I learned very early on that goats are comical, smart, loving, determined and very stubborn. When I first got my goats I was as green as could be and I had absolutely no clue where to start. As usual, winging it was my first course of action. Some goat breeds are easy to train and others…well not so much.
I remember that first day I was to milk my very first goat. Hubs made me a beautiful milk stand. I watched a zillion YouTube videos on how to milk goats and sheep. I even went to a farm and had a sweet Amish farmhand give me a milking lesson.
I was fully confident and ready to fill my shiny new pail with some tasty milk.
I headed out that first morning with my milking supplies in hand and a spring in my step.
Once in the barn, I set everything up and went to get my doe, Oleo. I took her by the collar and lead her to the milk stand. She came willingly enough but once there she took one look at that stand and took off the other way!
After chasing her down, we tried it again only to have the same result.
What the hay! (yes, this is what I say now) This wasn’t what I expected at all.
I led her over once again and was forced to picked her up and put her on the stand.
Yes, I picked up a 120-pound goat!
Once I had her on the stand and locked in, the fun didn’t stop there. She then proceeded to do a very impressive Irish tap dance all over the place spilling milk and making a rather large mess in the process.
I now know where the saying “Don’t cry over spilled milk” came from.
I left that morning dejected with only a cup of milk to show for all my efforts. And now that I think of it, I believe I WAS crying.
I learned a very important lesson that day. I needed to figure out how to train my goats to listen and work with me…not against me.
How to Train Your Goats
Before I dive in there I just want to say. If you have an aggressive goat, a wild goat (meaning not people friendly), or just an all-around mean goat, this system may not work for you and your situation. Sometimes hard decisions need to be made. If you have tried everything and you find your goat is still uncontrollable you may need to make some hard decisions. Owning goats especially a family goat for a homestead or backyard farm should be pleasant and rewarding. Not all animals fit all families. Know when it’s time to locate a new home for your animal and try again until you find a good fit.
Step #1 Find what they love
If you want to get a goat to do what you want, you need to train your goats with a heavy dose of patience and (this is VERY important) F O O D.
Goats will do just about anything if food is involved. Especially their favorite foods.
Now don’t be discouraged, this is actually good news! Once you know what you need to do the how is easy.
Some goat treats:
- Banana peels
- Animal crackers
- 2nd cut hay
- Goat treats
Step#2 Repetition is key when you train your goats.
Lead your goats where you want them to go and reward them with their feed ration of grain or with a couple of treats. You literally only need to do this a few times and they will quickly learn where to go even without being led!
Ninja tip: Always lead a goat, do NOT pull. A goat will quickly put on the brakes if being pulled anywhere. If leading does not work, gently push from behind instead. You will get much better results with a push rather than a pull.
I have come a long way since that first milking fiasco. Now before I begin milking a new goat I will do test runs a week or two in advance to acclimate her and myself to our new routine. If you have a trust bond already established, this will not take very long at all. Just remember it is important to be patient and flexible. If something doesn’t work or “flow”, as well as you, would like, having a plan B is the best advice I can give you.
When you train your goats never force your goats to do anything. First, you will damage the trust bond you are trying hard to establish and second you will not get the results you are hoping for.
If you give your goat guidance and patience she will usually do what you want.
Ninja tip: NEVER EVER lose patience with a goat in the milk stand. If you have a goat that is simply misbehaving. Stop. Take a deep breath and try again. If you are still having problems, remove the goat from the stand and try again later when you have both calmed down.
Step #3 Slow and steady wins the race.
If you want to succeed when you train your goats you need to have plenty of patience.
Fast-forward to two years later. Now I have a doe that is terrified of anything new. She was due to deliver for the first time in a month and I was planning on milking her at 2 weeks after kidding. I also knew that with her skittish tendencies I was not going to attempt to train her to jump onto the milk stand pregnant so I chose to wait until after she kidded.
Most of my goats can be trained in a few days, Wren, I knew, would take much longer. Knowing this going in helped to keep me calm and gentle when we trained.
Prior to her kidding, every time I went to the barn I would touch her udder. Wren HATES to have her udder touched, but I needed her to get used to me touching it so I could milk her. At first she would kick and run, but eventually, she stayed still and let me touch and actually massage her udder.
After she kidded a beautiful doeling I gave her a few days to be with her kid before “class” began. This gave her time to adjust to motherhood and bond with her baby.
The first step was to get her used to the stand, I took her over a few times a day and let her see it. I put her feed bowl on the stand so she would begin to associate the stand with food. After just a couple of days, I was able to get her to jump up on the stand and lock her in. I continued to feed her there every feeding for several days. Since I was not yet milking her I would instead use this time for much-needed maintenance on her coat and hooves.
Even after all of this, Wren would still kick every so often, so I finally began using goat hobbles like these and I must say they work amazingly well.
If you are new to goat hobbles they are basically a canvas strap that loops around the does legs ABOVE the knee and are held together with velcro. This strap safely holds the goat’s legs together so she cannot easily kick or buck, although she may still be able to jump.
I have been milking Wren for 3 seasons now and she has become my milking rock star! She is a lady in the stand, let’s me do all I need to do without having to rush and will stand patiently for any additional work.
Here is a video of what you can do when you train your goats. It is a little chaotic but you get the picture. You can literally teach your goats to do anything, even a feeding regimen that is more like a do-si-do at a square dance!
It is so important to remember with goats that patience (and food) is the key to a trusting and loving relationship. Follow these tips and you too can easily train your goats.