Updated November 10, 2022 by Elyse Nicholson
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Introduction to Driving Goats
The working goat. Yes, you are reading correctly — the working goat. Believe it or not, goats do have another purpose on the farm beside meat and milk. This strong production animal has the pulling capacity to be a powerhouse worker, given the correct training. Goats have excellent work ethic and know how to please. They delight children and surprise parents. They can and are hard working animals that have the capability of driving a cart. And that’s what this 4-part blog series is all about — training your goat to be the next great working goat!
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.
Welcome to the journey!
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 for Driving
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.
Equipment for Driving Goats
A harness is one of the main pieces of equipment you’ll be working with; they can be purchased online 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.”
Now onto the cart. These can be purchased online, 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 above) 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.
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Where to Buy Supplies
Over the years, suppliers have become fewer and more hard to find for goat harnesses, especially miniature goats. There are still a few reputable ones I would recommend, however.
Quality Llama Products
Don’t let the name fool you! This amazing company offers harnesses and carts for all sorts of species, including goats and reindeer! They have great customer service and are able to help assist you in finding just what you need. Sometimes they will even alter a harness if your goat is in-between sizes.
Carter Pet Supply
This company is newer on the market for goat harnesses, though some research shows they make a quality built harness with the right type of driving halter needed. In fact, if you are wanting to just start with a hatler, they do sell those separately. These special halters are hard to find, so it’s nice that they do offer this option. They have availability on their website as well as listings on Amazon. They even offer fun colors!
Are you pretty handy with a sewing machine? HobbyFarms.com offers a great tutorial for making your very own harness!
Carts, Wagons, & More
There are not a lot of carts available for sale that are listed as goat carts. In fact, trying to search that term often gets your go carts. The cart you see in most of my posts was made using 2×4’s, bicycle tires, and plywood. It forms just a simple box. You can also use a garden wagon and build a tongue for it. Or find a small pony cart.
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: