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My response

Posted by GoatWorld on October 07, 2001 at 18:18:09:

Dear Bev,

I'm sorry I did not respond to you earlier about this. Things have been extrememly hectic on my end and I have not had much time. Okay, well, all that said and done, I'm happy to write a few comments for you regarding tethering. I'm trying to remember which article it was where I made comments about tethering.

Primarily my opinion is that goats are herd animals. Most, not all, need the companionship of other goats though I have seen (as well as own) a few goats that really do not care if there are other goats with them or not. I'll give you a brief story about a goat that I did actually tether, the results and how she ended up back with the herd.

Tanya is a Kinder goat. Not really sure of her origin but we purchased her about three years ago along with her mother Beauty. Now Beauty is hornless whereas Tanya is not and these horns have been a definite problem for us since the beginning. Of all our 40 goats, some with horns, some without, Tanya always manages to get her head caught in the large 4 x 4 and 6 x 6 cattle panel squares. I would see her caught, standing there patiently waiting for me to release her, I would release her, turn my back and not more than a minute later she had her head stuck in the same way. As you might realize, this just became too much - releasing her up to 20 and 30 times a day.

Okay, so you are asking, "why don't you just dehorn this goat and solve the problem?" Good question. Actually we had considered this but have had bad experiences with dehorning. Our two very first goats that we purchased (freshly disbudded) developed serious problems and infection from the process. Unfortunately we lost them both and vowed to never dehorn again unless it was absolutely necessary (which in Tanyas case almost is absolutely necessary).

Enter my experience with tethering and keeping a goat separated from the rest of the herd:

Entirely frustrated with Tanya, I drove two metal stakes in the ground and fastened thick, braided airline cable about 200 feet long between the two stakes. The actual lead rope was also made out of 50 feet of braided airline cable and attached to Tanya via a snap collar - the end attaching to the 200 foot runner on a rolling swivel.

Well, things worked out well for awhile. Tanya at first would stretch her lead rope as far as she could trying to stayed in eyesight of the herd, bleating loudly every now and then. As a few days became a few weeks, Tanya stopped this behavior and was content to be by herself. She actually began looking a lot shiny and healthier and certainly there were no more trips by my wife or myself to release her caught head from a cattle panel. Life was good and I figured that all parties were happy.

Weeks turned into nearly 4 months and Tanya continued to thrive alone from the rest of the herd. But one fateful day I went out to find that Tanya had somehow managed to wrap a few feet of the airline lead cable around her back foot. I'm presuming she had been like this from dark to dawn and into a couple of hours of daylight. The rear hoof area was severely swelled and I immediately worked to get her free. Once free, she could not walk on the foot and it felt very cold to the touch. This cable had severely cut of the blood flow to the hoof.

This being the situation, I immediately put her back in with the herd and you know it was not more than 5 minutes time before she had her head stuck in a cattle panel! Some behaviors can never be modified I guess.

How she reacted when reintroduced to the herd was worth writing about. She began sleeping right next to her mother Beauty as if she had never forgotten. But I am happy to say that at least she has not gotten her head stuck in the panels as often as before. As for her foot, well that's another story. It became a grotesque white and began shedding. I thought certainly that she would lose the foot but it seems to be regenerating from within - the exterior sloughing off and giving way to new skin. I did treat her with antibiotics just in case of infection.

Now on the other hand, we've tried similar things with a few of our other goats (tethering away from the herd) and for the most part they will not quit crying. Even after a quite a number of days. So this really has led me to believe that while goats are generally classed together behaviorally, they really are as unique in personalities as are people. Some can be alone and not suffer anxiety, others cannot. I think alot of it has to do with how the goat was raised to begin with and, just like a young baby, how the formulative years are handled. A young goat bottle fed from birth to solid food might display less "loneliness" when kept away from the herd. I really don't know but it seems quite possible to me.

As far as uncontrolled dogs, yes. They are always a problem as are any other varmints known to attack livestock. Most dogs that try to attack or provoke goats (especially older, horned goats) are usually in for a surprise. A goat can be pretty lethal with horns when they want to and most domesticated dogs only need a few good tips of the horns to the ribs, head or body to get the point. Other dogs, say like a Rottweiler, Doberman, Airedale, Pit Bull, etc., well, they of course are going to inflict some damage on a goat for certain. The best thing to do on walks is to either carry a large stick, gun or taser. If you can get between the goat and the dog, you had better do so or risk losing a goat or two.

When penned back up as a herd, if you have a good electric fence that a wild dog (or varmint) has to traverse to get in with the goats, you'll probably not have much of a problem. And I also think that any goat owner will notice that there are a few scenarios where goats will band together tightly as a herd no matter how they fair individually: 1) when it's cold. 2) when it's feed or water time. 3) when alert to danger. The rest of the time they don't run as closely but always seem to remain in earshot or eyesight of each other.

Obviously this whole response indicates that tethering can be effective but there are dangers of doing so. If one is unable to keep a constant eye out for a goat getting tangled, it spells trouble. I've tried many different tethering methods - an above ground airline cable tied between two trees or posts, a single stake post, dual stake lengths, you name it. It's not the stakes or the height above the ground that a runner is. It boils down to the lead rope connecting the goat to a runner. I've also tried numerous types of lead rope material: cheap rope, poly cord, nylon rope, hemp rope, braided mesh. I settled on the braided airline cable simply because it is very difficult to tie a tight knot in this stuff. But perhaps that's the key to the whole scenario - if you don't think something is possible, let a goat give it a try and they will find a way!

Hopefully this is what you are looking for Bev. Please let me know if you need more.

Best regards,

Gary Pfalzbot

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