Get tips on how to raise people-friendly goats, and what you can do to train your goats so you can raise them more easily into a healthy and happy herd. Having goats that are gentle to you and other goats will help to make your homesteading experience a more positive one.
Use these tips to help you set up a herd of goats that are fun to be around. When learning how to raise dairy goats, being friendly goes a long way to a healthy and happy herd.
I get asked all the time, are goats friendly? And in most cases, the answer is yes. But as with all living things, there isn’t going to be a one size fits all kind of answer, and nowhere is this truer than with goats.
Have you ever gone to a farm and been magically greeted by animals?
Cows, chickens, horses, sheep, and goats all come running to say hello. I love to see animals that are used to people. I love even more seeing animals that are people-friendly.
Most non-homesteading folks think all animals raised by people naturally love us, but unfortunately, that is not the case.
Some animals are just born skittish, requiring patience and extra care. My goal is to give you tips that will help you to raise people-friendly goats that you and your family will love to be around.
How to Have People-Friendly Goats on Your Homestead
Many of these tips are ones I have tried myself. You do not need to do them all; however, choose the ones that you feel will work best for you and give them a try.
Tip #1. Bottle feed
It’s true if you bottle-feed your babies, they will LOVE you, almost to the point of too much. If you are the bottle holder, your goat kids will always see you as their feeder, aka mom, and trust you almost completely.
For me, however, this is only an option if required.
Even though bottle-fed goats are people-friendly, I still prefer to have my moms feed their kids. I feel it creates a better herd atmosphere when the kids are dam raised. Now, this does not mean that I will never bottle feed. In some cases, it is required.
For example, if a mom has multiples and can’t produce enough milk, I will most definitely choose to bottle-feed the weakest kid. This will ensure they grow up as healthy and strong as the rest.
Another scenario that may require human intervention is if a mom doesn’t bag up, meaning her udder does not fill with milk upon or directly after delivery. This is a rare occurrence but something that can happen.
Or if, unfortunately, the mother does not recover after delivery and you need to step in.
All of these are uncommon occurrences but still, something to be prepared for, specifically at the time of kidding. I like to have supplies on hand for just about any issue that might come up, so I am not stressed trying to find what I need during a chaotic goat kidding.
Please know that if you choose to bottle feed, you will need to do so frequently, especially in the beginning. Like any newborn baby, goat kids need to eat small amounts frequently. For the first month, you will be bottle feeding your kids four times a day decreasing to weaning at the age of 6-8 weeks.
This can completely turn your schedule upside down if you are not prepared for it. Just keep this in mind before you decide whether or not to bottle feed.
What if bottle feeding is not an option or required? What else can you do to ensure your goat kids react positively to people?
There are a few additional tips you can try to follow that will help but know they are not guaranteed to work. Animals are funny, and what works perfectly on one goat kid doesn’t even come close to working on the next.
Use these tips as a guide, and hopefully, your fickle goats will be willing to sniff your hand instead of running from it.
Tip #2. Be Hands-on From Day One
If you want people-friendly goats, then the minute they arrive on your homestead, try to be very involved with your animals. Touch them, talk to them, approach them. Do this in a natural non-threatening way using a calm voice. You don’t want to coddle them so much as to get them used to you being around.
Slow and easy work well with animals. Just take your time, and hopefully, your patience will be rewarded.
If you have never done this with your goats, you can introduce closer contact during feed time.
Many times goats will eat hay or feed without paying too much attention to what is happening around them. As they eat, slowly and gently stroke their backs as if you are petting them.
If they allow you to do that, you can move on by touching their heads, rubbing their ears (many goats love this), or scratching their chest.
Always go slowly and watch your goat’s stance for cues.
Tip #3. Patience Patience Patience
I cannot stress enough the importance of being patient. Lose your temper one time, and you might be in for a setback. When things get stressful, take a deep breath and remember your goal. Take a deep breath and begin again.
If that doesn’t help, walk away. Come back when you are in a better state of mind.
This goes without saying. Never ever hit your goats. One smack on the nose can undo any progress you have made until that point. When your fuse gets short, walk away.
Our goal is to develop unconditional trust; to do that, you need to be calm, patient, and gentle but firm.
Tip #4. Socialize Early
On our homestead, we like to have routine playtime with our goat kids after just a few days. Goats grow quickly, both physically and mentally. It is quite amazing to see.
Just a few minutes after they are born, they are up and nursing, and for some, within hours, they are trying to jump.
If you separate your moms into private birthing pens for kidding, then at the very least, let everyone out to stretch their legs a few times each day. Our barn has a small center aisle that is perfect for the kids to get out and play with the risk from other adults in the herd.
This allows them to get accustomed to someone other than their siblings and gives the new moms a much-needed break.
Tip #5. Tether Feed
This is something we prefer to do on our homestead but is not required to have people-friendly goats. We find it easier to custom-set a diet specific to each goat. This allows us to manage issues that may come up or offer support by mixing feed rations with specific goat herbs.
Tethered feeding also teaches goats that certain rules must be followed. By teaching your goats to eat this way, you are setting a routine for them and you as well.
What is tethered feeding?
Tethered feeding is when you put your goats on a short lead next to their feed area. This way, they can only get access to the food directly in front of them and, in turn, reduce the risk of weaker goats getting bullied out of their food.
Tip #6. Train your Goats to Come when Called
This is something I not only do with my goats but with all of our animals. By having a specific call, I can get my goats to come home when they are out to the pasture. Just one yell, and they come running.
I use this call to bring them in to feed, to meet any visitors we might have, or to close them up for the night.
Training your animals to come when called is very helpful, especially in an emergency.
Tip #7. Know their Favorite Treat
This is not something I do for socializing, but it can be helpful in a pinch.
I have said before how finicky goats can be, and this is true with treats as well. For example, some of my goats LOVE bananas and banana peels, whereas others won’t go near them. Know your goats and what they like, and you can help lure them in just a bit to build that trust.
What I mean by that is, if you have a goat that will not come close to you, then every time you approach THEM, offer a little nibble of a favorite treat.
This will help them to learn your disposition and your smell each time you are near each other as they are eating the treat, coo to them, and pet them.
All of these steps help teach them about you and your nature, making them (hopefully) more friendly towards all people.
What if you have tried everything and your goat is still not people-friendly?
Then you might have to ask yourself the hard questions.
I am not one to quickly sell my goats. I will work hard to help them adjust to the herd and our family. But there have been a few cases when I faced the reality that a particular goat would not be happy on our homestead. Let’s cover a few scenarios that may come up.
Does this goat’s nature make it difficult to treat her for any medical issues?
Nothing is worse than a medical emergency and a goat terrified of people. Have you ever tried to get a skittish goat in a truck bed to rush them to the vet? It’s not easy; trust me on this. Trained goats will make a stressful situation a little easier to deal with.
Does this goat threaten to hurt you or others?
This is especially important if your goats are around young and inexperienced children. This is also true if you are older. A scared goat can do damage to not only themselves but to you as well, another thing I found out myself.
Does this goat make it stressful or dangerous to milk?
Milking should be an enjoyable time with your goat. A terror on the milk stand is not normal and will quickly have you hating what you want to love. Work with your goats before they kid so you both enjoy milking after.
Does this goat commonly try to inflict injury on people or other animals?
The pecking order in a goat herd is a natural part of goats; however, bullying is not. If you want people-friendly goats, it helps to have herd-friendly goats. Watch how your goats interact with each other for clues that they may be in a situation that needs to be dealt with.
If you answer yes to most or all of these questions, you may need to take action.
Not all goats are a good fit for all homes, and just because you do not “click” with a goat does not mean that the goat will not “click” with the next owner. Do yourself and your goat a favor and offer them the very best home, even if that means it’s not with you.
Do you have people-friendly goats? Tell me about them in the comments below; I would love to meet them!