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Understanding Goat behavior - Help Please!

 
Tiffani Wilson
Posts: 24
Location: Woods of Northern Indiana
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I need some help - even if it's a website or book to read. We have three milking ND goats and a doeling. They have a permanent paddock with fencing and shelter, we (ideally) take them out on good days to a temporary electric fence. Before buying our third goat, the other two would go happily enough to their temp fence, stay in and browse. We bought a third doe in milk a month ago and found out quickly that in spite of her girth, she is a fantastic fence jumper. She taught the younger of the other two goats to jump and we've been unable to keep them in the woods because of that (the non-jumper does not like to be there alone with just her doeling for company). I think I've mentioned this in the other post on temporary fencing for goats. We've reinforced the electric fence, tried stock panels instead etc.

The thing that boggles me is that the two jumpers seem frantic to escape... like they are afraid. They won't relax to eat. We took them for a walk in the woods today to see how they did. Previously they were curious little goats, sidetracked and munching away. This time we had to walk the dog behind them to get them to go and they ran us ragged all the way back! The non jumper is the only one who snacked and seemed fine. I can't figure out if something scared them back there (a coyote or other animal?), they are terrified of mosquitoes, if the new goat has told the younger goat scary forest stories, or ? And why it only seems to affect the jumpers and not the mom and her dueling. Totally at a loss here about what to do. Thanks!
 
Deborah Niemann
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Goats seem to be far more emotional than other animals. They get stressed out about moving and being in strange places. The main thing you have to remember is that they are prey animals, so at the front of their mind is always the question, "Am I going to be eaten today?" I once had a goat that refused to come into the milking parlor in the evening for about a month. She'd walk up to the door, stick her neck out to look inside, then run away as if she'd seen something that was going to eat her. She'd walk in there in the morning just fine, and after about a month, she decided it was fine to go back in there in the evening again. So, although I can't tell you how to fix their behavior, I can sympathize and tell you that it's not that unusual.
 
Kurt Stailey
Posts: 36
Location: Indiana, zone 6
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Try putting the two jumpers in alone without the third non-jumper, then try sitting in the pen with them and see if they still bolt.

--Kurt

 
Tiffani Wilson
Posts: 24
Location: Woods of Northern Indiana
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Deborah, thanks for the comforting words... Hopefully these girls get over their fright soon!

Kurt, thanks for the idea! I will try that tomorrow. For some silly reason, as long as I have something new to try I'm not too frustrated, but today I just ran out of ideas and was at my wits end (hence the "help please"). I hadn't thought about sitting in the pen with them. I'm usually hanging out just outside of it talking to them. I appreciate all your comments and ideas - thanks!
 
Alder Burns
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Location: northern California
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I discovered with goats....and even chickens and cats.....that quite a few behavioral and dietary idiosyncracies clear up when you raise a second generation on your site. When you have animals born and raised right there, with you, your system, your routines, the rhythms and "spirits" of your place, you will have a lot less trouble. New animals are always remembering where they were before......
 
Tiffani Wilson
Posts: 24
Location: Woods of Northern Indiana
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Hmmm... Thanks Alder! Hopefully we can be patient and make it to the second generation.

Kurt, we tried your suggestion and both goats took about 5 minutes to settle down. After that it was 5 minutes of eating and a few minutes of coming up to us for pets and assurance. They didn't seem bothered by the mosquitos at all (unlike us!) and they didn't jump out. After 30 minutes of this, my daughter went to go get the other goat so she could browse a while too. While she was gone they were restless and looked like they were thinking of a jail brake. When she brought the other doe and her doeling, they went right to town eating away. We had to take them back about 15 minutes later because of other things we had to do. And of course, milk supply was up a little. So interesting! I'm wondering if we will have to do this for a while until they get over their fear? Thanks for the idea - I'm glad we got at least a little bit of grazing time in for them!
 
Kurt Stailey
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Location: Indiana, zone 6
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Great! We stay nearby when we move the goats to a new paddock if they seem overwhelmed. Once they get used to the new area, they don't seem to need us anymore Hope that works out for you!

--Kurt

 
Deb Stephens
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Location: SW Missouri, Zone 7a
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Tiffani Wilson wrote:
The thing that boggles me is that the two jumpers seem frantic to escape... like they are afraid. They won't relax to eat. We took them for a walk in the woods today to see how they did. Previously they were curious little goats, sidetracked and munching away. This time we had to walk the dog behind them to get them to go and they ran us ragged all the way back!


Do you, by any chance have horse flies or deer flies around right now? I have seen the calmest and most voracious goats run straight back to the barn and refuse to come out at the first hint of a horse fly. If one of those little boogers ever bites you -- causing the blood to stream! -- you will understand why. Seriously, watch for them. This is the time of year for them all over the temperate parts of the USA.
 
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