favorite times of year. It can also be stressful, particularly if you end up losing a baby or its mother. The last thing you want to worry about is your LGD.
This time of year can be incredibly stressful for your LGD, whether they’re young or old. Dogs are not rational, logical beings like humans, and they don’t understand what is happening when your goat or sheep is giving birth. What they see is one of their charges is in distress, and out comes this messy, smelly, crying thing. This is obviously upsetting for many LGDs, which is why we highly recommend either moving your LGD to a pasture with the non-pregnant animals or securing them (in a pen/stall or something similar) so they cannot interfere with the birthing process.
LGDs have been seen attacking lambs and kids after they are born. In their minds, all they see is a new animal that caused obvious pain and distress to its mom. In other instances, they think of the newborn kid/lamb as food. A common problem is the dog will lick the newborn to clean it. This might seem cute, like the dog is taking care of the newborn, but in reality this can cause a lot of problems.
Mama goat/sheep is very likely to reject her newborn if it smells like dog from your LGD licking it. Now you have a a mom that thinks her baby didn’t make it and a newborn you are going to have to bottle-feed. It’s a lot of hassle and extra work that most of us farmers don’t need or want. Another problem that can occur is the dog licks the newborn too aggressively and can hurt it. Dogs have chewed off the ears of newborns, or licked their umbilical cords so much they’ve ripped them off.
Even mature LGDs struggle during lambing and kidding season. We move our LGDs into a pasture with males or non-pregnant animals, or we keep them secured where they can watch the birth but not interfere or get involved. New LGDs sometimes need help adjusting to lambs and kids and they aren’t always trustworthy with newborns. If you’re not sure how your dog will act or react, it’s best to err on the side of caution to keep everyone safe.
If you have a trustworthy older LGD you should still be cautious during the birthing process. Once the lambs and kids have been born if your LGD is trustworthy it is a good idea to introduce the newborns to your LGD. Mamas are likely to be protective and may butt their heads at your LGD, but it’s good for the dog(s) to know the newborns belong. Newborns are very vulnerable, and they are more likely to be targeted by local predators. Coyotes are the biggest threat where we are, but eagles have been documented stealing newborn lambs and flying off with them. And don’t forget local stray or neighbor dogs can be a threat too!
In summary, remember to keep everyone safe by keeping your LGD separate from new moms during birth. Only let trustworthy LGDs around newborns after birth, and monitor any behavioral issues carefully. When in doubt, err on the side of caution. All of this applies to any livestock newborns, including calves (baby cows) and crias (baby alpacas/llamas). I will do a different post about chickens and baby chicks, because poultry can be very difficult. Be safe and have fun!
Livestock Guardian Dogs in-training should always start off on a leash. It doesn’t matter whether they are an adult LGD that’s been rehomed or rescued, or if it’s a brand-new puppy. Having your LGD on a leash to start out allows you to be in control of the dog. Animals can react fearfully at times, particularly prey animals like livestock. If for some reason the livestock act out you can at least control your LGD.
In this video we demonstrate the calm behavior we desire from our LGDs. Rooster is a good sport and remains calm and sits on command. Our alpacas take on the role of our livestock in this video, but the same rules apply whether you are introducing sheep, goats or cattle. We used Rooster in this scenario because the alpacas have shown that they are not a fan of our adult dogs yet and they feel the need to defend themselves against our other LGDs. Rooster, in contrast to the adults, is smaller and less threatening. He is a puppy and is easily excited, but he was a good sport and remained calm.
Positive interactions between LGD and stock are important for a strong relationship. If your livestock is afraid of your LGD you will most likely have problems. When training a puppy it’s also a really good way to reinforce calm behavior. This can help when introducing new livestock to already established stock and help with livestock that have not been raised around dogs and are not dog-broken. If you have treats, reward your LGD when they display the correct behavior. Remember, dogs are not mind readers, you have to demonstrate exactly what you want from them. Don’t just tell them what not to do, show them what you want them to do instead.
At some point we’ll do a follow up video showing how NOT to introduce your LGD to livestock. For now, here’s a short video on how we like to introduce our LGDs to our livestock.
With winter finally showing up with our first snow of the season expected tomorrow I wanted to discuss shelters for livestock guardian dogs. Now LGDs mostly originated from colder climates and like to be outside in the cold. Most of us with LGDs keep our dogs outside twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Because what use is the LGD going to be if they’re inside with the family instead of outside protecting the animals?
Just because our dogs like colder weather does not mean they should not have access to shelter. Young dogs, sick or injured dogs, and even the elderly working dogs are all particularly vulnerable to the elements. Heat is often more fatal and than cold to these dogs, but either way they need access to some form of shelter and water every minute that they are outside. It’s no different than our livestock and our poultry, they all have round the clock access to shelter and water.
Shelter does not have to be complicated. Chances are, if you already have livestock or poultry you already have some form of shelter in place. Barns, windbreaks, and livestock igloos are all types of shelter that your LGD can use. If you want to use something specifically made for dogs, you can do that too. You can buy or make dog houses and igloos often for under $100. Below I will go over some of the different types of shelters we use and that the dogs have access to.
Above is an example of a dog house that we are in the process of making. All of our dog houses are off the ground by a few inches, have a dog door, and will eventually have something on the roof to keep the water out and sliding down. We hand-paint our dog houses (we tried spray-painting, it failed miserably) in fun colors to protect the wood and make it last longer. The dog door is a good option for keeping poultry, fowl, and the elements out, but it won’t stop goats and sheep and will need to be replaced as it wears down. If you start with a puppy that will probably be sooner rather than later. The pros to a dog house is that it gives your LGD their own space and it keeps them protected from the weather. We also sometimes feed our LGDs in their dog house to give them peace from the pushy goats. The downside is that they can range anywhere from $100 – $500+ and can be bulky to move around if you rotate pastures.
In this photo you can see a livestock igloo in the background, as well as Calypso’s dog house (the one we tried to spray paint), and a sideways C-shaped shelter made from flexible panels, tarp, and t-posts. All three of these shelters are used by Calypso and the livestock, but of these three shelters one is the most versatile.
The livestock igloo is a favorite of ours. They are easy to move between pastures (you simply roll them), they’re inexpensive, commonly found, and every single one of our animals likes them. We even use them to protect hay from the elements at times. If you have large livestock or many livestock you’ll undoubtedly need many of them or a combination of shelters, like in this photo. The only real downside to the igloos, is they get hot and humid in the summer and they have a large opening that can let in wind.
The last shelter in this photo is the tarp-covered panels. This is a good shelter that all of the animals use, the materials are all inexpensive and can be found easily at your local Tractor Supply. The con to this type of shelter is it does have two wide openings and the pain protection is made out of tarp. Tarp is not durable, especially if you have horned animals. Our goats have started stripping the tarp and poking holes in it with their horns. So it’s something to keep in mind if you are looking at using a shelter like this.
Now an obvious choice for many will be to use their barn. We have two barns, a larger metal one with multiple stalls and our small purple barn with two stalls. When Calypso was a young dog she spent a while using this small barn as her shelter. At night she would be locked up on one half and the other animals would have access to the other half. The pros in this situation were we didn’t have to create a whole new shelter, we used an existing one. The downside for us was that Calypso was a young dog that chewed up her half of the barn. When the chickens would lay eggs in this barn she would also eat them all. Its that reason that I don’t recommend allowing your LGD to share your chicken coop, hen house, or poultry run unless you are fine with them eating all of your eggs. Now that Calypso is matured she can use this barn as a shelter easily and without so much drama. But as a puppy she was a pain in the butt, and she got into everything! You can modify a barn stall for your LGD as well. In our larger barn Calypso has her own stall that was made with a dog in mind. You can also crate untrustworthy dogs in the barn for a few hours at night while training.
I will try to go outside an take a better photo of this structure later, but on your left the gray, unpainted shelter is a lean-to or windbreak shelter. This shelter is better suited towards larger livestock than dogs, but if you don’t have anything else to work with this can work in a pinch. This structure is three sided and has an open front side. Ideally you want the front side facing away from the direction of the wind. As this structure is on an incline, we have it facing towards the top of our little hill because wind will push from the bottom of the incline towards the top. I definitely would not recommend this for a puppy or really young dog because there is no way to keep them contained or totally out of the elements. But if you have nothing else it will work.
Hopefully this will give you a basic idea of shelters and which might be best for your situation. Remember, all animals (livestock, dogs, poultry, etc.) should have access to shelter and water at all times. And don’t forget that in winter water will freeze if you don’t have a heater of some sort.
This week of Thanksgiving will be bittersweet as we say goodbye to our puppies as they go to their new homes. We are very thankful that they’re going to wonderful homes where they will be cherished and given a purpose to work. Here are the photos of our final autumn photoshoot, as of Monday, November 23rd Appa is the only puppy that hasn’t been spoken for.