Goats have many uses, milk, cheese, fiber, but there’s one overlooked job your goat can do for you that you may not have heard of: carrying your load.
Goats that are trained to carry your extra gear are called pack goats.
Whether you are hauling something around the homestead or need some extra muscle on a longterm hike, your goat is the perfect pal to help out.
A sturdy, well-conditioned goat can carry up to 25% of its weight. So if horses, or wheelbarrows, aren’t your things…consider a goat!
What is a Pack Goat?
A pack goat is simply a goat that has been trained to carry a backpack of-sorts for you. Think feed bags, water canteens, garden equipment or sleeping bags!
Yeah, your wheels are turning aren’t they?
Pack goats are becoming more popular amongst homesteaders and survivalists because of their versatility, compact size, and trainability. Not to mention their fun attitudes and positive outlook on life.
A pack goat can be trained on a lead, or off lead! In other words, you can train them to follow you without having to pull them around. Yes, it takes some time, but it’s definitely worth it!
Why Use a Pack Goat?
Do we really need another reason to spend time with our goats?
We all know the answer to that question!
But aside from the fact that goats are great company, and we always want an excuse to hang out with our herd favorite, there’s a slew of other reasons to train your goat to pack and haul for you.
Let’s check them out:
1. Hiking and Camping
Imagine trading in your expensive hiking backpack for a goat! Free up your hiking energy bank and actually enjoy the great outdoors without cumbersome equipment.
A pack goat can be outfitted with packsaddles that can carry the majority of your hiking essentials: tents, cots, sleeping bags, and more!
If you’ve been a hiker all your life, and perhaps your body is no longer up for the challenge, adding a friendly goat to your hiking artillery can make your hikes a tad easier.
2. Camping with Kids
Let’s face it, when you want to camp with the whole family, there's a lot more to take along than just the bare essentials.
And how many times do you think you'll hear, “Carry me!” throughout your trip.
With all the extra “luggage” that comes with kiddos, you probably can’t carry your them too, and that’s where your pack goat comes in.
You carry the kid, your goats carry the goodies (all the things kids need when they go camping).
3. Hauling Around the Homestead
Whether you're on a 5-acre homestead or 200-acre ranch, you can use your pack goat to carry your tools, resources, snacks, first aid kits, and anything else you think you might need.
Instead of dragging a cart around, or filling an ATV with gas, grab your pack goat, load him up with stuff and get to work.
Bonus: It doesn’t hurt to have extra goatie companionship while getting the chores done, right?
In some hunting situations, goats can be a great asset to carry your harvest or hunting gear. If you decide to use a pack goat for hunting, purchase a quiet goat (if you can find one) and don’t use a buck in rut—your game will smell him!
Choosing a Pack Goat
Now for the fun part! You get to pick your new work buddy. And while there are certain things to look for in a good pack goat, the sky is really the limit and any goat can be trained to pack effectively.
With that being said, there are some breeds and qualities to look for when making your selection…so here are a few things to consider:
If you think you’ll be using your goat for a lot of heavy carrying, you won’t want a small dairy goat for the job. Consider a muscular, stout Boer goat for heavy-duty jobs.
You also probably aren't going to opt for a fluffy fiber goat either. They are burdock magnets and that would certainly ruin the value of their fiber after shearing season.
2. Characteristics of a Pack Goat
While any breed can be used as a pack goat, the physical qualities of goats you are considering should include the following:
- Broad chest
- Heavy bone structure
- Well-sprung ribs
- Level back
- Good hooves
If the goat you are eyeing fits the bill, also make sure they have a good temperament. Pack goats should be level-headed and mentally stable.
3. Bottle-fed Babies
If you have the opportunity to make a pack goat out of a bottle-fed kid, then go for it! If a goat likes humans, it will be easier to train and more likely to follow their person without a lead.
4. Does, Bucks or Wethers?
Any gender of goat will work for pack goats, but most prefer to use wethers. Does work just fine, and bucks are good for a part of the year. When they're in rut though, they are usually pretty temperamental and smelly, so you probably don’t want to spend too much time with them.
Packing Gear and Equipment
So you’re sold on a pack goat…not that it took much convincing right? Now it’s time to get the gear you need to make sure your goat is comfortable in their new role.
Here’s what you need:
1. Halters or Collars
You can use simple dog collars if you prefer, but there are some fantastic goat halters that give a bit more control.
Halters and collars are used during training, but also on the trail in case you need to lead your pack goat out of danger.
A soft lead that has a lot of movement to it will work best for training and leading your pack goat. Movement allows the goat to respond to your cues quickly with little force.
Short goat leads are good for control but are mostly used for showing or handling non-pack goats.
Long leads, like horse leads, or even dog leads work best for pack goats. More slack can be given to your packing buddy.
3. Packs and Packsaddles
If you are on a budget, you can opt for dog packs rather than packs made specifically for goats. Keep in mind that the best saddles for your goats will be tailored to fit their bodies.
If you plan on long trips or heavy loads, you should ensure the saddles and packs you buy are comfortable and safe for your goat.
A good pack goat can fill this role for about 10 years if cared for appropriately. So, try your best to invest in a good packsaddle to extend the life of your beloved goat.
4. Bags and Panniers
Panniers are the bags you attach to the pack saddle for carrying all your goodies around. You can get large packs, small packs, and packs that are specifically made to carry certain things. Once you start packing with your goats, you will find that you can never have enough panniers for the things you want to carry with you.
Now that you see the value in a pack goat, you can start thinking about the training process. And let me tell you, it takes a lot of patience, but it pays off in the end. With the right goat and equipment, your goat will learn to enjoy his new job and look forward to his next outing.