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Discussion Starter #1
Hi there! I'm new to the forums and to homesteading in general. :) We're in the planning stages in our homestead, don't even have the land yet, and I'm trying to learn and plan before we do. We're purchasing a large piece of property in Michigan's Upper Peninsula next summer. We're going to have pigs, chickens, turkeys, and dairy goats at the beginning, adding in a mini dairy cow or 2, sheep, and horses in the future. For the goats, I plan on Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats. I'm thinking Dexters for the cows. I also have a pair of Malamutes, though they're no guard dogs, and cats.
My question is, do I need a guard animal and which type is best? I know we will have bear, wolves, bobcats, and possibly moose to deal with. How common is it for these type of animals to actually come near human habitations and kill livestock? Should I get a guard animal right away or wait and see if I have issues first?
Thanks for reading this, I can't wait to read your responses. :)
 

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You will def need an extra livestock guard- although your Malamutes will be useful as large canids establishing territory- they will be a deterrent to fox, yotes, raccoons possums and other varmits just by being there, peeing and marking all over your property.
Thats what my Giant schnauzer does (good people deterrent too)...
We added a LGD pup- just look around, the easiest to come by are the various unregistered working dogs that have pups- usu pyreenees/ anatolian mixes... Also its alittle easier with pup, if you are newbies (ime, we are too).... to handle and accustomize him with the stock-- with the adult malamutes already there it buys pup some time to grow up- are malamutes prone to same sex aggression (like with schnauzers? we went with opposite gender for that reason-- our dominant female schnauzer lives with 2 very large male dogs who she bosses around )....
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Is there a special way we have to train an LGD or do they just know what to do through instinct? I was thinking that might be a good way to go based on my research.
The malamutes are both males, neutered, we've never had issues with same-sex aggresion with them, but I've heard it could happen. I want to get a pair of Border Terriers soon, they'll be males as I prefer male dogs to females.
 

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well I dont know your dog experience I have had alot with large variety of breeds (note that both the malamutes and border terriers will have a learning curve to manage their prey drive- but it can take time- at least 6months or so to be dependable- but, we were able to do this with our giant schnauzer to chickens, ducks, goats, geese, rabbits- so I say the odds are in your Favor!)....
with have small acreage (only 2) so not really feasible to do the leave em with the stock to bond paradigm- ours mingles with the "house dogs" but his instincts kick in at night he sleeps out either on the back porch which oversees the poultry yard or in the back field and does his job patrolling....didnt really do anything special other than, during his adolescent phase, manage some chicken chasing....
and yes the schnauzer had to be taught that chicks and ducklings are in the same category of the adults (order extra, she wiped out 9 ducklings in a moment of our carelessness- we left them out to get some fresh air ... and did not monitor- watching a movie-- but, now she has learned- but needed to be trained to each seperate species- we are committed to her though, we bought land in part for our big dogs to have more space, the stock came second).
Also LGDs are very discriminating and need intros to new animals as well-- the new buckling got a thorough sniffing and licking over, I kept an eye on them for the first couple of weeks and now he has settled in fine ....

Here is one of my favorite links on puppy training, with handling, and Why, from one of my favorite LGD websites (some day I will get a pup from them!)--

http://www.lgdnevada.com/For_Novice_LGD_Owners.html

also dont be entirely discouraged with regards to fencing- our property being small is fenced but there are def weak spots-- pup followed the elders, they dont get out, so he doesnt (one berry bush thicketed corner actually isnt even fenced)- when he got out under the back cattle gate, (its an access road to the neighbors and people will take evening strolls down there using it, so he would "patrol" that section too)- I just tied a log to the bottom of the cattle gate, told him NO when I caught him, and he stopped...
 

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Zyphlat, you're wise to do your research ahead of time. Have you actually spoken with people who live in the area where you will be purchasing property? Finding out what type of stock they have, what type of predators they've encountered and what they did to keep their stock safe would help you with a variety of decisions you will be facing.

As for your questions:
1. Do I need a guard animal and which type is best? That will depend a lot on how large your place is and what type of fencing you will have. (I suspect you will need some type of animal to help you guard your stock.) Some people like to put a donkey in with their animals. I read a little about this and there are certain types of donkeys that are useful; but my place is small and I did not carry my research in this area very far. An LGD is a great tool to have; but you really need to do your research in order to get the right one for your area and type of animals. Some will not do well against bear and bobcats; some will. Some will not do well in that climate; some will. Some will not stay on your place; some will. In this regard I can only speak to the choice I made. The breed of LGD I chose came from the mountains of Bulgaria where it was up against the predators you mentioned. (You can read about this on my "Made my choice..." thread in this forum.)

How common is it for bear, wolves, bobcats & moose to actually come near human habitations and kill livestock? (The people who live in that area can best answer this.)

Should I get a guard animal right away or wait and see if I have issues first? This is a little difficult to answer because you will have problems either way. Of course you can wait to see what type of issues you will have, knowing you will probably lose stock during that time. There will, also, be problems if you get a guard animal right away, though it might be less if you get a grown one already trained to work the stock you will have. Then just spend some time socializing it with yours. If you choose this route you will need to set yourself up as the "alpha" immediately without taking away that dog's confidence.

Is there a special way we have to train an LGD or do they just know what to do through instinct? A definate yes to both parts of this question! You will be an LGD's "partner" more than its "boss". If you choose an LGD (as opposed to other types of protections), then you will want one you can handle. (An LGD thinks for itself and you need to know how to work "with" it. It will have great guardian instincts; yet you will need to know how to nurther and not hamper these instincts.) You will also want one who has been accustomed to being with the type of animals you are wanting it to protect. I personaly believe it is best to start with a pup about 12 weeks old who has been out working already with its parents; however, that young pup is not ready to be put out with your stock and just expect it to do its thing. It will need protections itself while it learns to do its thing on your particular place. (Also, more than one LGD is best so they can help each other during times of need, especially if they're up against the large predators you've mentioned.)

In the research I did to get the LGD I chose, I ran across several that, if I were going to be in your shoes, would be my choice. These are the Karakachans, the Akbash and the Sarplaninacs; however, others in here will mention their favorits and those LGDs will have their strengths too. So it is just a matter of your knowing yourself, the area your land will be located in and the climate the dog(s) will need to adapt to.

Good luck. You're off for a great adventure!
 
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Discussion Starter #6
Thank you so much for the answers. :) As far as dog experience, I've had dogs all of my life. I've had Malamutes for about 8 years or so, before that a border collie/American Eskimo cross, and an Australian Shepard/border collie cross. I prefer the intelligent breeds, bred to work and think for themselves, and only go for working lines no show lines, hence the Malamutes and border terriers. ;) I like the idea of an LGD for that reason, they sound like my kind of dog anyway.
I'm not really sure there are many farmers of livestock in the UP, but I'll definitely look into it when we start looking at property. It's mostly hunting camps, snowmobile trails, and state land up there. LOL There must be some though.
I'll take a look at that website, CAjerseychick, thank you. I'll also start liking more intently at those breeds, motdaugrnds, thanks. :)
 

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I am not trying to be a jerk here, but your biggest predators will probably be your malamutes. The northern breeds are notorious livestock and poultry killers, maybe yours are an exception to that rule but you will need good fences.

Here is my experience with wolves, I have them on my property at least a few times a week. So far they have harmed nothing except my dogs, which are not LGD's. However a single LGD is a sitting duck and will be a meal to a wolf. I cringe when people suggest a LGD for predator control with wolves. They are not invincible and if you look into the success rate of LGD run in wolf territory its not that great. Usually because the dog/dogs are outnumbered. A lone dog in wolf territory is more like to draw them in, 2 adult lgd might scare a lone wolf away but most wolves have other pack members. If your in an area where you have a pack of wolves, then you will need a pack of LGDs and running a pack of LGD's is expensive and so are vet bills. If someone tells you they have a lone LGD guarding against wolves, its because it hasn't met any face to face or a fence is protecting it from them. A 85 pound wolf picked up my 60lb lab and tried to carry her away. My other dog was attacked twice, each of the three bills were over $500. In the long run a good fence will probably be more effective and less expensive.

Never had a issue with bears other then ruining my bird feeders. Keep all your feed locked up and don't have spilled food all over. It will attract other pests as well. I think thats one of the biggest mistakes I see people make.

Moose, they just plow through fences and wreck them.

Pigs, cows and horses probably wont need any protection unless they have young with them.

I would put cattle panels or 4 ft tall field fence around the property were the smaller stock will be grazed with a stand of electric on top and one on the bottom. The larger livestock you can use electric. So far I have had no predators issues with this set up and I know a wolf, coyote or bear could go over it if they wanted too. I also lock my smaller stock in at night. I have three donkeys out in the pasture but I doubt they provide any protection.
 

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No worries, you're not being a jerk. It's a common problem with Malamutes, that's why most rescues and even some breeders won't even give you one if you own cats. :) Thankfully, my Malamutes are the exception to this (although I'm not going to push my luck by trusting them completely of course). I have an older arthritic boy who can't be bothered to chase anything, even if it's under his nose. The younger one, my almost 3 year old, is so gentle with smaller creatures I don't think he's really a mal. ;) They also both know that if mom and dad say this is a friend, we don't bite it. Although, as I said, I would never put them or my other animals in a situation where they could be in danger. I'm used to strong fences, with mals it's a must.
I really appreciate the advice about the cattle panels or field fence and electric, I had already planned for that since we want goats, so I might be all set. I certainly don't want to run a whole pack of LGDs, that's way out of my budget...After talking more with dh, I'm seriously considering trying my luck, knowing the risk of livestock loss, and seeing how it goes. I did find someone in the UP through my intro thread, I asked about livestock and am awaiting a response. Hopefully that will help with some answers on how tenacious the predators are up there. :)
 

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Contact your MSU extension agent. Talk to your neighbors. Your best defense may be an electric fence.
 

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I'll do that, thank you. :) I didn't know about the MSU extension.
 

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Here is the thing, though... you seem to like dogs (dog lover over here)- getting an LGD pup is just another dog, but, with a HUGE benefit..... (they are not creatures from Mars, but dogs!).... we love ours (well we love dogs) and despite being in cougar, bear (next door has a persistant bear problem in his apple orchard), coyote country- we have not had an issue at all, have just the one LGD but with the schnauzer and an 138lb Berner for him to run with...
so, if you like dogs, and you are planning on Border terriers (funny my goat vet has a female she is planning on showing, the *****'s show handler was in that last big Dog show in NY city, showing the 10 inch beagle).. anyways, getting an LGD pup could be useful aquisition/ family farm animal.(Dont remember how much land you are planning on, did you check out the Link I posted, the lady sends her dogs to Canada and they have wolves over there, in fact her breeding dogs are working Spanish and Pyreanean lines, and last time I checked there arent any coyotes in Europe... just wolves....)....
 

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I did read through the information on the page you linked. After reading it I'm leaning even more towards not getting an LGD, sadly. I think they'd be a nice fit and that we'd do well with them, but there's no way I can afford it. Perhaps in the future?
She says you need at least 2 to keep them happy and safe (though it's possible my dogs will be company enough) and that 3 or more (preferably more) is needed to protect against wolves. My big male is 120 pounds, pretty lazy as mals go, and the older one is 55 lbs. I go through a 40 lbs bag of food every 3 weeks. That food lasts even less time in the winter and less even than that during the fall when my younger boy is working. I plan to switch them to homemade food once the farm is up and running, that should help immensely, but they will still eat a lot. I just don't see how I could feed that many huge dogs. :( I might have to if the predators are super bad, but I think I'll take my chances with good fencing for the first year or two at least.
 

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You're aware of prey-drive problems with dogs, so that's good. It definitely applies to sled-dog types and terriers. This might mean that the LGD's duty will be at odds with prey-driven dogs at some stage. It can also mean that the acquaintance between LGDs and pets should be at arm's length, with herding dogs somewhere in the middle.
To some extent it applies to LGDs as well until they've learnt who is okay. They would have made good Santa dogs - there's naughty and nice, but they work on the supposition that if you're not in you're out, so they have to be taught. Even new babies can be a problem until they're used to the process FOR EACH BREED.

You live in country where packs of predators could be a problem, and even large single predators. Dogs that take those on unsupported by people need to be a team to be successful. Thus, you really need a pair of guardian dogs, spaced in age, with a young apprentice coming in every so often. They'll manage better if you are part of the team, pay attention to their warnings, and back them up with firepower.

Ideally, the pups need to be trained by adults of the breeds they are to protect. Roosters, geese and turkeys have a reasonable chance of teaching a pup where to draw the line; whereas hens and chickens might pay the price while the pup learns a bad lesson it will take a long while to un-teach. Therefore, best to have adults of the protectees when indoctrinating trainee protectors. Unless you are starting with a trained adult (which may still need training with some of your particular livestock), then best to start the livestock first and the guardians afterwards. If you can at all, best to start with a female or desexed dog, as they'll tend to stay at home better, and train the apprentices better.

There are many breeds of LGDs. I tend to vote against Great Pyrenees, simply because they bark so very much, and the males have a reputation for wandering and assuming a much greater territory than they are supposed to, particularly when there's the faintest breath of romance in the air.
I would suggest that you look real hard at Maremmas. They have a coat that will withstand cold well, but it (and a brush and your help) will also enable them to withstand hot summers well.
 
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