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Long Distance Goat Packing

1871 Views 8 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  nrspence
For many years now - long before we got our goats - my wife and I have dreamed of making a long distance backpack trip along northern portions of either the Pacific Crest Trail or Continental Divide Trail. These would be trips of a month or more (depending upon how much time we can get away from our jobs).

Now that we have packgoats we were thinking it would be perfect to use them for this adventure. Our questions/concerns are how well goats would hold up to an extended trip like this, where we'd be covering 8 - 10 miles per day for 30+ days.

Most, if not all, of our hiking would be on established trails (little, if any, "cross-country" or "bushwhacking"). We would also keep the goats' pack weight fairly low -- probably no more than 20% of their bodyweight.

Would their hooves hold up ok to this much walking? What about getting them enough nutrition to maintain healthy bodyweight and energy day-in-day-out?

Any other concerns anyone can think of?

Thanks, Ken
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while I have not ever done too much packing as of yet.
If they are in the same condition as you.
I am thinking that they can hold up to what ever you
But That is just my 2 cents worth of knowledge. LOL
I'll bet the goats will do just fine. I wouldn't worry about their hooves either. I guarantee that with constant walking, those hooves will look better than you've ever seen them. Hooves love to be used. It boosts circulation, gives them a natural trim, keeps them hard yet flexible at the same time. My goat's hooves never look so good as when we're doing a lot of walking. My horses go barefoot year round, and it's the same for them. They have more problems from not using them enough than from using them too much!
First time post, so I'm not an expert in the goat packing yet. I have two Saanen wethers that are 6 and 3 years old. I have not packed the 3 year old yet, but he has trailed on the trips with me and the 6 year old. I've owned them for 45 days and have been on two trips that comprised 5 days and 60 miles of hiking. These goats had never packed before and I was blown away by thier hard work and determination to get the job done. The first day, 4 miles in, the 6 year old layed down on me and we rested for 15 minutes and then we were on our way. That is the only time he stopped before me to rest. 35 of the miles was on very rough and steep terrain with no trails and total elevation gains of 4 to 5 thousand feet in a day. I'm sold!! I should have had these goats years ago.

They love what the mountains offer to eat. It's fun to see how they taste and smell things to eat. The food they loved that suprised me was pine needles!

Thier hooves were fine and they exhibited no visual soreness.

They don't drink much water on the trail even though it was always available to them.

Just ordered my second saddle and panniers for the smaller one and will state to pack him light this summer. The Northwest gear is awesome and has worked very well for me.

Good luck and safe journey!!
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Sounds like a fun trip!

BHB any cool photos to share? ;)
I don’t know about 30 day trips, but over the last 10 years, I’ve done quite a few 7 to 10 day trips, doing around 8 miles a day, every day. With moderate loads (25 - 30#), my goats have done fine. It’s important that they be in good packing condition before the trip. They also need plenty of time to browse each day (morning, lunch, evening).

And, I think it helps to know how to read your goats so you give them short rest breaks before they get too tired. If they learn that you will stop when they stop, they may gradually start making a regular habit of it! Here is another idea: a few times I’ve stop for an early dinner to give the boys a longer rest when they were getting tired; and then hiked another hour or two to a camp spot.

I recall a forum message a few years ago about a family whose goats pretty much gave up after 5-7 days on the PCT. I suspect they unintentionally violated one or more of the above suggestions.
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I would plan it like that:

make sure the goats are in really good shape before you start - meaning about 3 months training for stamina and weight carrying capabilities = muscles

check your equipment for exact fitting, you can't afford sores on a hike that long

choose goats that have proven to have hard, sturdy hooves without damage or structural weaknesses that would hamper with their performance

check them for worms, deworm them, have fecal tests done to confirm they are as parasite free as possible

have their organs checked out: heart, lung, liver, kidney

An old rule of thumb said that a goat could manage a daily distance of about 12 to 15 miles depending on load and terrain.

I would aim for a shorter daily distance and give enough time for browsing AND for ruminating. Browsing is only half of the equation. People that work oxen say that these need a break of 2-3 hours over midday to ruminate and then can continue working.

I would also designate one day per week for rest - I think that you would appreciate this day, too, for resting, washing clothes, etc. Every few weeks you should designate 2-3 days for a longer rest, as well.

Check their feet daily for wear, pack at least one pair of hoof protection in case you run into trouble away from any place to rest for a longer time.

I don't know how good the vegetation is round the year along the PCT - is it always green or is there a distinct fall/winter season without much to browse on?

I would wonder how to keep them up with their mineral/trace element supplementation over that long a period, maybe you can pack a product that comes as powder/very fine grained and is highly concentrated so that you only have to give smallest amounts.
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We rented two goats to a couple who were hiking the entire Pacific Crest Trail. They got the goats weeks ahead of time and took them on conditioning hikes before they hit the trail. The goats actually worked up to 20 mile days for several weeks. They were very thin when we got them back but they were in tip top shape. Of course these were proven packers going in so I knew they would do well. But even I was surprised that they got up to 20 mile days. I'd suggest 10-12 mile days and allow more time for the goats to browse and recoup every day.

One other thing to keep in mind is that the goats are not allowed in any National Parks on the trail so you'll have to figure out transportation and boarding for the goats if you plan to hike those sections.
Wow twenty mile days is very impressive. Try doing that with a llama ha ha
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