Goats running away is a scary thought! How on earth would you ever catch them since they are so fast and agile? Yikes!!
Goats “run away” for 2 reasons: your goats are running to food (not away from you) or you have one goat it needs a companion.
Good news-goats don’t really run away. They run to something, like food or companionship.
While it’s true if they are “running away” they are out of the pen.
This is annoying for sure, but for the most part goats will end their “running away” spree by camping out on your porch.
Are Meat Goats A Profitable Small Business? gets into the potential for making income from raising goats on your farm.
Rethink the idea of goats running away
Really what’s needed here is to rethink the whole “running away” thing and realize that the goats are needing something that you are not providing.
Are the goats getting the nutrients they need from their food?
Are they getting all of the nutrients they need from their food? If your goats just have grass then the answer is no. They need more shrubby plants to eat.
This is a biological thing, goats aren’t being “difficult” or “bad” when they eat sprouts and shrubs, it’s how they are made. If you only want to feed your animals grass, get sheep instead.
Should You Raise Sheep Or Goats? gives you some insight into which small ruminant would fit best with your needs and your farm.
Your goat needs a buddy
Do you have only one goat? If so you are asking for problems! Goats are very social and need a buddy.
If you do not have one for them, they will work hard to correct your mistake (by getting out and finding a buddy).
Herd animals are hardwired to need other animals. This is basic biology, so stop fighting nature and get your goat a pal!
Goats seem to be limit pushers, by that I mean if there is something to jump on or wiggle through or out of they will do it just because they can.
This to me is the blessing and the curse of goats. They are so smart!
When they do creative things I laugh at their smarts, when they do “bad” things I am irritated at the same smarts!
Give your goats a reason to stay
Save yourself some headaches and give your goats some items to play around with.
Think of it like this: any animal with some intelligence will direct it’s mental energy towards something-dogs, pigs, goats, etc.
Why not give your goats a positive place to put their energy? Goats will be up to something all day, help them to choose an activity you can live with.
Like what? Play items to jump on, a balance beam to zoom across, a ball to push around.
Be creative, just keep the items away from the edge of the pen or it will be used as a step stool to escape!
Goats get out of their pen
Goats are infamous for their escape abilities! You need to have goat appropriate fencing and pens if you expect to keep them it.
Generally, the fence needs to be higher than you would think and sturdy.
The best time to deal with an escape is before it happens. After they get out, they are more determined than ever to leave since now they know it is possible.
If it’s safe, let the goats eat before catching them
If your goats do get out, let them fill up a little first and then try to catch them. Otherwise they will just keep ahead of you and eat at the same time.
You need to catch the lead goat, the one that bosses everyone else around. Where she goes the rest will follow.
Get her and lead her back to containment.
After goats get out, keeping them in is harder
I’m not going to sugar coat this-your job of controlling your goats just got a lot harder.
Go visit some other goat owners in the area to get some advice and see what they do to keep their goats in the pen.
Consider putting them in the barn and just letting them out for a few hours when you can watch them.
Or when you find the goat that leads the group to bad behavior, sell her.
Getting out is a habit that forms quickly and is hard to break, you must stop it from happening.
Sturdy pens keep your goats home
If I were getting a pen for a few goats and wanted to be sure it was sturdy I would get one of those chain link dog kennels.
That way you would return home to find the goats where you left them(as long as you locked the door), versus eating your favorite shrub or the neighbor’s garden!
Another great fencing idea is cattle panels supported by T-posts.
As far as reliable fencing goes these panels will be tough and still portable for when you want to relocate or expand the pen.
Also, if you are considering electric fencing go with whatever the people you got the goats from had at their farm.
Don’t know? Then you’ll need to experiment. For netting, go with a netting specifically designed for goats!
Bucket train your goats!
Before you need to use it, bucket train your goats.
What? Get them used to the fact that when you show up with a bucket there will be a really good snack for them if the come over to see you.
You want the goat thinking bucket = great snack!
Set up a bucket feeding routine for your goats
Another good thing to do is to set up a routine so the goats know that when you go into a certain area you will give them some feed.
Make that area a place where you can catch them.
This only works if you feed them in the catch area normally and rarely actually catch them there. Once again, goats are smart.
If the only time they go into a certain pen ends up upsetting or scaring them, they are going to avoid that pen!
Our goat sees me carrying a bucket and zooms over, the fact that it’s not for her never crosses her mind.
In fact, she stalks me going to the chicken house and zooms in the door behind me if I’m not watching!
Goats need a variety in the diet
Goats must have a variety in their diet. Please remember they are not sheep! Think of goats as being more like deer.
Goats need weeds and stems to balance their diet and get all of the nutrients they need for growth.
Neglecting diet variety will make the goats anxious to correct this problem themselves.
That equals them getting out for another visit to your favorite flowering shrubs and tooling through the garden to take one bite out of everything you planned to pick later this evening!
Goats need buddies
Goats are herd animals that need to be with other goats! If you do not have space for at least two goats then don’t get goats.
I know that seems harsh, but you need to put the goat’s needs above your wants.
This is all part of being a responsible owner, providing the animal what it needs.
If you absolutely can not get another goat then figure out a smaller buddy like some chickens.
This might work and it might not, the goat decides who makes an acceptable buddy.
If you’ve struck out again, get the goat to a new home where it will be happier.
Often, being responsible requires putting the goat’s needs first-it’s the right thing to do.
New goats need to get used to you
Get goats from people that spend time with their goats, so the ones you get will be friendly.
Getting any old thing from an auction is asking for a flighty goat and the containment problems that will go with it.
If your goats are not friendly, start working on getting them used to you right away.
They don’t need to come up to you like a pet dog, but you don’t want them freaking out when they see you either.
You will eventually have to catch them so plan ahead to save yourself from a rodeo later.
Try the bucket training. Once the goats notice you come into their area, stop. If they move away you are too close.
As they get more comfortable they will come closer. Do not push, let them come to you.
Choose goats carefully
Getting any goat that comes up for sale is an invitation to behavior problems. Bargain goats rarely are actually a bargain.
They are cheap because of health or behavioral problems.
Buy your goats already people friendly. It’s the smart thing to do and will save you tons of headaches and maybe wallet aches later!
Getting auction goats is a gamble
Time for me to own up to it-we have purchased any goat we have ever had from the auction! Ours have always been friendly and people lovers.
Our current goat is a Boer cross nanny with her two babies and she is very friendly. She comes to see us whenever we are outside.
Some of the billies we have purchased are actually too friendly since they stink!
They want to be petted but if you do your clothes will stink for seemingly ever. That smell can last!
How is this auction stuff okay for me and not you? That’s not exactly what I am saying.
You can buy goats anywhere you want, just realize goats that you don’t know the background of can be great or a great menace.
You don’t know until they are at home!
Range goats vs farm goats: huge differences
The other important consideration is that in my area, north central Ohio, goats and most other livestock are not range animals.
They are in contact with people daily and view people as a provider of food.
If your area has lots of range animals and few small farm animals, it is likely any goat you would purchase will not be very friendly.
Maybe it can be tamed down, maybe not.
Range animals need to be able to take care of themselves and that usually means an animal that is more wary.
Another good reason to purchase from a known source!
The best goat resource I have ever found is Meat Goat Mania on Tennessee Meat Goats, which is a site owned by Susan Gasparotto. Read through this stuff, it’s truly a wonderful resource!