Understanding goat behavior will eliminate some of the potential problems that occur with stubbornness in goats. By having a better understanding of why they act a certain way, you will better know how to treat them and how to work with them. This will make for a much more rewarding experience and eliminate the frustration. Some breeds just have naturally better temperaments than others, you can read about various goat breeds and their temperaments here.
Understanding Goat Behavior: Making Sense of Your Goats
Goats tend to get along with most other animals. Cows and goats in the same pasture and pen work well. This is because goats eat most of the plants that cows won’t. Cows eat the inferior hay that goats won’t eat. This combination is a great way to reduce feed costs, there is little to no waste. Goats are easy prey for predators. For this reason, a lot of farmers will place donkeys in the pen with their goats.
A donkey will chase the predator away from the goats. Therefore, goats become less vulnerable. Sheep are easily scared and tend to panic and stampede. It’s in their nature. However, by putting goats in with your sheep, the goats stay calm in most situations. This allows the sheep to stay calm and not panic.
Dogs and cats are great with goats also. There are certain dog breeds that are raised as guard dogs to protect the goat’s offspring. Cats are kept near goats to keep the rodents from inhabiting the barn. As you can see, they work well together.
Social Skills in the Herd
Goats do not like to be alone. They are social creatures, not solitary. When goats are in a group, one goat always seems to become the leader. This goat is easily noticeable, as it is in the front taking the lead. The other goats are so loyal to their leader that they will not move until the leader does first.
Usually, the leader is the oldest doe. She is called the herd queen. If something should happen to the queen, there will be stress and disarray until the remaining goats establish a new queen. The temporary stress that accompanies this change in order can result in temporary negative goat behavior.
Know How to Treat the Queen
Just like in royal monarchy, the queen is treated, well, like the queen. She is first, always! When you are visiting your goats you must always acknowledge the queen first. If you don’t she will exhibit bad goat behavior out of jealousy.
You must train the queen to be co-operative and show good manners. This will reduce a lot of stress for her and the remaining goats. Anytime you have a chore to do with your goats, you always start with the queen first. And always repeat the same order each time the chore is performed.
Goats get stressed easily. Stress leads to bad goat behavior. To eliminate the stress you should do things on a routine all the time. Feed them, visit them, milk them, and so on, at the same time every day. And always do these tasks in the same order, starting with the queen. You should also be aware that goats get used to those that care and handle the goats regularly. If you think you may not be able to care for your goats for a period of time, make sure whoever will be taking your place is someone the goats become familiar with ahead of time.
Events that can cause stress to a goat:
- Being weaned.
- Transporting to a new location
- Feeling isolated
- Artificial insemination
- Being forced into a new situation
- Changes in routine
- Rough handling
Preconditioning Goat Behavior
Introduce any procedures and routines even before you actually start them. Walk your dairy goat to the milking stand from day one, twice a day. Place her where she needs to be and rub her belly and talk to her. This will become routine so when she is ready to be milked she will not be stressed over it.
The same applies to cleaning and trimming their hooves. The two best things you can do as you are working with your goats is to talk or sing to them. It may sound funny but it soothes them and helps them to remain calm.
Be sure to start with the queen and follow the same order thereafter each time a task is performed on your goats. Their stress levels and their behavior will be rewarding to you if you follow this process.
Handling Your Goats
You must handle and interact with your goats frequently and regularly if you expect good goat behavior. Goats that are not handled often enough will become shy and poorly behaved. When visiting your goats, you can bring a treat with you.
Goats love games and as soon as they associate you with treats, they will play the “guess which hand” game with you. Make sure, once again, you start with the queen and follow the same order as always.
Favorite goat treats include:
- Oatmeal Cookies
- Sunflower leaves
- Veggie scraps from the kitchen
- Peanut Butter Treats (available on Amazon)
Goat Collars and Leading
As soon as your goats are big enough, they should have a goat collar. The best ones are plastic choke-chains. These collars are sturdy enough to lead your goat with but if they become tangled on something they are made to break to keep the goat from choking. A quick search on Amazon can give you plenty of options here.
If you spend enough time with your goats and keep to a routine, goats should follow you wherever you go. If, however, they become stubborn and refuse to move, grabbing one ear and pulling firmly is usually enough to make them move again. Be careful, a frightened goat can rear up on its hind legs, just step away and talk gently to the goat. When the goat calms down, simply try again.
For more information on the behavior of goats, make sure you check out Oak Hill Homestead’s post, Quirky Things Goats Do.
If you take the time understanding goat behavior you will have a much better experience with your goats. And they will enjoy your company too. Are you ready to start raising goats on the homestead yet?
Read Next: Goat Housing on the Homestead