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All the research I did before getting pack goats--how could I have missed this?? Now that our goats are 4,3, and 2 yrs. old and have been on many hikes, crossed many streams and experienced nights out around the tent and fire, we are ready to really start using them for the purpose we got them for. As we start to add weight on (none on the 2 yr. old), we have seen them start to slow down and really cherish their rest stops. It seems like it is one mile or one hour before they need a rest. It is obvious that the cooler the weather, the better they do, so now we are trying to hit the trail earlier. They really slow down and pant if out hiking in the sun. Five to eight miles seems to be the max for one day and we only average one to 1 1/2 miles per hour. There are always "issues", like my lead rope is dragging, straps are hanging......that seem to slow us down. The oldest alpine carries about 25 lb. total (he is about 180 lb), and the 3 yo carries about 20 lb. (he is about 200 lb).
What do you think about this? How far and how much do your goats carry on the average??
My big question is conditioning. We only go on one hike a week because we work and have other obligations. We have been feeling like that might not be enough, but can't do any more than that. We enjoy them and we also need many rest breaks when hiking, but have been feeling a little discouraged about there abilities to do the job for us. Is it that they are not adequately conditioned or are we expecting too much??
What does everyone else do, how far do you goats walk and how much do they really carry??
 

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Hello,

how much time have you taken to built up to the weight they are now carrying?

I start with 6 lbs as basic weight and then work my way up to about 19-20 lbs training weight over a period of several weeks with 3-5 hikes per week. To keep them in shape, I do at least 3 hikes per week with the training load, building up to more weight if needed, 2-3 weeks in advance. Muscle development needs about 3 weeks to be seen, to build a reliable condition (in horses) it takes 6 weeks with almost daily and increasing exercise.

If you only can do one hike per week you can't expect them to be fit. Would you be?
 

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Gosh, that doesn't sound like much. At four years old, that goat should be able to handle more than 25 lbs.! We've never conditioned our goat at all, but he's been good for quite a bit of weight for many miles on the few times we've made him work hard. The difference may be that our goat was always out on huge ranches, running with horses. He kept in very good shape I think. I've never even had to trim his hooves... he just keeps them worn down from all the walking. If your goats are penned up most of the time, this could make a huge difference. I look at our goat next to the ones I know who have more sedentary lives, and he just seems to have a much leaner, more muscular look about him. You may have to do as Sanhestar says and take them out walking a lot more often to get their wind up and grow some muscles on them. It's not so much the load as the miles.
 

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I am a hobbyist too. I like to think that we do a lot of hiking, but during the prime season we go out once a week, twice at the most.

I don't really do any weight conditioning. When we hike usually only one of the five will have a saddle. And just the standard emergency kit. But I walk faster on our short hikes than I do when they are loaded. And do more jogging with them.

When we start our hike I start off fast to get out of the traffic areas, but only for about 10 to 15 minutes, then I give them a breather and check the loads. Once they have caught their wind, then I set a walking pace at about 2 miles per hour, or the speed of my wife. We have gone 12 miles ... I don't remember now if it was 4 or 6 hours, but it was in a snowstorm and half of it downhill where we ran most of the way.

We make up time going down hill with a slight jog, walking it out as we reach the bottom or a flat and making sure we all have our wind before starting up. Some of you think I am nuts running with my goats, but there is method to my madness. I plan to to take the lead and not look back at the next YouDidn't-erod race.

The first time I packed the older goats I loaded them with everything including the kitchen sink to see what they could do. As it turned out, I didn't have my glasses on, and what I thought was 40 pounds was really 40 kilograms, or about 88 pounds.

They kept looking at me like "What are you doing to us" and they tried to stop and follow someone else whenever we passed someone on the trail. Since then they haven't complained about 40 pounds, just being happy it isn't 88. But they performed well considering.

They will slow down to keep with the slowest of you. If your human group spreads out, they will spread out. If the people stay together ans walk briskly, they will keep up. So if someone keeps slowing down to walk behind the goats, it can pull the whole group to a halt.

During a clear day, usually only one of mine wants to be the followup. Pig usually stays by my side, while the others go ahead. It is a bit annoying, because if they get spooked they stop, and I have to wind my way through the herd to take the lead, then they all want to pass again. So I send a teenager ahead to lead and 'clear the way' for them. Then everyone settles in.

If I am by myself I don't really mind having to wind my way through the herd, but for others I like things to work more smoothly.

When we hike in the dark they are all stepping all over my feet. If I want them to bunch up better day or night, I sneeze and pick up my pace.

But I keep an eye on their breathing to gauge my pace and the rests and to ensure the straps are not too tight.

Oh, also they hike faster when they are just a bit hungry. If they have four bellies full they really want to take a nap, and probably should. We were hiking once and one of the boys got spooked by a dog and spit up some green cud juices. Personally I hate when I burp like that, but I realized that they probably needed some time to just sit and chew the cud.

I will rarely load them to capacity. Five goats even at 20 pounds a piece is a lot of gear. But in the west desert they were loaded with water bottles to capacity. That was an 8 mile hike one way with a nasty climb at the end. I was stopping every 100 feet to catch my breath on that climb. We came back the next day downhill in the rain.
 

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I find that I tend to have fat goats.

1. I want them happy in their pen.
2. I do not want them begging every time they hear the door open.

So I have the same problem as you.
Well I have decided If I can pack it then they can too.

I am 5 foot tall and 160 obs. SO....
If I can pack a 20 lb pack then my fat goats should be
able to do the same. I adjust this weight if they are smaller
goats of course.
We both get the same amount of excersize per day.

And at 20 lbs I am resting often. much to my goats delight. lol
But I am still loving that my pack is only 20 lbs. And there is
someone to help me pack the rest of the gear. And the company
of the goats are fun....
Suppose I could get more goats to pack more stuff...
 

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35lb for 5 miles isn't a problem for my boys (6 yrs old now). They pant if it's hot, and want to hang out in the shade, but I just keep going and they do too. Hot weather is the big problem. It really wears them out.
 

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You mentioned an Alpine but not any of the other breeds. Some goats just will not work. For me that has been most Nubian and Nubian crosses.

For a quick way of getting mature goats in shape I maximize the training by loading them heavy with rocks or water jugs (25-30%) and use a fairly steep trail in our area. I hike in the early morning when it is cool or on rainy days to minimize the heat problems and get the most workout for their muscles. I take them up the trail at an easy walking pace as far as they can go. I give them a break for 15-20 minutes and go again. When the rest breaks are within a few minutes of each other I know they are reaching their limit. I dump the water or rocks and we hike back out downhill with empty packs. I think the easy walk out helps flush the lactic acid keeping them from being as sore the next day. I have no proof other than my obsersation and know some recent research suggests that the Lactic acid is not what causes the sore muscles anyway. Still, it seems to help so I do it.

I give them a few days off to recoup and do it again. I try to do it twice a week if possible. You will see them going farther, faster after about the third trip. After 3-4 weeks they can handle most of my packing jobs with relative ease since the packs are usually lighter and the trails easier. If the goat refuses to work hard enough to get in shape I don't keep it.

If I don't get them fully conditioned before a trip then I pack lighter on the trail and work them into it more gradually.
 

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Dave (TDG Farms) S.E. Washington State
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That is some outstanding advice all around and will use it when I get Legion outta the basic training faze. Just wanted to add that even if they are not old enough to be packed, you can still do the training. I live right next to a 2000 elevated hill and take the prospects there all the time. We go up, across the top and back down another trail making a 2 hour trip of it. Get back to the truck, load em, water em and get em back to their pens. With in 5 minutes they are all laid out with what looks like smiles on their faces as if they were saying "phew, that was sweet" and they nap for a couple hours. :)
 
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