An Unusual Pack Animal
A word to the wise. If you don't love animals, then goats may not be the pack animal for you. You know how campfires are a part of your evening social structure? Yes, it's true, campfires are also a part of the evening social structure for goats. For instance , Jeffrey, my favorite goat/child, has to sit on my right side next to the fire every night. If someone else is there, he will squeeze in between us. The evening fire circle is usually made up of alternating goats and people, except on the smoke side, not even goats like smoke. Lisa will usually run them off if people don't want them invading the fire, they know I'm a push over and won't budge for me.
Most of the time the goats are out foraging, never out of sight of the camp. Even though goats act like they are independent when they are in the wild, they really aren't. Goat independence is a facade. They cry and scream when they are left behind, or if you are out of their sight. Goats are like children in more ways than one.
Imagine having a really sneaky ornery child. Now imagine that child weighs 200 pounds has four legs and a lot of friends around just as sneaky as him. Camp used to be a challenge with our herd of goats. Acolase, the dish banging goat, Stratus, the food bag opener, and Maestro, the interference runner, would gang up on us constantly allowing for a mad goat rush to the chips and trail mix.
We finally learned how to spot the glimmer in their eyes just prior to the raid, and shot everyone with a squirt gun. Goats hate water in their face. Now we always carry water guns . . . and aren't afraid to use them.
Because goats won't run away we don't tie them up. However we are still able to keep the animals out of the camp until fire time, when everyone bonds with their favorite goat. After a good camp cleaning it is time for bed. Because the goats will get into anything they can while you are trying to sleep, all of our gear is either tied up in trees, or is secured in tents. The goats love to be mischievous, so our camp is always immaculate.
After five years of experience, some training, and lots of trail and error, our camp is not only impeccably clean, but also, finally, harmonious . . . as long as the squirt gun is in plain sight!
Most people when they think of goats don't really know what to think. They either think of Uncle Bob's goat that butted everyone, or a story they heard somewhere about a goat that ate tin cans. The poor goat gets blamed for everything. I know you have used the expression 'scape goat'. Is it just a coincidence that the goat is used in this phrase? I don't think so.
I think it is important to dispel these horrible rumors and liberate the goat from it's jaded background.
Only the male goats that haven't been castrated smell. The 'Bucks' only smell foul during the breeding season ( Nov-March ) to attract the does.
2.Goats eat tin cans, and just about everything else
If a goat eats a tin can it will probably die. Actually, the goat has the most frail digestive system of all the ruminates. If a goat is not used to eating a certain item, it will bloat up, and if not treated, die. This includes things like cantaloupe, apples, too much grain, and many more food items normally associated as goat feed.
3.Goats eat grass
Goats do eat some grass, but their main staple is brush. Goats are foragers, not grazers.
4.Goats made the desert
Ya, right. I suppose nature and man had nothing to do with that. Goats are one of the few animals that can survive in the desert, so I guess we might as well blame them for it.
5.Goats breed like rabbits
Goats breed once a year. One or two kids are considered normal at birth with the gestation period lasting five months. So, actually, goats breed more like humans.
6.Don't turn your back on a goat, it will butt you!
If a goat butts you when you turn your back, it has more than likely been abused. A properly trained goat that hasn't been beaten won't even consider butting you.
I think that clears up the biggest misconceptions. If you know of any more, email me email@example.com.
It is now March and the sun is shining, baby goats are being born, saddles are being made, and new clients are booking daily. Although we are very busy, the goats, Lisa, and I are chomping at the bit to return to the high country. We are all grumpy from lack of sun light and exercise. Day hikes in the foothills just aren't the same as week long trips in the pristine splendor of the Sierra Nevada.
We are anxiously awaiting training our new additions to the pack string, and can't wait to watch with pride our beautiful goats performing a feat that no other pack animal is capable of. Most of all, I look forward to my nightly reward of snuggling with my favorite goat next to a fire on a cold night in the prodigious Sierra Nevada.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication