The Guardian Way – November 2023

LGD at Farmhouse Vineyards cotton field protecting ewes. AgriLife picture courtesy of Costanzo, 2023

The cooler days of fall have finally arrived, and it appears we are headed out of the drought!  Long-range forecasts continue to show above-average rainfall this spring and slightly below-normal temperatures.  Now is the time to ensure your LGDs are in proper body condition to handle the cooler winter temperatures and the stress of spring lambing and kidding that will quickly follow in the spring.  An excellent body condition scoring sheet can be found online that we use to score our dogs.

AgriLife Livestock Guardian Dog Program: Update and Events

We hosted the AgriLife Fall LGD Field Day on Oct. 27 at the Farmhouse Vineyards Armory in Brownfield, TX. The event included workshops, a producer panel, vendors, dog breeders, and a ranch tour of the Farmhouse Vineyard’s sheep operation. We want to thank the generous sponsors of the event in Brownfield.

 Gold Sponsors                                                                                             Silver Sponsors

Brownfield Farmers Co-Op                                                                       State Farm Insurance

Diamond Pet Foods                                                                                    Texas Farm Bureau Insurance

Invisible Fence Brand                                                                                 Tractor Supply – San Angelo

Lone Star Tracking

Nestle Purina

Predator Management Board

Terry County Tractor

Terry County Abstract & Title Company

Our fall webinar was held on Nov. 16 at 3 p.m. The webinar discussed the Karakachan LGD breed and was be presented by Dr. Phillip Sponenberg, DVM founder of the American Karakachan Dog Association. You can view the webinar on our YouTube channel

Karakachan dog guarding sheep. Picture courtesy of Kid Hollow Farm, 2023


Scoring of Puppies in the Bonding Project

Recently, a few producers asked me how we scored our puppies for the bonding project.  The scoring system that we use is one that we developed in-house for our bonding project.  It uses a rubric to score the pups based on different criteria that we felt were important to the training and handling of livestock guardian dogs as adults.  We score the pups on direct handling, leash training, tether training, vehicle rides, and handling for socialization. The pups receive a score for each area. Puppies also receive a roaming score.  Each pup receives a score based on the times they may have roamed or patrolled outside their pasture boundaries.  Each group of puppies is scored at 8, 12, and 18 months of age. The socialization score, roaming score, and predation levels found on the ranches are combined to form an overall successful LGD score when the puppies graduate from the program at 18 months.

Bonding Project Update

Round Five Dogs

The puppies are all doing well and have moved to different pastures in the last few weeks to accommodate other research projects in the bonding pastures.  Pearl was limping one day on her right front leg last month when the puppies were checked after a weekend.  No injury was seen on the outside of her leg.  After a vet visit, it was determined to be either an injury to the growth plate in her elbow or a genetic defect.  She has been kenneled for a few weeks and given several medications to reduce inflammation and pain.  The breeder Pearl came from performs hip and elbow dysplasia testing and has not discovered any genetic issues in her puppies.  Hopefully, Pearl will recover and be able to join her sisters in early November in the pastures at the Center.

Viper headed to his new ranch in Ft. Davis. Picture courtesy of Costanzo 2023

All the puppies except Maverick and Goose will go out to cooperating producers this month.  The puppies will go to four locations from Uvalde to Ft. Davis.  The puppies will be tracked using Oyster 3 GPS trackers until they are 18 months old.  Producers will be visited every 4-6 weeks to discuss issues and see how the puppies are doing at each location.  When the pups are 18 months of age, the cooperating producers can purchase or return the puppies to the Center.  This will be our last round of the bonding project using the original criteria we used when the project started in 2019.  We will continue to bond LGD puppies at the Center using various training methods to help ranchers improve the use of their dogs.

Maverick and Goose will head to the AgriLife Center in Stephenville after the first of the year.  They will guard a cedar-eating goat herd of yearling nannies split off from the Sonora Station herd.  The goats will be placed on a ranch donated to the Stephenville AgriLife Center for research.  Splitting the Sonora herd will allow more research than currently performed on the AgriLife Center – San Angelo research ranches.

In closing

If you enjoyed this monthly LGD blog, please don’t forget to subscribe to it with this link: The Guardian Way | Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at San Angelo.

To provide feedback on this article or request topics for future articles, please contact me at or 325-657-7311.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Livestock Guardian Dog Program is a cooperative effort by Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the Texas Sheep and Goat Predator Management Board. Follow us on our social media sites and share them with your friends and family!

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Do not forget to check out the Texas LGD Association online! Follow the organization on Facebook or YouTube at @TexasLGDAssociation, or check out their website!

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