Disclaimer: We are not experts in the farm animal field. We are providing some general information on farm animals, but you should always check with your local veterinarian prior to administration of any medical treatment (topical or oral) for your farm animals.
What would a farm be without its animals? Even though we have a plant-based operation as the draw to our farm, we do raise chickens (and will try to reintroduce more goats, eventually, as well).
But your passion may require you to raise certain type of animals on your farm, and hopefully this information will help to guide you in those decisions.
So here are some of the animals that we know a little about. Again, it’s by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully enough information to begin with:
Dog Breeds for the Farm
When having dogs on a farm, it’s important to know whether you want them as working dogs or pets. Try not to mix these roles, as they will get confused. Consider taking a training class on how to train a dog, and go through it with yours. You need to be the alpha, and have the bond with you.
Breeds good for farm:
1) Great Pyrenees: (the nannying dogs) Guard livestock, from pretty much anything (wolves to people). Pretty shy possibly even with owners
possibly, ensure they are working dogs and not the pet. Big and woolly but do not shed very much. Can adjust to almost any temp and climate. Good with all livestock. Love other animals (except for threats). Raised as herding and guarding dogs. Easy to take care of, very popular breed for farm work. Check out this video…
2) Border Collie: More like a herding and gathering dog. Very intelligent and energetic, so they need to be worked, otherwise they can get into mischief, need to be kept challenged. Very loyal, love to please.
3) German Shepherd: Mostly thought of as canine/FBI dogs, but actually raised as a shepherd (hence the name). These dogs are very good at guarding, not really herding type, but very good at keeping everyone safe on the farm. Can be territorial and very protective, so need to train them young on how to act to strangers. Can be very loyal and sweet as well.
4) Corgi: Don’t let their size fool you! Bred to snap at cattle heels and herd them, not at all afraid of larger animals. Because of general domestication of breed, which now has even shorter legs, probably better for small ruminants and perhaps chickens. Corgis are very smart as well.
5) Rottweiler: Not many people remember that these were actually bred as guarding, territorial animals since Roman times. Great nannying dogs, like Great P’s, but are very territorial and they need to be introduced to strangers slowly, and you need to be there, otherwise they may, probably not attack, but display their territorial nature, so Rottweilers while great at what they do, and potentially very gentle and loving, because of the “Cujo” mystique many people are hesitant to use them.
6) Australian Cattle Dog: Another really smart herding breed, not so much a guarding breed to scare predators away. Will keep livestock together and on the property. Very fast and nimble, typically only about 30-40 lbs. max. Very fast and smart, another breed that you need to keep engaged. In fact many of these breeds that can be used with effect on the farm do not do so well in urban settings/apartments, etc. and will tear stuff up because it is difficult to keep them active enough and their minds engaged enough. Really need to wear them out.
7) English Sheep Dog, bred to care for sheep, one of the oldest and well-known herding dogs. Also one of the most successful farm helpers due to their strength and agility, will stand up to almost any predator, but also a very sweet temperament and loving. Have a thick coat, but this is breathable, so they don’t get super-hot and can do well in hot summers. Do not require a whole lot of coat management. Will get shaggy if outdoors a lot, but a trim at a vet’s office once or twice a year should be enough to deal with this, and won’t cost you much.
Should you let your working dogs sleep inside? Depends on what you are working with, if you are keeping them mostly as herding animals and you confine your herd at night and don’t need dogs to protect against predators, then they can go in garage, for example. But if your livestock is going to be exposed to coyotes, hawks, etc., then you’ll want your dogs to be around, so that you (and your herd) will feel more secure.
8) Burmese Mountain Dog: Very similar to the Great Pyrenees. Bred mainly for guarding, very attentive to what they do, but perhaps not as agile as some other dogs. Can get very big (100+ lbs.)
Standard care for dogs: Core vaccines as per state regs. 1 or 3-year rabies shots, distemper/parvovirus (1 or 3 year). Not state mandated in TN, but a very common one that protects against contagious diseases (especially as puppies)
Situational vaccines: Bordatella (for kennel cough) Lyme Disease and influenza. We don’t usually give Lyme Disease in TN, as the tick vector is not found in this state.
Also need protection against internal and external parasites like fleas and ticks, heartworm (this is a mosquito-borne parasite and now a big problem in TN, especially since Katrina, when a lot of animals in Louisiana who routinely were exposed, then fostered up in Tennessee, and then mosquitoes spread it everywhere).
Need to check at least annually, because dog can be on a great prevention (Trifexis). Expensive, but if you document administration and dog contracts heartworm they will pay for it. Heartguard is also great. Differs from Trifexis in that it does heartworms and roundworms) Trifexis does heartworms, roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and fleas (not ticks). You can do Trifexis and a supplemental flea and tick protection, and the extra flea prevention will not be a problem as it will be a completely different mode of action.
Sometimes, dog medicines, like people medicines, will have different names, but it’s the same medicine just made by a different manufacturer. But in the case of Advantage multi, for instance, this is very different from Trifexis and Heartgard. Advantage is a topical, so when applied to the skin, it goes into the blood, so when a flea or tick bites, its going to be killed automatically. The Trifexis actually goes into the subcutaneous layers of the skin after the dog has ingested it, and this prevents the fleas from even wanting to bite (a repellent, that is).
Any of the ingestion methods are going to be completely different in mode of action from any of your topicals, although much of the time the end result (killing of adult fleas, replant action, etc.) can be the same.
Getting animals spayed or neutered can not only prevent unwanted pregnancy, but can also prevent against certain sex-linked cancers. Studies are showing that animals spayed before three years can reduce the chance of ovarian and uterine cancers, and (if neutered) prostate and testicular cancers.
Vets always recommend spaying/neutering unless you know you would like to breed the animal (which can be another source of farm income, BTW) 6 months or older.
On the diet front…raw meat is not a good thing for your dog. Parasites etc. that are removed by cooking are in the meat, which has also been raised in a no-wild state can infect your dogs.
Animals, like people, are living so much longer now, largely due to better care, that the end result of most dog lives is now some form of cancer (as it is in people). So cancer-preventive measures are a good idea. However, cancer treatments in animals, as in people, have also made great strides, which is something to consider perhaps in a younger dog especially.
Next week…more farm animals and their care.
To learn more about sustainable farming check out our “Simple Sustainable Farm Living” Conference: