Working Goats: Your Journey Begins Here

by Elyse Nicholson

PART 1

Introduction to Driving Goats

 Working goat pulling cart
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

Beauty the work goatUnlike 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.

Work goat relationships
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

Goat harness diagram
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 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.”

Work goat driving cartNow onto the cart. 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's goat driving cartNichole 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.

What’s next?

Work goat collar trainingNow 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: 

Part 2: Beginning the Long Haul

Part 3: Putting the Cart Before the Goat

Part 4: What Now?

29 thoughts on “Working Goats: Your Journey Begins Here”

  1. My 12 year old grandson has had a goat project (Tripp) for several years. He now has a 2 wheel cart and the goat has been trained to pull. I used to milk 2-3 goats a day for years and love the creatures BUT with 4% butterfat and naturally homogenized, we gained a LOT of weight. Made bread, ice cream, creamed foods, tapioca,etc. Loved those days.

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  2. Lol. Looking at the picture of the harness diagram l was like "Woah! That is the most sickly looking doe!" And yet l couldn't exactly put my finger on why…until l read "Paper Mache" lol. Too funny. Great piece of art, even had me confused.

    Anyway, thanks for this useful article. I have been doing dairy goats for years and finally purchased my own buck. Since he only works about 6 days a year, breeding my does, l REALLY want to cart train him. I don't feel very green using gasoline and diesel to till my garden and hull firewood and l KNOW he could do it. He is a sweet guy but he can drag me across the yard when excited!

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  3. Wow! I am so excited to be reading this series. I have goats and am dying to train them. They are big girls and boys.

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  4. Hello my name is Aubrey. I am in 5th grade and in 4-h fundraising for my goat. I was wondering how to get my goat to pull a cart. But without losing my goats or the stuff in my cart. I was also was wondering how much they can pull. I was wondering if you could give me advice?

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    • Hi Aubrey,

      How exciting! 4-H is actually how I got started as well! The best advice I can give you is to be patient and don’t go to the next step before you are confident both you and your goat are ready. I moved too fast with a wether of mine, and he ended up crashing my cart! Needless to say, we were both moving to fast.

      Wethers/Bucks can pull twice their weight, and does can pull equal to their own weight. Does that have never freshened can probably handle more though. I had a 65lb doe that used to give kids rides in her cart — sometimes three at a time! She was a worker! Although it is possible to do, I would never advise using a doe that you plan to breed again, just because of the strain it will have on them. A retired doe would be okay, but don’t push them too much past 15lbs over their current weight.

      Feel free to check out the rest of this blog series to learn more! And ask more questions along the way!

      Elyse

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  5. I’m not sure if this will turn out, but this was Ziva (Alpine doe) who I was working with to pull a cart, my sister gave me the cart as she thought it was too heavy for her Rottweiler to pull doing carting. I sold her before we really got much farther than this, Next time I’ll be using my big Nubian buck
    Thanks for the link,, love driving!

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  6. Living on the desert, we have a BIG problem with coyotes that can jump my 6 foot perimeter fence. So I have 2 miniature donkeys that protect my goats and parole the place and stomp the coyotes to death. That being said, the girls hang out with my big Sannen buck. Being a homesteader, I have the stuff to make a cart, and I plan to try this with my girls and the buck.

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  7. I have a goat cart that my dad made me when I was about 10. (57 now) I’m thinking of selling it. I’ve tried training goats when my son’s were young to use it, but none worked as well as the one I raised. Might be that I spent every waking hour with her when I wasn’t in school from the time she was about a week old. My parents could have killed me when I lost the bottle nipple in a snow drift and then it snowed another several inches. (Rubber glove with a hole in it worked until someone could make it to town.

    My cart is much like your metal cart except that it has a back on the seat. I have no idea what it might be worth? Any help would be appreciated. I live in East TX and have not seen any other goat carts.

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  8. I have a large Nubian wether and a mini female who won’t ever be bred. They are best buds, but the size difference is substantial. Is it even possible to team them?

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    • I’m not sure what Elyse would say, but I would not think they would work as a team. I’d just train the Nubian wether. He would be ideal!

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  9. I have seen differing opinions on whether Nigerian Dwarfs can pull anything, I can’t find any good information. I have 2 wethers I was interested in trying to train to drive. Does the weight amounts apply to the smaller goats too? If they can’t pull I may invest in a bigger breed to add to my current 2.

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    • Yes, the weight limits apply to NDs. The person who wrote this used her Nigerian dwarf goats for driving for quite a few years. Be sure to read the entire series.

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  10. First off, Thank you for such a helpful series! I personally own lots of goats and have twice tried to train cart goats but both were unsuccessful due to temperament. I’m a highschool aged 4-Her, so I’m trying to figure out how to quickly and easily train my current goats to the cart. I’m considering using my huge Nubian buck (over 4 feet tall), but I have heard many people saying that you can not use a buck. He is very gentle and we have a very strong relationship. (I can give him injections without anyone holding him… he stands still for me and only me.) Is it possible to use a buck? Also, do you have any thoughts about driving a buck + doe team (dam and son… both are the same size) also is to late to start a goat when they are 6 or so? I have a 6-7 year old doe that can not be bred anymore, would she be to old to start on some light carting?
    Thank you! 🙂

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    • If the buck is very easy going, you can give it a try. Let us know how it goes. Mixing males and females gets tricky because the weight limitations are different for them. You would need to limit the weight as if you had all does pulling so that your doe is not over-taxed.

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    • If the buck is very easy going, you can give it a try. Let us know how it goes. Mixing males and females gets tricky because the weight limitations are different for them. You would need to limit the weight as if you had all does pulling so that your doe is not over-taxed. And of course, you’re not supposed to drive does in milk.

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  11. Hello, I was wondering if you have ever heard of GreatGoatGear? If you have then I am wondering if they changed their name or something because I can’t find them. I saw that your harness designs are very similar to theirs so I thought that you might get your tack from them. If you do I am curious as to your opinion of them.
    I was reading part of your first experiences with cattle and I was cringing and laughing because my family did almost exactly the same thing when we started dairy cattle.
    Being an ox teamster I wouldn’t suggest Dexters for your first cow either.
    What a small world. We buy semen from BestYet! Ok, we did. They have really good cattle.
    Sorry, I’m starting to talk livestock.
    I will just stick with my original question about GreatGoatGear. Haha!
    Thank you for your time in reading and responding to this.

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  12. Love your site. We have 3 Nigerian Dwarf goats here in Alaska that I am training to pull a small cart. We are in need of three harnesses and the parts needed to attach them as a team. Any suggestions on where to buy? Thanks.

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    • Do you have a plan/template for the harness? If so, do you have one for the standard size goat and would be willing to share it?

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  13. Hi. Thanks for such an insightful article. Was wondering about the head halters, clearly they are specific for pulling as reins need to be attached, or can I use any halters? Where did you get your gear from? Thanks.

    Reply

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