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 $30 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 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 are used to grow and
develop. These are the bonding years that make or break a good pack goat.
should be learning manners rather then "how to" pack. How to behave
on a leash, in camp, on the trail, when to eat, then 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.
Why Pack Goats?
How much can one carry? Goats can
easily carry 1/4 of their total body weight. Fully conditioned packers
can reach up to 1/3. A large fully grown wether can easily carry 40 to
60 pounds of gear. That's a lot of stuff, and if you need more you can
just add another 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.
Loyal, Easy to Handle: Goats are ideal companions for seniors
who can no longer carry a backpack and for families with small children.
Goats are personable, properly trained they prefer being with people. Goats
are easily led by children and 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. And there droppings
are not smelly. In fact, to the untrained a goats 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.
Do I want Horns on my goats?
|Advantages vs Disadvantages
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 than other pack animals
Goats have minimal impact on the environment
Goats don't need large quantities of feed, they can browse on the trail
Goats do not have to have 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 a canopy
Goats are pleasant animals who will stay with the herd and not stray from
Goats do not need to be tied up at night if properly bonded to humans
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 the flowers)
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
Zoning regulations may limit your ability to keep goats in your backyard
(move, or rent from us)
This is a hot issue and ultimately comes downs to personal preference.
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.
And we are rural enough the roaming domestic dogs are a problem. Most have
learned to respect our boys ability to defend their turf. 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. But 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.
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 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. Our experience indicates that 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.
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.
What is the Cost of a Pack Goat?
|What's Paco doing in the
1968 Ford Pickup
Converted to Propane
|Transportation: For moving
the goats to Settlement Canyon (within two miles and where we do most of
our training hikes), most often we just load everyone into a utility
trailer that holds eleven very comfortably and not to close. For
regular pack trips or longer distances from home we have a couple of house
trailers that block wind. We put the gear in the pickup.
Basic Utility Trailer with side panels.
Goats are individually tied to side panels.
They can stand or lie down durning travel.
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 fenced
area which has shelter, food and water available daily. You will need to
purchase feed, medicines, and various supplies on an ongoing basis 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.))
What Packing Equipment Do I Need?
Since packgoats are working animals, you will need to purchase pack
equipment for each animal. Halters, collars, leads, pack saddles, panniers,
are but a few of the items necessary for proper outfitting.
Two types of packs are commonly used. The most common type of
pack is a cross buck, and is used to carry full loads of 25% to 30% of
the goat's body weight. The cross buck consists of the saddle (wood or
metal), saddle pad, and panniers (carrying bags). This pack type can cost
$150 or more. The other is a bucket and strap system, most usuful
for hunting. Cost is an empty square 4 gallon laudery bucket and and per
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 goat by destroying their back.
What Do I Need to Consider if I Decide to Purchase a Goat?
Panniers for hiking
Panniers for Hunting
Trail Care Gear for the Goat
Land – 100 sq. ft. 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 and vitamins. Mineral salt lick. And
Water – fresh daily.
Health Care – yearly checkups, worming, yearly vaccinations, hooves
trimmed every 6 to 12 weeks. (dependent on need)
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 $15 to $20 per month per goat.
Exercise – a hike a week or walks during the week. An exercised goat
is a healthy goat.
Training Time – plan to spend several minutes each day with the goat
to work on commands as well as for bonding.