Goat Packing

by Rebecca Lange

Why pack goats? As all goatkeepers know goats love to get some human attention; this makes them not only ideal as pets, but also as pack animals. Goats are used as pack animals mainly in the American mid-west because of the sensitive nature of eco-systems there. Goats leave far less of an impact on such areas than horses do. They are also preferred over horses because they are easy for all ages of people to handle. There is of course also the economic benefit of a goat costing far less to feed and maintain than other pack animals.

Wethers make ideal pack goats as they usually adapt well to human company. Using them as working goats is also a wonderful excuse to keep those friendly young chaps! Does can also be used for packing although they are less suited to the task as they do not generally have the body mass of wethers or bucks. Bucks are rarely if ever used for packing, because of the many obvious reasons for not doing so! All breeds of goat are considered to be suitable, although Nubians do have a reputation for being stubborn and lazy. So far I have found that both my Saanen and Nubian cross wethers have trained fairly well. Temperament is also a consideration; a goat with a quiet gentle nature is far better than one that will leap at the slightest noise!

Training can begin when the kids are very young, with basic leading and tying. The best pack goats are generally those that have been bottle/pail fed as they are usually more accepting of human contact. Older goats can be trained — this usually takes longer and it is harder to stop bad habits— such as jumping up. Actual packing can begin when the goats are around a year old, depending on their physical condition. At this time they can only carry a pack that is appropriate for their weight; the load that they are allowed to carry obviously increases with growth and age.

There are a few styles of saddle available to goat packers. The first is of a similar design to a horse saddle; these are made of wood and leather. You can have them custom-made to fit your goat. Adjustable saddles are made to suit all types of goat; these are usually heavier than aluminum ones. Aluminum saddles have the advantage of being much lighter than wood. Of course as with all pack animals, support for any type of saddle is important to prevent sores. Panniers can be purchased to fit saddles; these come in various sizes depending on the needs of both the goat and yourself. For those in wetter areas using a waterproof cover to protect your gear is a good idea.

Day Packs are soft packs that need no saddle; however there is material under all webbing to prevent sores. A protective cover under the day pack also is a good idea. Each of my pack goats will have a pack designed to meet their specific needs. Day Packs as suggested by the name can be used for day trips. I use my packs to carry snacks and lunches for guests; these usually weigh no more than six pounds, the heaviest item in them being a bottle of water.

These are just a few of the basics of goat packing. As most of us know goats are wonderful animals to work with and this is just another great way of spending time with them. If you ever feel like coming to see my pack goats — Tuvok, Baxter, Jasper, Murphy and Merri — then let me know.

For more information you can contact me at 204-937-8349, email goatpackgetaways@yahoo.ca or visit our website at www.bramblesnubianfarm.com.