FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
(refer to Practical Goatpacking by
Carolyn Eddy for more in depth info on all items mentioned below.)
BASIC INFO: Goats have been used for centuries to carry loads starting
in places like Iran and Tibet. Goats like to travel in herds and will quickly
let you become part of their specific "herd."
Goats also cost less and are less costly to maintain
in the non-camping months. Two goats will live on a 1/4 acre. Two is the
minimum recommended number of goats as they need companionship, although
they will attach themselves to other species, including you, if they have
no other goats around.
A healthy, packgoat quality, imprinted kid starts
at $150. You can maintain two for about $40 per month. They require shelter,
but it doesn't have to be fancy, just dry and windproof. They do well in
cattle panel fencing, or field fence with hot wire top and bottom.
If you've heard old wives' tales about goats, including
the one that all goats smell bad, well, that's only the bucks and they're
not usually used for packing. And as far as goats having nasty dispositions,
not the one's that are properly hand raised. Goats are similar to a good
dog in temperament, if raised correctly.
Goats are ecologically sound, easy to train, and
love the contact with humans associated with packing. They are really useful
and fun animals to work with.
The goats first three years of the goats life are
used to grow and develop. These are the bonding years that make or break
a good pack goat. They should be learning "manners"
rather then "how to" pack. How to behave on a leash, in camp, on the
trail, when to eat, or not eat, when to rest, how to follow, how to
cross water. It is more important they learn these manners, the "packing"
will come naturally if they have the behavior basics.
How much can one carry?
Goats can easily carry 10%- 20% of their total body
weight. Fully conditioned packers can reach up to 25%-30%. A large
fully grown wether can easily carry 25 to 50 pounds of gear. That's a lot
of stuff, and if you need more you can just add another goat! Good
rull of thumb is: The more rugid the terrain, the lighter you pack the goat.
When can they pack?
Too young? DO NOT PACK YOUR GOATS UNTIL THEIR 4TH YEAR! They
do not need "soft pack" training and it can actually harm the goat.
To old? Healthy,
well cared for and conditioned goats can pack for many years. We have
heard of some that are 15 years plus. We have personally had several that
packed into their 11th year for us, into there 13th and 14th for "lighter
Why Pack Goats?
Loyal, Easy to Handle: Goats are ideal companions for seniors
who can no longer carry a backpack, for families with small children, or
people with limiting health conditions. Goats are personable, properly trained
they prefer being with people. Goats can be easily led by children. They
are easy to pack for ALL ages, as you need not lift the load very high.
Goats, like dogs, bond with humans at a young age and will follow anywhere.
In areas not requiring tying, your goats will willingly follow along the
trail, browse for his own food and sleep next to your tent or rainfly.
Go Anywhere: Goats can utilize areas that are inaccessible to
horses, relieving congestion on crowded trails. They can travel over a wide
variety of terrain, including packed snow, downed logs and rock. Anything
short of a cliff, if you can get there, so can your goats. Probably with
a silly face watching you catch up.
No Trace Camping, Environmentally Friendly: A goat's impact on
the land is minimal. Goats eat like deer. They forage and browse for wide
variety of food, so there is no need to pack food for them. Goats do not
dig holes, or even leave much a a print at all. There droppings are not
smelly. In fact, to the untrained, a goat's droppings and hoof prints would
appear to be those of a deer. Goats require very little extra food to be
transported for them, unlike llamas and horses. Goats are also less likely
to leave behind reminders of their presence in the wilderness. No large
manure piles, broken limbs, and pawed out areas. Goats fit the "leave no
trace camping" ethic very well.
- Carry all sorts of gear, greatly reducing the amount of gear you
have to carry. Goats can easily carry 20% - 30% of their body weight in
saddles and gear (a 200 lbs. goat can readily carry 50 lbs. all day)
- Goats handle rougher terrain better than other pack animals
- Goats have minimal impact on the environment
- Goats don't need large quantities of feed, they can browse on
- Goats do not need water every day, if forage is good. (three
days is not uncommon)
- Goats are relatively easy to train and easily handled by people
of all ages and abilities
- Goats will haul in a small trailer or a pickup with or without
- Goats are pleasant animals who will stay with the herd and not
stray from the group
- Goats do not need to be tied up at night if properly bonded to
- Goats do not need to be lead, they follow naturally
- Goats are well suited to No Trace Camping practices
- Less expensive to own and operate than other pack animals
- Goats travel less distance per day than other pack animals (smell
- Goats carry less weight than other pack animals (get more)
- As with any animal, a certain amount of daily care and attention
is required to keep goats (get disciplined)
- Initial start-up expenses may be quite high (but not as high
as with other pack animals)
- Zoning regulations may limit your ability to keep goats in your
backyard (move, or rent from us)
Do I want Horns on my goats?
This is a hot debated issue whenever goat packers meet, and ultimately
comes downs to personal preference, or need. We chose to have horns on
our goats. We like the look of horned goats. We live in semi arid conditions
where the horns DO help disperse heat. We are rural enough the roaming
domestic dogs are a problem. Most have learned to respect our boys ability
to defend their turf. We also have wolves and cougers in our area.
On the converse side, we have had bruised ribs, torn shirts and
one split lip from dealing with horned packers (totally accidental on the
goat's part),and we still want horns. All of our family and their friends
that visit know that grabbing the horns is a total no-no as this single
action encourages them to butt people. Grabbing their horn tells the goat
you are willing to challenge for the dominance place in the herd. People
have to be more dominate, so must not challange, or allow challenge for
their place in the herd.
Horns vs No Horns Horns on a pack goat function as a cooling
system - they each have a large blood vessel running through them. This
allows the animal to cool itself as the blood circulates through the horn.
The heat dissipates to the surface of the horn. Horns are also good for protection
against dogs and predators. If a goat is bottle raised (and no one played
with its horns), it should not drop its horns to people. For people that
want to or have shown dairy goats, the 4H and the American Dairy Goat
Association rules are "no horned animals". This is for safety simply because
many people do not hand raise their goats, and some breeds of goats tend to
be more aggressive than others. If one chooses not to keep the horns, the
best time to disbud (destroy the horn buds) is when the goat kid is ten
days to two weeks of age.Disbudding is best done with the use of a hot iron,
as pastes and castrator bands do not work well with goats. Whichever you
chose, be consistent.It is not reccomented to mix horned and no horns in
the same herd. It can work but the horned have an advantage over the unhorned.
(We have both, but we also have 35 acres for the goats to move around in,
with nowhere one goat can "corner" another easily.)
So how do you get pack goats to the trailhead?
Goats are also easier to transport than larger pack animals. Three
will fit nicely into a small pickup with a canopy. In a home made animal
box two will even fit in a SUV or Mini Van. Full sided pickups with simple
wood sides can hold several. Of course, trailers always work - utility or
those meant for animals.
our goats get a car ride.
Should your head be out the window Glacier!
For moving the goats to and from trailheads, we have used everything from
pickups, to open and closed trailers, to the back of SUVs or Mini Vans.
Most often we just load everyone into a trailer that holds them very comfortably
and not to close. We have hooks that allow them to stand or lay down,
but no to bunch up at one end or fight while the vehicles are in motion.
What's Paco doing in the front?
1968 Ford Pickup -- Converted to Propane
Basic Utility Trailer with side panels.
What is the Cost of a Pack Goat?
From a pack goat breeder, you can expect to pay $100 to $175 for a beginning
packgoat less than six months of age. A fully trained pack goat can cost
$350 to $600 depending on training, size and age, plus equipment.
If you know what to look for, good quality
animals can be purchased from the local livestock auction. Expect to pay
from $30.00 to $40.00 for young goats and about $125.00 for older goats.
This is a much more risky way of getting your goat so you'd best know what
you are doing! I would not recommend using this method unless you are experienced
in raising goats. Take the time to scout out some reputable breeders and
do some research. Cheap is not always the best way to go. It can be very
frustrating if you're just starting out and are trying to work with an inferior
animal. We learned NOT to go this route for us. All of our less than good
packers were cheap. Spend the time to learn about goats. You'll be
glad you did.
What type of standard equipment do I need?
There are a variety of things to consider when you think about owning
packgoats. As with any animal, goats have special needs. They need a well
fenced area which has shelter, food and water available daily. You will need
to purchase feed, medicines, and various supplies regularly in order to
properly care for your goats.
You will need to figure out how to transport your animals to and from
your destination. Goats have been transported in all manner of vehicles
- pickups, vans, suv's, and trailers of all types. Home built, brand spanking
new trailers, whatever works and is available to you. Be careful of open
trailers. You don't want your hiking buddy to jump out while you're traveling.
((Chain link fencing is not reccommended. We have found that 4" X 4" welded
wire 5' X 16' panels work the best for small areas. Field fence with
two strands of barbed wire at the top for large areas.)
What Packing Equipment Do I Need?
Since packgoats are working animals, you will need to purchase pack
equipment for each animal. Halters, collars, leads, tie outs, pack saddles,
panniers, are but a few of the items necessary for proper outfitting.
Two types of panniers are commonly used. The most common type
of saddle is a cross buck, and is used to carry full loads of 25% to 30%
of the goat's body weight. The pack rig consists of the saddle (wood or
metal), saddle pad, and panniers (carrying bags). This pack saddle can
cost $150 or more. Panniers range between $100 to $200 a set. Their is
another pannier setup that is a bucket and strap system, most usuful for
hunting. Cost is two empty square 4 gallon laudery buckets and and pre-made
strapping that runs about $20. You also need a collar, lead and ID tag
for the goat. Using "dog packs" or home made "soft packs" can be
harmful to the young goat. We do not recommend packing a goat before
their forth year -- or they "fit" an adult saddle. If you choose to
do so, be absolutely sure not to fully load them. Keep weight down to less
than 20% of their total weight. While hoof trimming is not something
you will do on the trail, it is very necessary for a successful hiking trip.
When the hoofs get messy, the goat can not walk well, and looses much
of his agility. The goat will need a good brushing before and after wearing
a packsaddle. A way to tie out, water and care for emergancies, and mantain
"manners" on the trail.
Panniers for hiking
Panniers for Hunting
Trail Care Gear for the Goat
High / Lowline Tie Out
Goat Grooming & Hoof Care
What Do I Need to Consider if I Decide
to Purchase a Goat?
Land – at least 150 sq. ft. per goat. Roughly 1/2 acre -or more- per goat
Fencing – 5-ft. high field/horse fencing. (With horned goats 4" squares
Shelter – Covered, with at least three sides, dry and blocks main wind
Food - hay: alfalfa/grass mix. Protein treats. These should only be
used as suppliments to natural browse if you have it. Goats really do best
Water – fresh daily. We keep goldfish in our water year round to help
keep the tank clean. We also have to deal with freezing temperatures so
we have a heated tank for winter use.
Minerals and Salt -- Sweet Licks Meat Maker is what we use, with a maroon
Health Care – yearly checkups, worming -- as needed, yearly vaccinations,
hooves trimmed -- as needed.
Companionship – consider at least 2 goats to keep each other company.
Goats are herd animals and tend to act out or cry a lot if solo. They do
make good horse companions.
Care Cost – about $20 to $30 per month per goat.
Exercise – at least one good hike a week or shorter daily walks during
the week. An exercised goat is a healthy goat.
Training Time – plan to spend several minutes each day with each goat
to work on commands as well as for bonding.