What is a Working Goat?
What is a Working Goat? A goat that has a job. It could be a goat that pulls a wagon or cart. A goat you drive or can be driven or used for driving. It might be known as a cart goat or harness goat or wagon goat. A working goat that carries a backpack with camping supplies or items just for a day trip. That is a goat that is a pack goat, or packing goat or goes goat packing. Maybe the working goat visits Hospitals, Old Folks Homes, Schools, Scouts, 4H or such as a Therapy Animal. Goats also make wonderful companion animals for people and for other animals, such as horses, sheep, and llamas. The goat that does tricks or has a trick show or other does other tasks. A Goat can be an Agility Goat or one that does well competing on an Obstacle Course. Or a is Show Ring Conformation Goat, maybe it is a 4H Project. A working goat can be a Dairy Goat that Gives Milk (goat milk soap or other cheeses or cheese or products made for the milk) or maybe this working goat grows a long coat for it's owner to spin the fiber or fibers.
Some goats may do two or more of the tasks above. The more time you spend working with and training your goat, the more it will learn.
Some goats, as you can see in the photo, can just be good to have around other animals while training. Goats like to be included and many think they are humans or above humans.
A working goat must have good conformation to be able to work. To carry a pack on a long trip the goat must be built properly. But a good conformation is a not just for the puller or packer, also a milk goat must be built well to be able to carry the load of a heavy utter/bag. The utter must be set right in the goats body as well as be large with proper nipples.
This page and site is a work in progress.
Working Goat Qualities
I am asked all the time, "What makes a good working animal?".
The truth is any goat can work. But how much work it will do, how much it can carry for how many miles, how far can it pull a wagon, how much milk will it give? Many factors come in to play when looking for the right working goat for the job you would like it to do.
A working goat must have good conformation to be able to work well and for hours. To carry a pack on a day, week end or week long trip the goat must be built properly. A goat that will work in harness needs to have well developed muscles and good stamina.
What is good conformation? Many people think that conformation show animals are just out there looking pretty. The fact is that the animals in conformation are being judged to see how close to a Standard For The Breed they come to. For every breed a Standard was set up. The Standard is set for the perfect animal for that breed and the job it will be preforming. So do not hold out for the perfect goat per the Standard for the Breed, you will never find it and you will never be happy with the goats you own. The standard is a bench mark, not an all in all.
To keep your goat in good working condition your goat need to have a lot of exercise. Large pens with climbing toys can be very important for both the goats body and it's mind. It is always good for the working goat to be taken on several walks a week with or by their owners. Goats love to climb on things, if you have some fun and safe items in their pens it will keep them not only in good muscle tone, but happy too.
much more to come
Many times the right animal with the right person with the right bond between them is what it takes to be a good working animal. Why? Because the two will work together well. The animal will understand, respect and love the owner and want to behave well and to it's best ability. The owner will love and respect their animal. The owner will make sure that the animal is well taken care of, understands what is asked of it, and will treat it fairly if the animal misbehaves.
A fair and just trainer can make all the difference in the world. I have seen people take good animals, some already trained, and ruin them. I have also seen people take animals in poor shape with not so great conformation and shape those animals into wonderful, respectful, hard working animals.
Above all, a working animal must have "heart". What is heart? It is when an animal, or in fact person, can do more then it should be capable of because it wants to do the task in front of it.
I am often asked, "Is one breed of goat 'better' to use as a working goat?"
One breed better then another? The breed you love the best, find the most attractive, the one that has heart and you would like to work with the most is the best breed or mix there of goat for you!
I must ask though: Do you mean better because they are bigger? Better because they are quieter? Better because they are more mild mannered and better behaved? Better because they are more colorful and can be seen better? Better because....?
Yes, maybe. But it will still just be a matter of opinion. Of course the smaller breeds will not be able to pull the bigger carts and wagons or pull or carry as much weight. Nubian's, I have been told, can be a bit, well, like Royalty, don't want to work and will fuss about it. I have had Nubians and Nubian crosses and have not found this to be true. Saanan's can be seen from a further distance so trail visibility is better then say a light brown that might be camouflaged. A goat that looks like a deer or antelope in Hunting Season, can be a very big risk on the back country trail. But any breed or mixed breed goat can be trained to pull, some, as individuals will be better or easier to train then others.
Please, before buying your goats, do your "homework". Read up on the breeds, talk to people that own them, join elists and talk to people and breeders about your questions on the breed you are thinking about buying and working.
If you have a goat that does look like a deer or antelope, please put orange on the goat while out on the trail. An orange pack, neck piece, coat and or harness will make your goat very visible. Packers too should always wear hunter or neon orange during any type of hunting season.
Male or Female?
I have trained does, bucks and wethers (castrated bucks) to pull, pack and do tricks. Does can work out really well. If you are not breeding your doe or looking to milk her every day, she should be a good worker. If you are milking and only playing around with the wagon, take her out after you have sold her kids, or have pulled them long enough ago that she is not still trying to get to them, and after she has been milked out for the morning. I have packed with does and had fresh milk in camp (you must milk them out though, not just take a little and expect them to carry their milk til you are ready to deal with it.). A milking doe is like a token player.....they are not going to work hard, seriously, or for long. They also need very light loads. Milking is already a job on their bodies.
I believe that working a buck as a kid is a very good idea. Both of the bucks I have had in the past have pulled, packed and done a couple of tricks. BUT!! After they are just over one y/o things change. It is not only that they stink at that point so much, they "loose their heads" (minds that is). I was out with a cute little Nigerian Buck I had pulling a cute little Radio Flyer red wagon, about 1/2 mile out he got "bucky". He started rearing and butting and making a big fuss....why? Cause he was a buck. No, no does around, nothing changed, except his head (mind). That was about it for his pulling career.....and he was getting too stinky at that point for a pack. But like I said I think it is important for a buck to learn to learn and to learn early they must mind you. So I will train my new little buck to pull, pack and do a couple of tricks too, but I know his career will be short lived, well...that part of his career.
Weathers, that are the way to go. Weathers can become, if treated fairly, like a big ole sweet dog. Wethers want to be with you, they do not care about does or other animals, and they like to have a job. Most weathers can and do want to work (for a treat of course).
What Age To Start Working Goats
This is a question that stirs much controversy. I think everyone will agree that handling the baby goats much when they are very young is very important for the working goats development.
There is a lot you can do with a baby goat...Baby goats can learn to come to it's name when called, walk on a leash, stand still while you play with their feet (great for later trimming), to be touched all over their bodies, to start a little agility course keeping jumps low and balance items wide, wearing a little bitty pack with only crumbled up newspaper in it, wearing a little harness but pulling nothing, a few tricks, even just teaching it to learn.
The more you do with the baby goat, the better. No real work, much handling and teaching. Good goat manners are necessary, teach them early and demand them always. Your goat will be welcome just about everywhere if you do that.
You can take a baby goat with you on short runs and short packing trips. Let them see the big goats working and see and smell all the equipment. Then later it will be no big deal for them when you go to work with them. Just be very aware of where the little ones are and what they are doing, you sure do not want them to get hurt or have a bad experience.
A working goat needs to have manners. A working goat will not only need manners for training, but you will probably have this goat out and around other people and animals. An unruly goat is not only obnoxious, but also a safety issue.
Your goat will need to know what the words "no", "back", "come" and a few others mean. Your goat will need to not only know the meaning, but also respond in a positive way to the words when they are spoken to it.
Your goat needs to be friendly toward you, the owner, other people, and other animals. You may not think you will be around other people and other animals while you work your animal....but if you are going to be out and about, or just out on the trail, you are likely to run into both.
more to come
Oh boy, here's a can of worms. I believe that the trainer is who shapes the goat for not only the goat's working ability, but also the goat's outlook on people and sometimes it's outlook on life.
The person training a goat sure needs to have a good sense of humor and lots of patients for foolishness. Goats see the world much different then humans do. Goats do not believe they are submissive to people, or beneath them. Most goats think they are here on Earth to entertain and teach humans a few fun things in life. Goat do not think jumping, sleeping and playing on brand new vehicles is a big deal and can not figure out why humans make such a fuss over such a thing. Once the trainer figures out how the goat thinks.....well, you are on your way to training them.
Anyone that knows a bit about animals can train a goat. But it takes a person that is fair and just to the animals to form a bond, communication with, and well behaved, trust worthy animal.
If you are a heavy handed trainer or believe in the old cowboy ways to train...don't buy a goat. Please do not train a goat. Goat training goes much better if you bring your good humor and lots of treats.
If you do not like goats, don't train them or work with them. If you enjoy goats and either have learned about them (per books and Internet searches) if you are patient and have a sense of humor, you might just make a great goat trainer.
The first thing you have to figure out is how to get through to the goat what it is you want it to do. Many times, with trick training or pulling, all you need to do to show them is to have their noses follow the treat you have in your hand as you give the cue command and give lots of verbal encouragement and praise.
more to come
Working Goat Care and Upkeep
So? You bought some goats or baby goats, what now? Your Working Goats need correct care. Not only do your goats need a good quality food and hay, they also need their hooves trimmed regularly.
If you are taking your goats out around other people's goats, you will need to vaccinate your goats. They may need to be checked by a vet and given a Health Certificate.
If you are crossing state lines, check the rules for those areas. You will need a health certificate. You might have to buy hay from where you are going, and/or you may have to feed a certain hay/feed for a week or two before going (so that they do not poop out seeds of plants or weeds unwelcome in that area).
more to come
Working Goat Equipment
Buy the best equipment that you can afford. Make sure that packs and harnesses fit your goats correctly and are the correct type of equipment for the job at hand. Take care of your equipment, keep it clean and sew any areas of your harness or pack that might need it.
Can My Free Goat Pack, Pull and/or Do Tricks?
I hear/am asked this a lot. Someone gave a person an adult goat and the person receiving it has big plans but no experience with goats. Can it work? YOU BET!!
However you do need to look at several facts... Is it an older unhandled buck? How old is it? Is it friendly? Is it a healthy animal? Has it been cared for? How are it's hooves, well trimmed? How is it about being handled and having it's feet handled? Do you own other goats already? Does it get along with other animals?
Never say yes to a free animal until you have gone to see it and have asked many questions. FREE can mean it will cost you much in emotions and cash (vet bills, hospital bills, repair jobs (fencing, barn, house, clothes). Always ask why they are getting rid of it and follow that with back up questions.
The goat in the photo to the right is DragonFly. She was given to me free from a good friend who knew I was looking for a goat. Sharon has given me several animals and when you get an animal from her it is solid! Solid meaning, friendly, healthy, well broke and desensitized and ready to go do what ever it is you want it to do. This photo was taken either the day DragonFly came home with me or shortly after. This goat has done about everything and then some, a gives a good amount of milk when freshened too.
But many times, I would venture most times, the free animal has not been worked with. It was probably bought as a kid and while it was cute they let it get away with cute things like butting people, jumping on vehicles, pushing the family dog around and the like. Now it is full grown and a pain in the butt head! So it will take a lot of work just to make this type of goat a pet and or companion, not alone a working animal. It can be done, but it will take a lot, a whole lot of love and patience and training and patience and time and patience and for the average person, the frustration will not be worth the work it will take.
How Many Goats Do I Need?
Many times I am asked how many goats a person will need. My question is....To do what? To pack how far? To take how much? How much land do you have? How many do you want?
There is no one answer to this question. Goats like to be with other goats, or other grazing animals. It is best to get two goats, when getting your first goats, not only to keep one another company, but it will give you an idea of what a goat is....how they interact.
more to come
See our other pages for information on the type of work you would like for your goat to do. more on this coming soon!