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Monday, March 11, 2013

Working Goats

Martok
with Sue Weaver, Hobby Farms Contributor

Goats, particularly wethers, are good at carting and packing supplies. Photo courtesy Catandrea (HobbyFarms.com)
Courtesy Catandrea
Goats, particularly wethers, are good at carting and packing supplies.

Last week, Katy the Alpine goat gave birth to my newest kids. They're a boy named Ranger and a girl named Rapunzel. They're cute! Ranger is so colorful that Mom says he's going to become a working goat and pull her wagon and cart—maybe even go in parades! Mom says I can't do that because I'm a big, studly buck and I don't smell nice during part of the year, but I'm proud that my sons and daughters are working goats.

Mom is going to train my new kids, Ranger and Rapunzel, to be working goats. Photo by Sue Weaver (HobbyFarms.com)
Photo by Sue Weaver
Mom is going to train my new kids, Ranger and Rapunzel, to be working goats.
We goats are smart, so it's easy to teach us to do lots of fun things. Mom is writing an article for the September/October 2013 issue of Hobby Farm Home that will show you how to make him a harness and wagon and teach your goat to pull it. My first son, Hutch, is going to learn to pull and pose for the pictures. Don't miss it!

You can teach your goat to drive like Dixie the cart goat, who portrayed Tad Lincoln's goat, Nanko, in the movie Lincoln. Tad, President Lincoln's son, once drove Nanko through a soiree in the East Room of the White House, scattering people and yelling, “Get out of the way there!” Historically, goats often pulled carts and wagons. Your goat can, too! Visit the British Harness Goat Society's photo gallery to see what cool things driving goats can do.

Your goat can also carry your things when you go camping. Conditioned packgoats can carry up to one-third their weight in camping gear, and they're easy to train. Serious packgoat trainers in the western mountain states prefer long-legged dairy breeds, but Mom trained several of our Boer goats to pack. Muscular meat breeds do well on level and rolling terrain, and they can carry a lot of weight.

Another skill you can teach your goat is to run an agility course. Many 4-Hers train agility goats and exhibit them at 4-H shows, but others train their goats (and sheep!) just for fun.

If you want to train a working goat it's best to start with a bottle baby who will learn to trust and obey you while he's young, but gentle older goats are easily trainable, too.

If you plan to teach your goat to drive or pack, get one of the larger breeds. Myotonic goats are the exception because if they faint while working, they can get tangled in their harness or packing gear and get hurt. Any size of goat can learn agility, even little kids.

Most working goats are castrated males (wethers), but as long as a doe doesn't have a big udder full of milk, she can be a working goat, too. Even studly bucks like me can work when we aren't in breeding mode, but because of our autumn aroma, we don't usually learn to drive or pack.

Many people clicker train working goats. Mom does, but other gentle methods work, too.

So why not teach your goat to work? You'll have fun, and he will too!   

Ask Martok!
Do you have a livestock or wildlife question you want me to answer? Send me your question!

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Working Goats

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Reader Comments
Out local 4-H organization has a pack goat program and it sure is fun to watch the kids and goats all learning together.
Harmony, Brownsville, OR
Posted: 5/30/2013 9:25:43 AM
I havce seen a cart goat work before and they are really cool to watch
Tom, Celina, OH
Posted: 5/27/2013 6:49:32 PM
cool
hj, j, GA
Posted: 5/27/2013 3:27:03 PM
I love goats. And yes, they're so smart! Not only can you teach them anything but they have a thing or two to teach us.
Galadriel, Lothlorien, ME
Posted: 5/26/2013 10:50:44 PM
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