By Dr Clive Dalton
- 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.
- 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.
Catching & holding goats
- Goats are agile and are often tricky to catch. It’s bad practice to grab Angora goats by the fleece as it’s painful (try pulling your hair), and it can damage the skin.
- Your best chance if goats are confined is to catch them around the neck to immobilise the head, and then hold their body against your knees or up against the side of the pen.
- If goats have room to move in a yard, then your best chance is to grab a hind leg and pull until you can get a hand around the neck, and again hold it against the pen side.
- If you don’t have a fence, then straddle the goat holding it around the neck, being careful not to be speared in the face by its horns if it rears. The horns are useful handles to hold it, but be prepared for them not to buck and try to get free.
- Bucks with large horns can be completely immobilised if you hold both horns firmly, as it allows you to have so much leverage on their heads.
- To hold a goat long-term, it’s best to turn it over and sit it on it’s backside. Goats don’t like this much, as they don’t have as much padding as sheep.
- To do this, grab the goat by the loose skin on the opposite side in front of the hind leg, pull up quickly, and be ready to set it down on it’s rump.
- Handling goats, even when they are well accustomed to humans, is too great a challenge without some kind of yards.
- The goats get more stressed and so to the handlers and jobs cannot be completed on time so frustration increases and the goats get the blame!
- Goats have good memories and are not keen to repeat bad experiences.
Good things about yards
- A good clear lead into the yards so they go in without baulking.
- On a slight slope so animals run uphill as they go through the yards.
- High enough so that they cannot jump out. Regularly handles Angoras should be able to be handled in sheep yards.
- Good drafting facilities so animals don’t have to be caught individually.
- Close-boarded sides in crush pen and drafting race with concrete floor.
- Road metal in other holding yards.
- Secure gates that swing and close without effort.
- No protrusions such as sprung rails, gate hinges, nails and heads of bolts.
- Dogs under total command, and a place to tie them up well away from yards when not in use.
- Lockable cupboard for animal remedies.
- Place to put scales in the race.
- Fully serviced first aid box.
Shelter/Shade & housing
- Goats are very different from sheep as they carry less fibre with less grease content, and they don’t have large fat reserves under their skin.
- Cold on its own is not the problem, for as ruminants they generate internal body heat from digestion; but a combination of cold and wet conditions can have drastic effects.
- Goats hate sudden rain or hail storms and they need shelter to protect them from these elements.
- A paddock with scrub or rushes provides ideal natural shelter, provided it also has enough good pasture to meet the stock’s needs.
- Artificial shelter can be made from hay bales, well-anchored corrugated iron either erected to stand straight or bent into a half circle, as well as scrim and shade cloth.
- There is also a wide range of specially made goat shelters available with no floors, solid floor or slats. They also vary in weight so some you can push around and others need an ATV or small tractor to shift. The lighter the shelter, the greater the risk of it being blown away.
- Slatted floor would be the best option to avoid fleece contamination but there’s always the risk of small kids getting their legs caught in them.
- Expect goats to climb on top of any structure in their paddock, so provide a safe surface for this. It’s a great play area of kids to play “king of the castle”.
- It’s worth considering putting a small goat shelter in a corner where four paddocks meet. This can act as the access between paddocks as well as a shelter and a means of holding some animals if needed.
- Shelter belts made up of narrow lines of tall trimmed trees are of little value as the lack of low cover in fact increases wind speed among the trees.
- So trying to grow good timber in narrow shelterbelts of well-pruned trees and protecting stock are not compatible. You need a mixture of tall and low trees to act as an effective windbreak.
- The area of least wind speed is twice the height of the shelterbelt out in the paddock where goat shelters should be placed and not at the base of the trees.
- In snowstorms narrow shelterbelt trees slow up the blowing snow to form a drift among the trees, and will bury any sheltering stock.
- Putting animals into a small plantation of trees with a good dry bed of accumulated needles is ideal. There is no browse in these woodlots so good feed must be provided, otherwise goats may eat too many needles, which can cause rumen compaction.
- Using forage trees such as willows, poplars and tree lucerne is a good idea, especially for browsing in droughts. These trees can be kept low by coppicing and the thicker stems can be used for firewood.
- Shade is now of increasing importance in New Zealand with high rates of radiation and sunburn on the noses and ears of white goats. Sheds and trees, which provide shelter in winter, can also provide shade in summer.
- When planning a shelter, use a figure of 0.9-1.0m2/goat as not all animals will use the facility at the same time.
- For a bedded yard where all goats are confined, use 1.7m2/goat.
Danger times for goats
- The newborn kid has come from 27ºC into the cold world so is very prone to chilling. The low birth weight of Angora kids (around??kg) adds to their vulnerability, especially if they are born as multiples.
- So it’s essential that they get a good feed of colostrum immediately after birth. The doe normally hides her kids at birth so provision of shelter, natural or artificial is very important.
- Does that have just kidded, especially those with their first offspring may not take their newborns to shelter so vigilance is needed by those in charge.
- The doe and kid should be confined into a small sheltered space as often the doe may want to get back to her birth site attracted by the odour of the birth fluids and leave the kid behind.
- Newly shorn goats can very easily become chilled if hit by cold wet weather after shearing. It’s essential to have some shelter for them and plenty of good feed.
- They may need this special care for at least a couple of days and nights after being shorn.