November 24, 2008

Animal behaviour and welfare: Goats Part 4


Handling: Welfare issues

Dr Clive Dalton

Goats are different to sheep
  • Goats are a vastly greater challenge to handle than sheep and the first thing you'll need to do is to heighten the yards to prevent jumping.
  • The sides of races must be close-boarded so they can't see through and think about baulking or jumping out.
  • Drafting horned bucks can be problems as they won't be able to get along races in yards. They soon learn to go sideways but it's a good idea to dehorn them, though the horns are often handy to hold them by.
  • Goats vocalise (bleat or scream) when held and this can add a lot of stress to jobs like shearing and castrating kids.
  • Goats are highly suspicious of new facilities so running them through yards before handling them is useful. They have a good memory and know all the escape spots so be vigilant.
  • They will face up to dogs and attack much more than sheep will ever do.
  • When they get too fearful, they'll lie down and sulk and you can have a smother or injuries as they pile on top of each other with sharp hooves.
  • In a grazing situation, you cannot farm goats without good well-erected electric fences.
Milking goats
Goats have a very clear social order to get on to the milking platform, and
are always looking to steal feed from their neighbours
  • Dairy goats are great animals to handle as they respond so well to close human contact.
  • But they get very smart and you have to be alert to their individual ways and tricks. A good example is how a goat will learn to trigger the feeder lever in the milking bail to get an extra feed.
  • Milking goats adapt well to being milked in herringbone or rotary milking parlours, where you see a clear social rank operating when they come in for milking. It's wise to respect this and allow them time to sort it out by not pressuring them. Give them time in the collecting yard to get into the order they have chosen.
  • Entering a herringbone, the doe in the first stall will often steal meal from other stalls as she walks the length of the parlour till she gets to her place.
  • Baffles or a bail that drops down over their necks are used to stop thieving feed from neighbours during milking.
  • It's imperative (as with cows) that the milking machine is correctly adjusted and serviced, and that teats are well cared for (no sores or cracks). Special pulsators are made for goats with lower vacuum although many farmers just use dairy vacuum levels.
  • Footrot is the main problem with goats as it's very painful and reduces their feed intake and production. A footrot prevention programme is important, as curing affected animals is always slow and costly.
  • Internal parasites (worms) are now a major threat to goat farming as so many worm species are resistant to the three main chemical drench families. It's important to consult a veterinarian on this issue.
Roadside goats
This is always a major animal welfare issue for SPCA and MAF in New Zealand.Problems include:
  • No proper feed - goats are expected to live on dead gorse.
  • No shelter - goats have little fat cover. If there is a shelter provided, it's often dilapidated and too small for goat to stand upright in.
  • No water - goats need water but owners often tell you that they don't! You often see a small container that the goat regularly knocks over.
  • Tethers are too long so they lie on the road (which is warm and dry) and the goats get run over.
  • Tethers get bound up around trees or in long grass so the goat is starved and may even end up being strangled.
  • There is no swivel in the tether chain so the goat is strangled.
  • The goat has no defence against stray dogs when tethered.
  • The animals are not checked and moved enough.
  • The solution is to remember the 5 freedoms.
Fibre goats
  • Shearing gear has to run much slower for mohair or cashmere goats.
  • Set it at 1500-200 rpm, reduced from 2400rpm for sheep to reduce overheating as goat fibre has no grease in it like sheep.
  • Some goats are shorn standing up with their head held in a yoke. This reduces the bleating when the animal is held like a sheep during shearing. But this "stand up" method slows up shearing, and many shearers just want to get the job done as fast as possible and put up with the goat's protests.
Welfare issues with goats
  • Footrot. This a major problem with goats and is difficult to cure once established.
  • Internal parasites (worms). Many goats now have worms that are resistant to all drenches.
  • Shelter and shade. Goats need more shelter in winter than sheep and shade in summer.
  • The roadside goat. These are very obvious to the public who are concerned about their welfare.
  • Goats released into the environment. When returns from goat meat or fibre falls, many are released and get into native bush and damage native flora.

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