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A lot of the topics we cover in our "Tips" concern how to care for the animals - work related, in other words. But our beloved goats can join in some of our play related activities, also. A while back, we discussed the use of goats as pack animals. This week, I came across an old article in the Homesteader's Connection which described training a harness goat. We received permission from Trish McKee (publisher of the magazine at that time) to plagerize the document. We wish to acknowledge the author, Dianne Armond. Most of what follows is her article, published almost verbatim. We will split the discussion into three parts, with the second and third to appear in the next two months.

Training and working a goat in harness is an activity that is educational, challenging, and rewarding. Most importantly, its FUN!! This is a project that reaches out to all age groups, from small children to senior citizens, especially to children in 4H who have goats for their projects as well as their pets.

Before you begin training, you must make a personal commitment to lots of hard work if you're going to reach your goal of breaking and training a goat to pull a cart. It may take some time, but the reward of the time spent with your goat will be measured in the close bond you will develop with your goat during the training period.

Remember - a well trained animal enjoys pleasing an owner. Goats can be fun as well as useful when they are properly trained to pull carts or other objects. As a pet, a goat is unsurpassed, even by a dog. Children (young or old) love being pulled about in a cart or wagon by their pet goat. For light hauling jobs, a goat can help pay his way around the home. Make a cart ( or winter sled) low to the ground for use around the farm. Large wheels will make any towing job easier. Is it your job to take the trash out or bring in wood for the fireplace? Let your harness goat help you. If your cart has your farm name or other advertisment painted on it, the cart becomes a highly effective method for drawing the attention of the public to the goat and your farming enterprise. Placed in line at parades and celebrations, the inexpensive goat cart, drawn by an attractive, well-groomed goat or matched pair of goats may well outshine the expensive floats of others. At fairs, the goat cart being driven around the fairgrounds focuses attention on your farm or 4H goat project as nothing else will.

When you first begin training, you should be starting with a kid about 8-10 weeks old. You will be teaching your kid to follow voice commands such as, "Stop; Forward; Back; Left; and Right". At the same time, you will also train it to follow reining cues to be used with or without verbal commands. This is referred to as training your goat to work "in hand" which means there is no cart, but the goat is in either a training harness or full harness with the driver walking behind the goat. By the time the goat is one year old, he or she should be fully trained in hand and now ready to be trained to pull a cart. You should then purchase or build a cart which is of the correct size for the goat to pull. By two years of age, your goat should be fully trained and happily pulling you and your cart anywhere, if you have done your training correctly.

When selecting your goat, try to choose one with large, powerful parents. Also, it would be well to select one from a long-lived genetic line. You don't want to put in all the work of training, only to have the animal croak just about the time you get him trained. If I were selecting an animal, I would use a wethered male whose only job was to pull my cart and to love me. An ideal adult wether will be 36-38 onches at the withers when full grown, and will weigh 250 pounds or more. Remember - the bigger the animal, the more he can pull. Be sure the goat is disbudded. Handle and play with your kid often. You want your animal to be tame and comfortable with people. This animal should look to you for all his needs, such as food and shelter. All my goats love peanut-butter-flavored dog biscuits. Its amazing what they'll do for a biscuit. Always reward your goat through the training process. Always be kind to them. Don't be afraid to hug them as you would your dog or cat. NEVER teach your goat to butt or push at you. What is "cute" at a few weeks of age can be downright dangerous at a year or more. There are 6 major breeds of dairy goats. In selecting your harness goat I would recommend the breed that you raise at your farm, as this is your most effective advertising. The largest at maturity are Saanens, Nubians, and Alpines. Small delicate animals are not recommended for harness unless they will be pulling only very light-weight equipment or are used in a team. Thats why you want to select large parents. Kids should be first trained to lead with a collar. Purchase or make several small light weight collars. You will need to replace them often as the kid grows. Braided bailing twine works well, and can be cut if it gets caught on something. Start by letting the kid wear its collar while you are feeding it or playing with it in the yard. Kids can begin wearing them at two weeks of age. If bottle feeding, take the kid out of its pen by the collar, and lead it to a separate area where it will be rewarded by a bottle. After two or three sessions, the kid will lead very easily. Just be certain that the kid is not now leading you. Continue leading the kid around the yard by the collar as it grows, without giving it the reward of the bottle. Always play with your kid after every work session, rewarding it with affection, or an occasional treat, so it will have a pleasant memory of the experience.

At about 5-6 weeks of age, the kid should be now wearing its collar full time. It is now time to introduce the halter, but there is no need to remove the collar yet. You can purchase a halter in several different sizes - kid through large adult. If you prefer, a rope sheep halter with an attached leadline may also be used. Select the proper size for your goat,and then show it to him and allow him to sniff it, which satisfies its curiosity about the new object. Place one arm gently around the goats neck into a position that will have one hand on each side of its face. Now allow the goat to sniff the halter again, and when it shows no fear of the halter, slowly slip it on and buckle it behind the head. The goat may shake its head or try to get the halter off, but will stop after a few minutes. Do this daily, increasing the length of time until the goat is comfortable with it for several hours. Your goat should now be 8-10 weeks of age. Repeat this process with the lead line on the halter. As soon as the goat is comfortable with the lead, and is not frightened of it, attach a second line. Remember the goat should be leading very well by the collar now, so leading with a line on the halter should be no different.

Now the fun part begins! And with that, I'll sign out on this installment. Next month, we'll continue our discussion on training our goat to harness. We hope you enjoy training and using your spare wethers for pulling a cart. Its a great attention grabber, and is great fun, besides.


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Welcome PageDescription of Dairy HerdWhat's New at the Site?Crafts and Nifty StuffAlchemy's MenagerieTip of the MonthPrevious Tips of the MonthOther Resources of Interest