Goat Week Day 5: Health and Safety
One of the biggest challenges in keeping goats safe is keeping predators away. These range from neighborhood dogs to bears, and unless you can be with your herd constantly, a livestock guardian dog is a very good investment. We have four of them. They live full time with the goats they guard, and they are very special and important parts of the team.
There are many breeds of livestock guardian dogs. The breeds were developed in countries where goats and sheep roam free with perhaps one or two humans to act as shepherds. These dogs are not pets; they are working dogs, and they have specific characteristics that make them very effective. Some of the most well-known are Great Pyrenees and Maremma.
Livestock guardians do not approach sheep or goats as prey; instead, the dogs show submissive behaviors to the goats. It’s fascinating to watch a 130-pound dog lower his head or break eye contact with a 60-pound young goat. That is not typical dog behavior. Let an unknown dog or human approach the herd, however, and you’ll see a very aggressive reaction. The dogs work as teams to ward off predators, and they will attack if necessary.
We have three females and one male. The male is a huge Great Pyrenees/Anatolian Shepherd cross. His name is Ranger. Ranger weighs around 170 pounds and stands as tall as the adult bucks he guards. He is playful, sweet, and completely devoted to the humans and goats in his life, but he is also terrifying when he is in protector mode. Our three females are two Great Pyrenees/Anatolian Shepherd crosses and one Maremma.
Knowing they are out in the pasture with the goats at all times is a great relief! The area where we live has many predators, and before we got the dogs, we had to take the goats to the field every morning and bring them back to the house every night. Now they can live out there all summer.
Protection from predators aside, health is the other chief concern. Without good health, nothing works well, and that goes for goats as well as humans. We strive to keep our goats in good health through giving them vitamin and mineral supplements, feeding good quality hay in winter, and allowing them unlimited browse in a fenced field in summer.
Milkers have additional needs related to their mammary system. Udders that stretch out every day while they fill with milk only to deflate at milking time can create skin challenges. Chapped teats and udders are a frequent condition, so I have created an udder balm to help soothe the udder skin when needed.
This balm is not just for udders, though. It works very well on hands or feet that need extra TLC.
I begin with Coconut Oil, which is very nice for skin, and it helps keep the balm more solid. High Melt Point Shea Butter conditions the skin and prevents graininess when the udder balm sits in the milk room in the hot days of summer. Lanolin is a wonderful skin protector. Beeswax helps with firming up the formula. Extracts of Comfrey Leaves and Calendula are well respected for helping the skin remain supple and healthy. Lavender Essential Oil smells great and creates a calming, soothing environment.
Here are the supplies and equipment used to make this product:
Udder Balm Recipe
Makes 4 ounces
3 ounces Coconut Oil
46% Coconut Oil
Note: This is an herbalism formula, and the extract usage rates are higher than what we might use for a daily use recipe rather than super indulgent skin care.