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What animal should I pen with my goat herd overnight to protect them from wolves and coyotes?

I'm considering dairy-goat farming, principally in either Northern Arizona or Wyoming (USA). This will be small-scale, for subsistence and perhaps agritourism as a Hobby Farm.

Many recommend keeping either a dog, donkey, or llama with the goat herd to provide protection and companionship. Donkeys eat much of the same food as the goats. The dog might be better if the predator is human. Perhaps an electric fence powered by solar might be a workable solution? If the primary concerns are wolves and coyotes, what factors should be taken into account when deciding which guardian to provide (if any)? Great answers will attempt to provide an animal recommendation and justify (perhaps proposing additional evaluation criteria).

Possible Evaluation Criteria

  • Can I obtain additional products from my guardian animal (such as hair/fiber/wool)?
  • Cost to purchase and maintain
  • Training period (dogs may have to be trained not to attack the goats, breed dependent)
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    Alpacas work as well as llamas, and both also supply wool. Goat wool and dog fur are low quality (and you can only skin the dog once). So secondary products might perhaps be worth considering. – Móż Jun 3 '14 at 3:58
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    @Mσᶎ I think that Alpacas is a suggestion worthy enough to be its own answer. – Clayton Jun 3 '14 at 12:09
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    @Madlozoz do post answers as answers: comments are really just for seeking clarification on questions and answers, rather than for suggesting answers. – EnergyNumbers Jun 5 '14 at 19:15
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    A human often works well. The gunman sub-species especially so, but can be randomly dangerous and har t socialise. Usually needs own food supply. – Russell McMahon Jun 28 '14 at 18:21
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I would use a donkey. The dairy and sheep farmers I visited in the UK as a child used them, and there's a field of cows near me that has a pair of donkeys in it. When I go by on my bike, the donkeys clearly and obviously arrange themselves protectively between me and the cows. (We have coyotes and wolves near us - you can hear them howl at night and a neighbor saw a wolf once.)

If you had ever been kicked or bitten by a donkey, you would not so quickly say "The dog might be better if the predator is human." They'll do a great job against a variety of predators, and can also help out (if you have the right equipment and temperament) with tasks that require strength, like pulling something heavy. A dog isn't going to do that for you. And as you've mentioned, they don't need separate food or shelter from their guardees.

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    Donkey attacks are no fun. For that matter, guard geese might be a worthwhile addition as well. – Móż Jun 3 '14 at 3:59
  • I honestly don't know: but would geese repel either coyote or wolves? I've seen geese thump a human before though. – Clayton Jun 3 '14 at 10:41
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    @Kate I'm going to wait a few days to encourage more answers before accepting. Thanks for your input! – Clayton Jun 3 '14 at 10:49
  • @Clayton geese won't deter large predators, no, but they would be a tasty addition to the flock. – Móż Jun 3 '14 at 21:57
  • "A dog isn't going to do that". In fact, The great pyrenee was used as beast of burden. – Madlozoz Jun 4 '14 at 17:52
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Great Pyrenees (Pyrenean Mountain Dog)

If you're in an area with a high-threat of animal attack (bear, wolf, coyote), consider 1-2 dogs specifically bred for the purpose of protecting livestock. This breed, specifically, has deeply-bred territorial instincts - which make it a desirable watchdog. They are capable of long-term, independent action and are capable of guarding large open spaces.

Many of these same attributes are also liabilities. Their intelligence can make them willful or difficult-to-train. Their territorial breeding means that they will roam if not on a lead or in a secure fence. They must be intensely socialized toward the livestock to be guarded and the family members, especially during the first 2-3 years of age. Great Pyrenees have been known to attack bear, wolves, and other dogs within their territory.

References

(In lazy-random order)

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