Frequently Asked Questions
(refer to Practical Goatpacking by Carolyn Eddy for more in depth info on all items mentioned below.)
: 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 to $500. You can maintain two for about $50 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 used for packing. It is also highly discouraged to take a fertile female into the wilderness. 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 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 rule of thumb is: The more rugged the terrain, the lighter you pack the goat.When can they pack?
Too young? DO NOT PACK YOUR GOATS UNTIL THEIR 4TH YEAR! (This means AFTER their 3rd birthday.) They do not need "soft pack" training and it can actually harm the goat if you use anything other then a built for goats pack. Absolutely avoid dog packs that put the weight directly on the spine.
To old? Healthy, well cared for and conditioned goats can pack for many years. We have personally had several that packed into their 11th year for us, into there 13th and 14th for "lighter use" folks.We even have had one that at 16+ was still going strong with full weight.
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. Well trained 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 at night before being tied for the night. They prefer to be near enough to hear your voice or breathing in the night.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 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. Also, what come out as waste, does not leave foreign seeds, so a totally "weed free" diet before the trip is not an issue with 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 better 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 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 a canopy
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 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 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 hotly 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 challenge, 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 let off some of their excess heat 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 recomended 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 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 ones with adequate airflow (but covered from elements) or those meant for animals.
What is the Cost of a Pack Goat?
From a pack goat breeder, you can expect to pay $250 to $500 for a beginning packgoat less than six months of age. A fully trained pack goat can cost $800 to $1500 depending on training, size and age. Then there is the equipment costs; for saddle and panniers are $400 to $600 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! We do not recommend using this method unless you are VERY 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, salt licks, 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. Also, too much airflow for long trips can cause respiratory issues in goats.
(Chain link fencing is not recommended. 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 $200 or more. Panniers range between $150 to $250 a set. Their is another pannier setup that is a bucket and strap system, most useful for hunting. Cost is two empty square 4 gallon laundry buckets 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. If you choose to do so, be absolutely sure not to fully load them. Keep weight down to less than 10% 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. Also needed is a way to tie out, water and care for emergencies, and maintain "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 is best.
Fencing – 5-ft. high field/horse fencing. (With horned goats 4" squares recommend)
Shelter – Covered, with at least three sides, dry and blocks main wind flow.
Food - hay: alfalfa/grass mix.
Protein treats. These should only be used as supplements to natural browse if you have it. Goats really do best on browse.
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 mineral block.
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 $30 to $60 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 to a few hours each day with each goat to work on commands as well as for bonding.A suggested wether diet mix that we use for winter time feedings: Packgoat Diet - Custom Mix #1596 (available through your link page)