We have been raising goats for about 5 years now and have experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly. We’ve been on farms where the goats run from you, bite at you, and kick and scream to get away from you.
That’s not the type of farm we wanted to have.
For the past five years, we’ve experimented with ways to make sure our goats are friendly, sweet, and safe to be around. In this article, we’re going to share what we’ve learned and what we wish we had known.
Consistency Is Key For A Friendly Goat
Before you get started on any (or all) of the techniques mentioned in this article I want to note one thing: None of these methods will work if you don’t stick with it. Goats are extremely intelligent, but they also have a short memory. You could have the friendliest goat in the world, but if you leave it alone for a month or two with no contact, it’ll go back to its instincts and become skittish and afraid of you.
We had one little doeling that was like that. She was the sweetest thing! Any time I was in the field she was right there with me nibbling on my hair and taking naps in my lap. We had so much fun together and even won the title of “favorite goat” on more than one occasion.
Then I had a baby.
And just like that, my daily trips to the farm had to come to an end (it was a rough delivery and I had some recovery I needed to go through). By the time I got back out there, little Hershey wouldn’t come anywhere near me. It was the saddest thing!
So, first and foremost – if you want a friendly goat, you’ve got to be consistent.
Tip #1 – Bottle Babies Are Your Best Friend
The easiest, most surefire way to have a friendly goat for life is to have a bottle baby. Now, I know some might say that it’s inhumane to take a baby from its momma. And I agree! But unfortunately, it’s fairly common to have something happen that necessitates intervention with a bottle.
Every kidding season we’ve had at least one baby that has had to be bottle fed. Whether it was because the mom had twins and didn’t accept one of the kids. Or one got sick and needed extra attention. We’ve even had one where it couldn’t get out of the delivery sack and so that mom couldn’t bond with it.
And I can almost guarantee that any other farmer with goats has at least a couple of babies that need bottle fed each year. This is your golden opportunity! If you’re willing to put in the time to bottle feed at least 3 times a day, you’ve got yourself a friend for life. That little baby goat will view you as their mother. I’ve found that even after I haven’t been to visit our herd for a while, the bottle babies are the first ones to come up.
When we first bought goats we got 2 three week old doelings (baby girls) that had only ever had their mom. They didn’t know what a bottle was or why they should suck on it. It was a nightmare! They lived in our pantry for several weeks while we had to force-feed them milk three times a day. It was a nightmare, but they lived.
To this day Midnight (one of the doelings) is our friendliest goat. After I had my first daughter we came out to the farm to visit the goats. Throughout the entire visit, Midnight would never leave my daughter’s side. When she started to try walking, Midnight would walk beside her and help her up whenever she would fall.
Tip #2 – Treats. Treats. And More Treats
Now, if you can’t get a bottle baby or even if you can, treats are your next best option for making friends with your goats. I do have to stress here that I’m not talking about sweets! Introducing new foods into your goat’s diets (especially a lot of it) can make them pretty sick.
What I’m talking about when it comes to treats is something as simple as fresh grass from the other side of the fence. Or even better – tree leaves! Goats will go nuts for them, and love you all the more for bring them by. A little (I stress a little) bit of sweet feed from MFA will also go a long way.
No matter what treat you decide to use, do your research and make sure it’s safe for your goat.
After you know that the treats you’ve chosen are safe, make sure you feed them by hand. Go into the field, sit down on the ground (if they are really skittish) and let them come to you. Goats are extremely curious, especially when it comes to food. You might have to lay some of the food on the ground a little ways away from you to begin with just so they know what you have and how good it tastes.
Depending on how skittish your goats are, you might have to do this a couple times a day until they know that you aren’t going to chase them. Once they start eating from your hand, you’ve got it made though! After that, just make a habit of coming out once a day to sit in the field and pet them. Play with the babies. Give treats to the older ones.
As I’ve said, goats are very intelligent. Once you start spending time with them and bringing them goodies they will associate you with safety and food. Two very big deals in the goat world!
Tip #3 – Cultivate Your Friendship Over Time
Just like with any relationship, having friendly goats takes time. But unlike smaller breeds (like poultry), the time you put into your relationship with a goat lasts a lot longer.
We run a farm and don’t have a ton of extra time to go sit in a field. I’m guessing you might be the same way. We’ve found that by just spending ten minutes in the evening can save us hours later on down the road.
Since we use our goats for pasture management can’t afford not to have friendly goats. If we were to have to chase each of our goats around every time we needed to move them, we’d be wasting an entire day! With that in mind, a couple of minutes in the morning or evening seems well worth the effort to have goats that will simply follow us from one pasture to the other.
When Benjamin steps out in the field he can yell “Come on Girls!” and our entire herd will come bounding over to him. Once they get close, he’ll take off running to wherever he wants them to go and they’ll sprint along behind him. It’s the coolest thing! And it makes everything so much easier when it comes to kidding season.
Overall, I’ve tried taming chickens, ducks, and cows but my favorite animal by far to tame is a goat. Other than a dog, I’ve never met an animal that warms up to you as quickly as a goat.