Jan Dohner, Livestock Guardian Expert

Name: Jan DohnerJan Dohner Livestock Guardian Expert

Occupation: librarian, researcher and author

Place of Residence: Michigan

Background and Personal History: Jan and her family currently have a small flock of 20 Shetland sheep guarded by 3 Kangal Dogs and supervised by a Cardigan Welsh corgi.  She sells fleeces, wool batts, roving, and yarn. She also raises her own organic eggs from her flock of chickens, gardens organically, and is an active beekeeper who sells honey.  Jan makes mead and cider, including hard cider, from her honey and organic orchard. In the past, Jan and her family have raised horses (Morgans, Trakehners), goats (including Fainting goats), and turkeys.

Jan believes she inherited her back-to-the-farm and make-it-yourself genes from her grandparents. Her paternal grandfather tragically lost his farm in the second decade of the last century but Jan treasures the few photos she has of him working the fields with his horse and mule-drawn equipment, accompanied by his beloved farm dog. Her maternal grandfather not only built his home from a Montgomery Ward’s kit shipped on a railroad car, but created beautiful pieces of furniture and art that her family still owns. 

Both of Jan’s grandmothers were accomplished cooks and needlewomen. She never recalls her paternal grandmother sitting in the evening without a crochet or knitting project in her hands and now Jan is the same. Despite the fact that she has her own sheep and produces her own yarn, she always find a need to buy another skein or two of yarn!  Jan’s truly embarrassed at the size of her stash.

Jan’s maternal grandmother fed and supported her family through the Depression by large-scale gardening and canning, as well as raising hundreds of chickens and selling eggs. After World War II, when Jan’s parents married, she spent the first couple years of her life in that old chicken coop – cleaned up, of course – but she thinks it must have imprinted something on her.

She grew up and married a good 4-H boy who also came from a family that built or fixed everything themselves. It was a search for the old farm breeds of chickens that Jan’s husband remembered from his childhood that led her into this passion for historic livestock and poultry. Because she was a librarian who loved to do research, eventually she wrote The Encyclopedia of Historic and Endangered Livestock and Poultry Breeds (Yale University Press). And the need to protect the poultry and livestock from coyotes and other small predators led her to discover livestock guard dogs. Jan and her family began that journey with a lovely Great Pyrenees 34 years ago. She was a true gentle giant but that coat was a trial to cope with, which led to Anatolian Shepherd Dogs and finally to Kangal Dogs.

Jan dedicated her book, Livestock Guardians; Using Dogs, Donkeys and Llamas to Protect Your Herd (Storey Publishing) to the magnificent dogs-of-her-heart – Bear, Kismet, Kelebek, Peshi, Fistik, Sabir, and Akili. Good dogs! Sheep meant herding dogs, so they added the little all-purpose Welsh farm dogs, corgis, to the mix. Today there are five of them in Jan’s extended family – both Pembrokes and Cardis.

Current Projects:  

Jan is getting used to retirement and having more time for writing! She plans to launch her children’s literature review blog this fall and continues her efforts teaching and helping teachers.

The kids grew up and married good people who also love tractors, gardening, making and building things, dogs, bees, sheep and horses. There are always big projects under construction at their places, many of which seem to involve Jan’s husband. She’s anticipating the birth of her third grandchild winter 2013! Grandchildren are a great excuse to knit, which she also loves. 

For being retired, Jan and her husband are both very, very busy!

Other Fun Facts:  Jan loves kid’s books, science fiction, Harry Potter, playing with yarn, and corgis!

More Places to Find Jan on the Web:

Blogging on livestock guard dogs at her Rare On the Farm blog.

Jan’s daughter-in-law sells both her farm and handmade products and some products from Jan’s farm at her Etsy shop.

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