Okay, this shepherding stuff is proving to be a tad bit more challenging than planned, BUT things are improving. So far shepherd school score is “N”. Remember that grade score from back in Mrs. Brown’s second grade? That’s right, “N” = “Needs Improvement”.
Since our shepherding “Needs Improvement”, the one thing I am grateful for is the inherent drive for goats to herd. With all this being said, today all the goaties are accounted for. That’s right, all six have been sighted multiple times and they are herding well. They are hanging together towards the middle of the property in a live oak thicket that is surrounded by sparse woods. This location gives them security with all the cover and affords them good sight.
While trying to gain their confidence I was able to note a couple interesting things. The neighbor to the north of the property has two “deer” dogs. He’s got a bloodhound and a young walker. Both dogs have excellent noses and our goats smell, well, like goats. Now, I just mentioned where the goaties have chosen to hunker down and it’s about fifty yards away from the kennel run on the neighbor’s dogs. When a good breeze carries the whiff of goatie past the dogs they start baying and going absolutely crazy. Once the dogs get all lathered up the goaties perk up. As the dogs’ antics reach fever pitch the goaties actually start gravitating towards them. The farm we purchased the goats from used two border collies to work the goats and two Annatolian shepherd mixed dogs as livestock guardian dogs (LGD). The conclusion I’ve arrived at is that the goats know what a barking dog is all about and that these dogs are not the dogs they know, but they must seem to feel that getting closer to a barking dog is better than being far away. This makes perfect sense since coyote pressure on goats can be pretty high and a barking guardian dog would be an alert for the herd to gather close, not scatter. So, the neighbor’s barking and baying hound dog might be driving the neighborhood crazy, but it’s keeping the goaties herded up nicely.
The second observation I made while trying to gain the goaties’ confidence was their reaction to the perimeter fence. At one point I made it to within twenty or so feet of the herd and they simply trotted off towards the northwest corner of the property. All the fence lines are nice and clear, but the goats decided to shy away from the easier walk along the fence line. At one point the neighbor’s dogs started barking and the goats trotted towards them, but once they sighted the fence the goats doubled back and actually came within ten feet of me before they trotting back to their previous bedding position amongst the live oak thicket. The conclusion I came to with this behavior was that the goaties have obviously experimented with the fence and FELT IT. That’s great! The whole point of electrified fencing is the added psychological deterrent the shock instills in addition to the physical barrier. It appears that a couple of the goats have sampled the power of Thor and don’t like it.
Although the goats have yet to be fully contained to the “planned” level, they are providing a good lesson in goat behavior. All we have to do is be patient and take the time to observe and gain their confidence. The good news from the second day of shepherd school is that all the goats are gathered together and safe in the middle of the property. A good day of observing and learning goat behavior to boot. Not a bad day at all.//mr
In 2014 a couple of 40-somethings decided to make a change. The purchase of 10 raw, pine scrub acres along Florida's Nature Coast started it all. This is that story.