by Elyse Nicholson
I have been training and driving goats with a cart for the past six years and am excited to share this world with you and teach you how to train your own at home.
Training working goats, like any working animal, is in fact, a journey – not a process. It is so much more than simply following instructions. To have a successful working animal, you must first have a bond with that animal — one built on trust. There is no magic formula to teach every goat. What works for some, may not work at all for others. Again, it’s all about the journey.
So let’s get started.
The Right Goat
Unlike the show ring, the breeding pen, or the milk pail, any goat is capable of becoming a working goat with the right about of patience and training, and none are left out. Goats can be any age to begin working. However, there are a few exceptions. Goats should never fully have weight on the harness until they are about 1 or 2 years old (depending on weight). Usually, if they are at the size and maturity for breeding, they are ready for weight. But training can begin as early as three months. And all breeds of goats can perform — as long as they have the ethic and work attitude to pull, no breed is excluded. And this even goes for genders. Wethers are ideal because of their size (and for lack of other useful opportunities) but does and bucks can be used as well. Caution must be taken when using a full grown buck, and a solid relationship must be in existence before considering the use of the goat.
Relationships are key in choosing a goat for this mission. At the minimum, you should be able to walk up to the goat in the pasture, pet it, and lead it by the collar with limited or very little difficulty before starting any training. Having a goat that likes to be touched and is good around most types of people will benefit you in the long run of training. However, these skills can also be taught. You are looking for a good mannered goat that you can build an even stronger relationship with through this journey.
For the purpose of this series, we will be using one of my novice workers, Beauty, pictured above.
|Diagram of a typical goat harness. |
Please note: this is not a real goat pictured– just a
paper mache model.
A harness is one of the main pieces of equipment you’ll be working with; they can be purchased from Hoegger Goat Supply, Caprine Supply, or Alternative Livestock, or even made! Pictured below is a diagram which will help you understand the different parts of the harness. When shopping for a harness or making one, make sure it has the essential parts: halter, lines, breast piece, britching, tugs, and shaft loops. Also, be sure you are obtaining a harness that is made for your goat’s size. Miniature goats will require a “pygmy size harness.”
These can be purchased from any of the links above, but making one is cheaper in the end. Here’s a photo of the cart my dad made using a piece of plywood, two bicycle tires, and a 2×4; this is for simple working. He also added to it and made it more of a driving cart to give little kids rides, which is shown in the first photo of this post.
There are tons of designs and options out there — you just have to decide what works best for the size and capacity of your goat.
Nichole Hansen (pictured at right) from Goat Wagon Sutlers uses an actual driving cart with a seat, as she has Boer goats with more pulling capacity. Please take note: The pulling capacity of a goat usually matches that of its weight. Does can pull their own weight, and males can do twice their weight. You should NEVER use a pregnant or lactating doe for pulling purposes.
Now that you’ve got your goat selected and your equipment on hand, you are ready to begin the first step. And that step is to do some preliminary “test training” with that goat. What I mean is collar training to see if your goat can be used. Can your goat lead by the collar with ease? If your goat is not already trained to lead on a collar, you will want to spend 5-10minutes each day working with your goat to do so. Lead it around by the collar and lead-line, making it comfortable with the feel, and make sure it can do it with ease.
And that’s all for part 1.
Continue reading about training your goat to be the next great working goat:
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