Catching Escaped Goats

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It is pretty common to see goat farmers with a cooperative herd that enjoys their company and minds their manners, but at the same time goat shenanigans are always possible. Depending on the type of interaction you have with your goats and how well acquainted you are, it is very possible to have goats that run to greet you or come when called. Such goats truly are a pleasure to own and be around and are the type of goats we all aspire to have. However, sometimes those aspirations fall short and we are faced with goats that behave wildly and do not prefer human company, fleeing from us every chance they get.

Have you ever heard the saying, "Live like someone left the gate open"? Well, there is a reason that saying exists. It could have originated with a goat owner or any other type of livestock owner, but the common denominator is the same: an open gate, and thus a chance to escape, is an opportunity that will be seized and enjoyed. Though it may not always be through an open gate, escapes do happen. Chances are we've all had this type of experience. Whether there was a dreaded knock at the door informing you that your animals were loose or you saw it happen with your own eyes, no one wants to find themselves unexpectedly trying to wrangle loose goats back into their pen.

Since escapes do occur, it is important to know how to mitigate damages and get your goats back where they belong as quickly as possible. The first step in the process is to avoid making your intentions clear. Regardless of whether you are trying to catch a tame goat or planning to try to make a grab for a loose goat that is hard to catch and not returning to you under its own free will, having that animal become aware of your intentions will only make it more difficult to catch. Avoid eye contact and pretend you are going about your business, essentially ignoring the goat until the moment is right to make physical contact. Then, once you have a grip, don't let go as it will be much, much harder to make that contact for a second time.

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Photo: Glock Talk

Another goat catching option is to avoid underestimating the power of food. Many goats are very food motivated and will return to you for that alone. However, if they have escaped and found something new to enjoy, returning to that same boring pasture may not be all that appealing. It is at times like this that grain or some other special treat comes in handy. Essentially you need to offer something they want more than the freedom they are currently experiencing in order to lure them back. Since you know your goats best, it is at times like this that you should break out their favorite snacks to get them home in a hurry. If possible, lure them back into their enclosure with a bucket, but if you must hand feed, be sure to stay calm and let them eat in a relaxed manner rather than immediately making a hasty grab for them. This could result in fleeing and further attempts at catching them will not be as easy.

Another option is to incite play or curiosity as a means of capture. This is especially useful with younger goats that enjoy playing as it will draw their attention. By the same token, goats that are curious can become captivated by what you are doing and want to know more. Take advantage of your goats' natural drive in order to bring them back to where they belong. Offering a new toy or tinkering around in the barn may be all it takes to bring escapees back to you.

Despite the many options for catching escaped goats, the most important thing is to build a good relationship with them from the start. Begin handing goats when they are young so that they are familiar with you. Offer toys, attention, and snacks so that they associate positive feelings towards you and want to be in your presence. Avoid taking on wild goats if possible, but if you do bring one home, invest the time necessary to build a bond with that animal. The better the relationship you have built with your goats, the less likely it is that you will have problems with escape and evading down the road. Sure, they may still escape, but the sight of you and all the good feelings associated with you will be enough to bring them right back.

Have you ever had to deal with cantankerous escapees? What is your go-to method for getting them back where they belong? Let us know in the comments.

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November 9, 2015  •  07:14 AM
I have a tiny 'herd' three does, an elder and two under a year. First thing I did was establish a relationship with them. I also ask that caregivers (when I have to be away) also come over to meet and become familiar. They don't run when I approach, unless they are feeling 'contrary' in this colder weather. That's when grain treats shook in a metal pan come in to play. And when they come, they get to eat all those treats while they are stroked and cooed to. Thankfully they respect electric web netting, so it isn't a frequent occurrence.
November 14, 2015  •  07:26 AM
Thanks for another good article! I'm blessed with one of those "generally cooperative herds", and I swear my goats understand the word "apricots!" I free range my goats, so it's not so much "escapes" as it is "how deep into the woods can we go?" When they're deep enough that I can't see them (or I just plain don't want to battle the underbrush to go get them) I sometimes call them (by names) and say, "I've got AP-ri-cots!" Now they almost always come pretty quickly when I call. I thank G*d for cooperative goats...and apricots!
April 7, 2016  •  02:30 AM
If only one goat is loose, I can use an other goat to bring them home. Food always works too-just their goat chow or maybe raisins.
October 28, 2016  •  07:13 PM
All I need to do is get some grain in their bowls and should it to them and they come running. They just love their grain.
February 13, 2017  •  06:29 PM
I whistle the same tune every time I feed and I want them to come either in or out they come running.