Well, I want one … enough said? No not really, I guess. I have a wether and he is getting bigger all the time. I have read a bit about using goats as working animals on the farm and I think that it would be good fun for both me and the goats.
Goats are gregarious animals with so much personality and inquisitiveness. Like dogs, they are also very happy to please.
There are two paths you can follow … pack or draught.
Goats, it seems, can carry about half their body weight on their back without too much trouble. The most common form of pack for a goat is a cross pack. This is, basically, two “X” frames that are joined in at the crossing by a beam. The packs hang from the two up-standing parts of the X and there is a belly strap that keeps the thing from slipping under the goats feet. Pack training a goat is all about getting the goat to be OK with the thing on it’s back to the point where the goat can all but forget it is there.
Training follows a fairly simple process of first training the goat to the lead, and then training the goat to the pack. Training for the pack (so I have read) is done by first attaching a belly strap, then adding a light weight onto the strap (such as a blanket) and then increasing the weight slowly over time. Goats are clever and will get the idea pretty quickly if they are given suitable rewards (food).
I have lots of firewood that I need to collect around my property, and it is too steep for my ride-on mower to get into the top paddock for this … so I will be training my wether for pack work. At the moment the wether, Darius, is six months old, so it’s about time for me to start.
Goats also make great draught animals. A goat can pull roughly twice it’s weight when the thing it is pulling is properly balanced. I think that a four wheeled draught vehicle (wagon) would be far superior to a two wheeled vehicle (cart) because the goat does not have downward or upward pressure from the vehicle as well as drag weight. There may be other reasons that you would want a cart … but I can’t think of any good reasons.
My plan is to make a light-weight wagon using steel tubing from discarded bicycles and casting joints and other bits in aluminium.
Training a goat to pull a vehicle is more complex than pack training. You have to train the goat to the lead, train the goat to pull, train the goat for voice commands, etc. so it isn’t quite as easy. I think that I will train Darius for pack work first, and then when he is comfortable with that, I’ll train him for draught work.
Others doing similar stuff
There are a bunch of websites out there where people are already doing the things that I want to do here. Check out the North American Pack Goat Association (http://www.napga.org/) for info on pack goats; Harness Goat Society (http://www.harnessgoats.co.uk/) for info on draught goats and their attendant kit; you can also check into the Cart_Wagon_Goats Yahoo! email group (http://pets.dir.groups.yahoo.com/group/Cart_Wagon_Goats/) for people who have some excellent discussions on this topic.