Goat behavior is important to understand. Goats have different personalities and must be treated different. Get in touch with your goat's behaviors with our homestead handbook.
Goat Behavior | The Personalities of Goats
Goats are one of the most intelligent, swift, active and curious animals you will ever meet. Having this animal around your home will become a bit easier when you understand how to think like they do. Once you have some comprehension of that, you can claim yourself as the leader of the heard; you will likely resolve problems prior to one even starting. Goats are animals that have been domesticated thousands of years ago and are very friendly whether or not they experienced human interaction early or late in life. As long as you give your friends the attention that they enjoy, their interaction with you will become better, and you can see just how sweet they can truly are.
3.1 – Goat behavior
As goats are browsers and tend to eat foods over a large area, it is easier for you to control any worm or parasite infestation. Internal larvae reside very near to the grounds of the Earth. Since goats do not typically graze on grass, they are the least likely of farm animals to have a large number of viruses having a party outside or inside of them. On a typical day, the goat will spend the majority of its time on the move eating for up to half a day. During the rest of the time, the goats will spend it sleeping or them curiously thinking about something. When something startles or alarms then, you can see their tail will begin to curl tightly over its back, possibly stomping one of their front feet simultaneously. They will also screech a loud pitched sound and will run away a few feet from whatever scared them. Since they are so curious, they will not just leave like that. Goats will turn around to see what alarmed them and should there be a chase, they run like lightning.
It is also very beneficial you understand how their body works and what the normal vital signs are for them. When goats reach maturity, their average temperature is around 101.5-103.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Their heart rate is about 70-90 beats per minute, and their breathing rate is around twelve to twenty breaths a minute. Goats live for about 10-12 years of age, with the record being twenty-three. Female goes undergo puberty around 5-10 months old and their typical breeding rate is 60-75% of their adult weight. The does will go through a heat cycle every 18-23 days which lasts for 12-36 hours. It is not important to know, but they also ovulate between 12-36 hours after they begin to be in heat. When your goat winds up getting pregnant, gestation usually lasts for 144-158 days or around five months. When they finally give birth they have about 1-5 offspring, with twins being the norm. Breeding season is during the months of August through January. The male goats hit puberty at 5-8 months of age, and primary breedings are also between August-January. The breeding ratio is usually one buck per thirty does. Some other cool facts to know is that goats have a 320-340 panoramic field of vision and a 20-60-degree binocular vision. On relation to colors, they can only differentiate the orange, blues, violets and yellows from green to gray tones. They also can easily distinguish tastes that are bitter, sweet, salty and sour just like we can. They have a favorable taste for bitter flavors like twigs, plants, weeds and wild herbs. If they are annoyed or upset about something, the hair across their spine will rise, sometimes coupled with their body hair. When the weather gets too hot out for them or the level of humidity increases, goats will go through heavy panting. Of the two, it is the humidity that stresses the goat out more; their milk production will significantly drop, they can lose weight and hostility with other members of the herd increases. Goats will drink more fluids as the temperature gets warmer and drink less water during the colder seasons. Though the need water as part of their diet, they do not lose much body moisture through heavy panting or urine excretion as with humans. Unless they are lactating goats, namely does, goats can survive on little water should they ever be in such a situation. It seems as if their little water needs internally reflects the outside as well. They are not fans of anything wet like the rain, puddles, mud or lakes. These creatures are very strong minded and still adaptable to their environment. If they had to, goats could withstand various weather extremes. The closer you can make a goats’ habitable preference, the happier and more content you will make them. What will that equate to for you? Healthy goats that will not continuously attempt to escape the protection and shelter you created for them
3.2 – Order of goat hierarchy
A pecking order exists for most animals and goats are no different. Whether the herd is large or small a social order is instinctively brought into place. A goats place on this hierarchy is dependent on their age, personality, the size of its horn (or lack), sex, and their aggression towards others. Offspring that are unweaned believe their dam’s place in order is directly below her once weaned. However, any newcomer in the herd must fight to establish a rank within the herd. Pecking orders are all done fair and square in a one-on-one fight; you will never see any jumping involved whatsoever. When the males are brawling with each other, you will see the shove each other around, head-butt and side rake who they are fighting. Butting is the most common form of fighting used where each opponent initially stands several feet apart while they face each other. The goats will rear up and swoop around in various directions to bash their horns against their opponents. Unlike rams, bucks do not move backward and charge during a battle. They will also aggressively compete in staring contests and horn threats. Other than the few battles that occur for ranking, there are seldom any fights that go on as long as each goat on the herd accepts and knows its rank. If you take a closer look at their walking arrangement within the herd, you will see that that head female takes control of their direction, and the head buck watches over the back of the herd. Did you know a goats’ horn has a substantial supply of blood vessels? If you were to attempt removing more than the very tip of their horn, they would bleed profusely. Many people believe it is hollow, so it is important make sure nothing gets out of hand when they are using their horns. You do not want to man-handle them by their horns obviously either. If you need to in a situation, grasp the horns by the base where they are the strongest and do not use more pressure than needed. As with bees, it is the older females who are the alpha of a herd by fighting her way there. One she makes it as a leader, there will rarely be anyone who would dare to challenge her. The female goat usually stays the queen of the group until they remove her from becoming too weak to lead anymore, and the new position often is passed to her daughters. If the herd is on the move, it is because the alpha queen is leading them; when she decides to stop, they will too. Should she choose to eat, you could bet your bottom dollar they will to. The male defers to the head queen for everything throughout most of year. Come time for breeding, however, they take complete leadership. What does all this mean to you? As it is the alpha queen that leads the group to food, and you are the one that plates out the goods, they will refer to you as the top queen of the herd. Yes, even if you are a guy. You will find by doing this, even the real alpha queen will barely challenge you, so you can drive them wherever you wish. You do not want to lead your goats as you follow them from the back though, they will think of you as the 2-legged herd king, and this is not a position you want.
During mating season bucks that used to live rather serenely with the other males become very intolerant of each other, so it is best to give them more space. The individual bucks will think of themselves as the herd king, so it is a sensitive time fights may occur, especially. A Bucks’ scent gland is actually near their horns, and during rut season it emits a strongly scented musk and behave more vocally. They can spread the scent by rubbing their head on someone or something. If you allow them – it is their way of trying to claim you. It is odd, but you will find them spraying thin amounts of urine across their belly, legs, chest, mouth, and beard. Though they often do this only during the breeding season, males are not usually the pet of choice. A male goat puts on quite a show when he tries to court a female in heat. He will begin to urinate on himself, emit several series of vocalizations, and dig into the Earth. If the doe still stays, it is like a queue stating he is allowed to come closer. The rest is history at this point. Bucks tend to view humans as herd members and if you are a woman working around them, be aware and discourage any attempts of courtship behavior when you see it. There are several signs that tell you when a goat could be kidding. They will have a filled udder, mucus around the vulva, restlessness an hour before kidding, and introspection; the doe’s attention becomes inward, and they communicate gently with their offspring. When labor arrives, the female goat will roll to the side and push and always position and reposition herself where comfortable. When the baby gets delivered, she will stand and lick them clean which is important in the bonding process. It may or may not be shocking to some, but there are occasions when the female goat will eat the afterbirth. Some people may permit this as the offspring are a choking hazard while others will remove the membrane swiftly once the kid is born. The kids usually take some time to adjust to their legs, you will see them shaking in just minutes after birth. They take the initiative to look for their mothers’ teat. The babies instinctively seek dark, warm areas like the armpits, groin, and bare skin. When a kid is nursing you will see them moving the udder and wagging their tail as a sign they are suckling the milk. Once they are satisfied, they will nap, but if you find out they are repeatedly calling out, they did not get enough to eat. At that time, you should intervene to lend a helping hand. Once you are aware of when your goats are in heat, you know the times you should unite the male and female together. Mothers typically feed their offspring 4-6 times a day while they safely hide them. When the babies get older, you will see them test grazing and browsing all while they trail around their mother.
3.3 – Handling your goats
Even the healthiest of goats you raise that never leave your property should have a routine checkup such as vaccinating, deworming and hoof trimming. By incorporating a simple handling system, you can make the task safe and less stressful for you and your goats. If you are a small goat handler, a small scale operation area will be the better preference. It is from a set of parallel stock panels with gates at opposite ends where anyone can enter and exit. Most goats are not frightened by the construction, so it will not be difficult to close the gates and hold a few goats at a time to get these tasks done. Even if you do manage to have a goat that is flighty, you can easily catch them in a corner with small scale operation areas. Finding them often simple and requires that you extend your arms to make a visual barrier while you slowly approach them. Large scale goat owners prefer to have their goats sorted by funneling them using a chute. Since large-scale goat owners would rather complete tasks as swiftly as possible, they like the more sophisticated handling system designs. You can add crowding pens, sorting pens, and chutes are added in construction. They may be from a wood, metal or pipe stock panel. Most shelters and pens may also be homemade should you wish to go that route.
You will want to buy hoof trimmers before you buy your goats or sometime after you get them. When you have a baby goat, it is easy to hold them for their trimming, but with the adults it is easier to put them on a milk stand or area with height. Treat it as if you are giving them a pedicure since it is a very similar process like trimming nails. You want to remove any excess hoof material commonly curled beneath each toe. You do not need to aim for achieving the perfect square feet that most drawings often display. It is not realistic can it can result in your goat experiencing heavy bleeding and infections. Hoof trimmings should be done every month to every two months. If you decide to push the time longer than that, the hooves will get overgrown resulting in harder work for you. The work tends to be harder because you will begin to see the sole growing out that will make it hard remove the excess hoof without cutting into the skin. Although you do not want that ever to occur, should it happen, cut off as much as you can without reaching the part beneath the goats hoof. After a few days or weeks pass by, and they are moving about, the sole will push back, and you will be able to remove more of the extra hoof. Goats possess a remarkable memory that can be a good or bad thing. It is helpful to note they barely forget a negative experience so you should work gently and quietly with them. Stress can also result in a goat getting sick so no matter what kind of infrastructure you use, you neither want to manhandle them. Once you enter the goat’s flight zone, behind the shoulder, they will want to walk forward. You will want to be in a position to the points A and B as shown to the right. Their blind spot is very narrow because they have such vast peripheral vision. You can refer to the flight zone as ‘personal space’, and once you enter it, most goats are not too fond of it, and they are going to flee. Flight zones decrease dramatically with less available space. Goats are not easy to drive, but they are very obedient when it comes down to following their leader. If they accept you as the alpha queen, move in front of them, and they will follow you. If you still have not reached that yet, bring a pail of goodies with you; they will work just as quickly make you the alpha for the day. Just keep in mind goats react to loud sounds and abrupt movements. They would rather move out of a dark space and into one with more light because they have poor depth perceptions and are careful with shadows. Once you have your goats at a corner, and if it does not have a collar, you should swiftly move in to catch it at the base of the horn. Alternatively you can take one hand beneath its jaw while lifting its head and cradling your goats rump with your other hand. When you are ready to move along with them, bring their head slightly downward and raise the tail, be expectant that your goat will run around with an explosive amount of energy. Should you ever need to travel with your goats, you should plan ahead to reduce possibilities of an injury during travel or stress-induced illness. Here are several tips you can take a look at and implement:
- Map the Route you Have Ahead of Time – Abrupt or unnecessary braking and corning handle about 70% of falls; the rest are due to speeding and crossing bumps. Starting and stopping so much ends up causing the goats hormones and blood levels to fluctuate and speed up their heart rate twice as quick. Even if the best route for them is full of red lights and traffic, it is wiser to take it.
- Avoid Traveling with Ill or Injured Goats/Pregnant Does in Their Late Stage – You will want to begin your journey with animals that are already healthy and retain them as such. And since they are such social butterflies, you will want to provide them with at least one companion to keep them company.
- Caringly Load the Goats – This should go without saying, but you do not want to drag, chock, or lift your animals roughly by the horns, ears, legs or hair. Have the floors covered with a decent level of dust or mold free bedding? Or you can cover a slippery floor with damp sand?
- Allow Several Rest Stops During Long Trips – Find safe pit stops where you can safely unload the goats at least once per 24 hours. You will want to check up on them to make sure there are no signs of injuries or stress and feed them. Give them at least one probiotic gel each day to fight digestion complications
- Give Them Enough Space – The goats should have enough room to be able to stand properly without having any concern about bumping into another member of the herd or sides of the car. If the trip is long, they should also be given adequate space to lie down.
That was Chapter 3: Goat Behavior from our Homestead Handbook: Raising Goats