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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hike Training the Goats

Hey its been a while since ive been on here. I've been out hiking a lot with my 2 boys. I figure they must be 5-6 months old now, and have been on 10 or 12 hikes with me, and lots of walks down the road and along the canals around here. A month ago I taught them to cross small creeks and streams that were only ankle deep on me. Last weekend I took them to a creek I knew had some beaver dams, and with some work i got them crossing water that was chest deep. I also got them to cross logs with me, Abe (the one with white patches) was a natural but it took me a while to get Martin to walk across the logs if they were over the water.
This weekend I took them into some steep rocky country to get them used to navigating the boulders and cliffs. They did pretty well for their first time. Martin (the all brown one) definitely has more confidence in his jumping and climbing capabilities, Abe could do it but it took him longer to work up the nerve to try it. They are both now halter broke, as well as great on just a leash hooked to the collar. They usually just follow me around, but it may be handy someday for them to be savvy with following on a lead. Ive also got them used to gunfire, Abe used to freak out when I'd shoot, but now a grouse can jump up and neither one will bat an eye when I shoulder my shotgun and blast away.

I think Martin is going to be my bigger goat. He is already taller and heavier than Abe, and his horns are growing faster too. His appetite is aggressive, he generally feeds long after Abe is full and chewing his cud. Abe is much more affectionate, he really likes to please, and is more obedient to verbal commands. They are both getting pretty fuzzy for winter, our mornings here have been in the 20's, and they stay huddled in the straw until the sun comes up now, no more asking for breakfast at 5 a.m.

Here is Martin waiting for Abe on top a small cliff they had to make a pretty good jump to get up.

Grazing Mountain Feed

King of the MTN

Martin on his first creek...his idea was that if he went fast enough his feet might not get wet :lol:

 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
nebs, I believe they are Nubian x Alpine cross, but I'm really not 100% on that. I bought them from a guy down the road. This pack goat thing is an idea I've dabbled with for years, I just picked up these two and really enjoy having goats around They really are great company to bring with me on hikes. I'm working on getting a small trailer for them to make like easier, for now they ride in the back of my Subaru!
 

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Start them young

I have had 100% success from starting goats early and as you have experienced every day they become more confident in themselves and you. Before your goats are1.5 years old they will lead, load up, high line overnight, and be pack trained. Start pack training with a small dog pack at about eight months and when the hit about 125 #s you can start light loads at THIER LEVEL with a cross buck saddle. Keep it very light the first year and make it fun for them. My boys are 2.5 years and 1.5 years and they have far exceeded my expectations. Start them young. They will be perfect.

Thanks for sharing the pics and enjoy your Pack Goats.
"Long Live The Pack Goat"

Curtis King
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Curtis_king...
I hope my goats will be trained that well by 1.5 years. They learn so quickly its amazing, i've worked with halter breaking and walking sheep in the past and there is no comparison, goats are 100x smarter and more trainable than a sheep lol. I'm going to take them camping next week for a couple days, I will hopefully not be kept up all night by bawling goats, but they need to get used to camping and being tied out at camp, accompanied and alone.
I've read a lot that packing shouldn't start until 2-4 years old depending on who you talk to. I just finished building my first pack saddle, and will start on the second one soon. I figure there would be no harm next spring, assuming they are big enough to saddle, to start hiking with them with the pad and saddle on, no weight? I think the reason guys wait until older age is for spine and joint maturity, but an empty saddle I wouldn't think could harm the spine, and it would get them used to being saddled and having something on back, and get me some practice saddling them correctly before I start adding weight?
 

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you don't need to get goats get accustomed to saddle and having something on their back. They are not horses. Accepting a saddle takes about 10 minute at most for a well-bonded goat.

Check out the video of Lana. She's four years old and never had any packtraining prior to this year. Well, she wasn't supposed to have packtraining, I just wanted to spare time milking her while I got some condition on the pack boys for a light half-day hike and decided to take her back to the house (and not drive to pasture with all the milking equipment) with the boys while the rest of the herd stayed out clearing brush. Off course, I had to take her then on the training hikes, as well. She took right to it.

At 1:30 you can see her at day 6, about 10 minutes after she was saddled for the first time in her life. There was no fuss, no spooking, nothing.


Safe your time and money and energy and build your goats saddles when they are grown up. Until then, enjoy your time with them outside.
 

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there have been some studies on horses when growth plates close - I know, not goats but I think we can take some information from there - and the growth plates of the vertebrae are the last to close (at about 5 years in horses, would say at about 4 years in goats from what I witnessed in my goats) and pressure on them before that can cause harm.

http://www.equinestudies.org/ranger_2008/ranger_piece_2008_pdf1.pdf - page 16

Depending on what type of wood you use for your saddle, it will have, together with the pad, a weight of about 4 lbs. This isn't very much, yes, but if you have your goats carry that weight on a regular basis over longer periods of time (hours on hikes) it could, in my opinion, cause some damage to the spine, maybe shoulder, too.

Also, your goats will grow a lot during the next years and the saddle you build now will probably not fit them anymore next year. It could be harmful, a waste of material and time and completely unneccessary training-wise.

Take them out on hikes regularly so that they can build muscle, agility and stamina. Wait until they are grown up. Add slowly increasing weight and with the already existing muscle they will be able to carry it.
 

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I have a different philosophy in that I think adding weight (within reason, of course) before growth is done actually increases strength and long-term health. Studies also done on horses have shown that starting them to work before they are mature and gradually increasing the workload as they grow sets them up for a much longer, healthier life since young bone and muscle development responds to stress and will mature accordingly (so long as it's not overdone, as it too often is in the racing and showing world, sadly). But if done within reason, early work is shown to enhance long-term health and working lifespan and may even instill a good work ethic.

Obviously, one would never load down a younger animal with a full load for a full day like one could do with a grown one, but like my dad always said, "work never hurt anybody." As kids, we were never asked to do the work of a full grown man, but we were never allowed to only play because we weren't "mature". A young dairy goat is bred when she is a year old and will feed herself and her offspring during that time, as well as carry a heavy load of milk in her udder 24/7 (with unfused growth plates). If she can do all that and thrive, I see no reason why the wethers can't do their bit of work during adolescence too, provided you've got gear that fits him.

I'm planning to use my dry yearling does next summer for a bit of light pack work. I think a healthy yearling goat can easily manage 10 lbs. on a half-day hike! If they can't do that, then we shouldn't be breeding them at less than four years old either, yet nobody waits that long to breed a dairy doe because it's unproductive, unhealthy, and unnatural. Look at your goats, your gear, the difficulty of your hikes, and make the best decision for your animals that fits your situation. There's no single "right way" to do things, and as long as you're using a little common sense and keeping your goats' long-term health in mind, you should be fine.
 

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I don't advise to keep the youngsters at home and away from any exercise. Taking them on hikes, building up their stamina will provide them with muscles, train heart and lungs, advocate bone growth and bone density.

I just think that adding weight can wait.

In regard to a pregnant doe yearling: this weight is suspended by systems inside the body that have been designed by nature to do exactly that. And the weight is pulling down but not pressing from above.

On the other hand - I know many does that have sagging bellies from pregnancies.
 

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don't want to nag but I keep thinking about the best way we can have fun with our goats and keep them healthy. As I'm starting to pack with horses this year I have read a lot about how to pack horses and what considerations have to be made to ensure their comfort and health on the trail.

Something that almost every author says is, that dead weight = loads is harder on an pack animal then live weight = rider. Because the rider can shift or move with the animal which the load can't. It will sit on the back no matter if the going is up- or downhill and it won't adjust movement to be in harmony with the animal.

I'm therefore a bit sceptic if studies on racehorses that clearly show - I have read them, too - that moderate training under a RIDER will improve bone density can be compared with the work of a pack animal. The armed forces that still keep pack animals, Austria and Switzerland have in Europe the largest packhorse/mule train still in work, don't pack the horses until they are at least four, better 4,5 years old.
 

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I started my horse, Jet, with light pack work and pulling when he was two and I thought it was good for him. I can't even remember the last time he was lame from anything. Wish I could say the same for the younger horse I have that did nothing but play and get very light riding for the first four years of his life. He seems to always have something going wrong and I wonder if I would have done better to work him a bit more during his second and third year.

The one I started to light work at two began full-time work as one of my carriage horses when he was three (financial necessity for me at the time--it was not my choice to start him so young). He pulled the carriage alongside an older horse for five days a week for two summers in his third and fourth year. That's pretty solid work on asphalt, but it seems to have done nothing but build up his bones. I was afraid at the time that it might be too much for him, but instead I found that he not only thrived, but he matured very nicely with zero leg or foot trouble. He's eleven years old now, fit as a fiddle, and looks like he'll stay that way for the long haul. I wish the younger horse were as sound!

Everyone's got their different philosophies, and I guess with all things it is important to try to strike a good balance. I agree that too much work too soon can cause permanent damage to anyone, human or animal. But some work introduced in the proper amount can be beneficial to any youngster, and certainly won't harm them if done carefully. I'm sure we'll never see eye-to-eye on it, but I definitely respect your opinion and I think you should do what you think is best for your critters.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
As far as waiting to build my pack saddles, I have them both built already. I don't see how it is saving money for me to wait until I need the pack saddles, i'm going to need them one way or another. I built them off of measurements I took from a packsaddle that a guy I met let me measure, so they should fit the goats when they are full grown. If I need to I can build more, They cost me a total of $14 a piece and 2.5 hours each to build the frame, it made me sick to think of spending $130+ for a new saddle, they aren't that technical to build, and i'm not an amazing woodworker by any means. I did it with a rasp, jigsaw, and a drill. I used Poplar and oak on one and poplar and cherry on the other. I got the nylon webbing, I'm still looking for material to add pads to the straps, I may use a thick wool material. I finished them with linseed oil, I will post some pictures when I have them complete.
I'm going to look into the packing issue further. I've seen some interesting points here. I have a hard time seeing how putting a wooden saddle and pad on an animal could hurt development, I see Nannos point that it may even help. That being said I want to make sure that I don't hurt my Goats development. I will talk to my Vet and see what his views are on it. I'm going to do some digging and see if I can find any kind of legitimate study's on this topic with any kind of pack animals, or if it's all just "he said she said" on the internet :p
I have access to radio-graph equipment and several Research scientists and veterinarians. I may look into doing a study on this exact topic, taking periodic xrays and measurements of the spines on goats and continue to do it as I start adding pads, saddles, and eventually weight. It would be interesting to have a test and control group while still having it be a mild/safe study for all animals.
 

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out of experience I can tell you that a saddle that has been built for a grown goat won't fit yearlings. It will be too long and too wide and will put pressure on areas of the back, loin and ribcage that are not suppose to get pressure.
 

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Sabine is absolutely right! A full-sized pack should NOT be used on a younger goat, and I want to make sure no one thinks I'm advocating that. You could sore him up quick that way. Even a totally unloaded pack could cause problems if it is too big because it will rub and bump on the shoulders and hips and it will roll around and chafe since it won't sit on the back properly. The last thing you want to do is hurt your goat or make him uncomfortable enough that he develops a sour attitude about work.
 
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