All goats deserve to be happy and healthy. Caring for your goat and learning to understand his or her needs will help you identify the things you must do to prevent your goat feeling worried, upset, frightened or distressed. By doing these things, you will be providing your goat Freedom from fear and distress.
Did you know that there is a special law protecting animals?
This law is called the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act says that animals in your care must be provided with an environment and care that meets their five welfare needs. These welfare needs are five important conditions that need to be met for animals to be healthy and happy. These five welfare needs are called the five freedoms.
One of these Freedoms is: freedom from fear and distress. In this section, you will learn about this freedom and how you can make sure your goat is receiving the love, understanding and companionship he/she needs to be free from fear and distress.
You will need to be very careful when handling your goat. It is best to start handling your goat from a young age, as this will help the goat get used to you and used to being touched. It will also increase the bond between you and your goat.
You must never move your goat by pulling them by their horns, coat, head, legs or tail. Your goat will find this very stressful and painful. Also, in the wild, goats use their horns to protect themselves, so they might think you are threatening them if you try to move them by their horns. Instead, you should train your goat to learn to walk on a lead with you when you need to move him or her.
You can read more about walking your goat on a lead in Goats – Freedom to Express Natural Behaviour. If you prefer not to lead train your goat, you can train your goat to follow you by calling them. All you need to do is carry a food bucket with you and shake it as you walk, calling your goat. Once your goat follows and approaches you, you can reward him or her with some food and scratches. This teaches your goat that they did the right thing by following you.
If a goat ever needs to be lifted or carried, it is best to let an adult do this as goats can be very heavy, and you could hurt yourself and your goat if you tried to lift him/her. Your vet can show an adult how to properly lift your goat. With positive reward based training and gentle handling, your goat will learn to trust you.
Always use a soft, gentle voice around your goat and never yell at them. Approach your goat from where he/she can see you clearly and won’t get a fright. There is lots of information on positive animal training and handling available; try your local library or access information on the internet through a well-respected and reputable organisation.
Goats can make a very unusual sound called a bleat. When you first hear this, you might be a bit surprised! A bleat can be quite loud and sounds a bit like a human crying! If you notice your goat constantly bleating, it could mean your goat is stressed and unhappy.
Your goat will bleat very loudly if they are hungry or thirsty, injured or ill (however if they are ill, they may not vocalise a lot). Learning about normal behaviour of your goat is therefore important to understand what is normal and what is not – for your goat. You should house your goat with another - in a pair or group, however, they will sometimes bleat to one another as a way of communicating.
If your goat is bleating by him/herself for no apparent reason, you should check on them. The more time you spend with your goat, the more you will learn what is and isn’t normal for your goat.
This will help you identify when your goat might be acting strangely, which could be mean he/she is unhappy or unwell. If you think your goat may be unwell, the best thing to do is have your goat’s veterinarian come and give them a check-up.
Your goat will need some time to adjust to meeting another goat or another animal. If you introduce your goat to another goat, make sure to do so very slowly.
You could initially let the two goats meet through a strong fence so that they can sniff and look at each other, but not be able to hurt one another should they become aggressive. Feed and sleep any new goats separately for a few days also, until your goats seem comfortable with one another.
Most goats are social and will enjoy having a friend, but just be sure to have an adult supervise your goats for the first few days while they are together.
Goats can also get along with any other pets you might have, such as sheep, ponies or llamas and alpacas. Again, you need to introduce these animals slowly and give them time to feel comfortable about meeting a stranger! Well trained dogs can interact with goats, but an adult should always be present and have control of your dog when it is near your goat.
Dogs should never be left alone with your goat (or other farm animals).
Goats are such curious animals so sometimes they can accidentally get themselves into trouble! Goats are very clever and are often very good at finding ways to get through fences or opening gates and doors. Goats have a natural instinct to explore - sometimes they can escape and wander.
If your goat goes wandering, this can end up being very scary for your goat – he/she could get lost and find him/herself far from home and at risk of getting injured by a car or possibly attacked by stray dogs or other animals. You can reduce your goats' want to escape by making sure you provide the best home possible for your goat.
This includes good fencing, other goats for company, an interesting and healthy diet and lots of items for your goat to play or interact with.
By providing these things, your goat is less likely to become bored, wander and become lost.