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Training goats to follow

Feeding a goat
"I noticed you referred to taking/leading your goats into the woods. How do you get your goats to follow? Do you have very many? I have twelve. They do not always follow...even with a bucket of food. I want to rotate them on pasture, but for their safety, we have to pen them at night (coyotes, neighboring dogs, etc.). Let's just say, I have 8 children and when we try to get them into the pasture/pen it can be quite the prospect for America's Funniest Home Video. I would love to know if you have a trick."
--- K Hill


The first thing I taught Abigail was how to walk on a leash. This involved a bit of pulling, but mostly holding grain in my hand just out of nose reach each time she stopped moving. Goats are smart. Soon, Abigail was nearly as well leash-trained as Lucy is (although our goat gets much more recalcitrant when she knows I'm about to lock her back in her boring pasture).

My guess would be that, if you can figure out who the lead goat is, leash training that goat might do the trick. But I've obviously never worked with a dozen goats. And Artemesia is willing to trot along at my heels whether or not Abigail is on the leash --- I think she was a bottle baby, and she adores humans.


Pair of goats
Unlike Artemesia, Abigail has a mind of her own, but I can usually get her to obey by using goat psychology. Lately, I've been taking Abigail out into the woods san leash, which works well because she knows I'm going to lead her to something tasty, and because she hates being left behind alone. (Artemesia, if giving the choice, follows me rather than Abigail.)

The trouble comes when we return to the coop, since Abigail would far rather keep exploring the woods rather than get shut back up. If I'm in a hurry, I'll snap on a leash to make sure Abigail doesn't get her panties in a twist about the end of walktime, but I'm also working on training her to behave there too. My method involves taking Artemesia off somewhere so that Abigail can't see us, then Abigail freaks out, thinking she's been abandoned by her entire herd, and she starts sticking much closer to my heels in the future.

That method isn't foolproof yet, though --- the last time Abigail came galloping down off the hill with me and Artemesia...and then ran right past us to a new patch of honeysuckle within sight line of the coop. She figured she could graze, Artemesia could get shut in, and we'd all be happy. So I've got a bit more work ahead of me there.

I'd be curious to hear from others who have worked with bigger goat herds than I have. Do you have tips for getting your goats to follow where you lead?



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Anna, I just read this article on goats and happiness on NPR. I thought immediately of you:
Comment by Rena Sun Dec 14 15:48:10 2014

Anna, I read this blog post (http://www.5acresandadream.com/2014/12/feeding-my-goats-research-thoughts.html) this morning and thought of you. Thanks for a great blog! We do not have a homestead yet but are working intentionally every day to get there. Your blog keeps me excited during the wait!

Comment by Erin Tue Dec 16 06:53:18 2014

Anna, Thank you so much for the post. I just finally had a chance to see if you had responded. It looks like I have my work cut out for me. I'll let you know how it goes. I purchased some leads and the kids and I are going to start working. I have a couple of the "girls" in mind who could be my leaders... Thanks again. K.Hill

Comment by KHill Fri Jan 2 15:07:21 2015