Article Index "Tethering Goats" Article Index


By: "Gary Pfalzbot"
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During the course of a week, I receive a number of emails asking if a goat can be tied or tethered. Since this is a fairly common question, I felt that it would be a good idea to write up a short article on the subject.

To begin with, I generally advise against using tethers, ropes, chains, etc. for controlling goats. While it can be done successfully if well planned, it can be disastrous if not planned and detailed for every possible item of failure.

A good understanding of goat behavior is essential. This is not as difficult as it may sound and will not require years of college courses to grasp the basics. Simply watch your goats - the goats you wish to tie out that is. Goats that behave erratically, such as those kind of goats that run or bolt at the drop of a hat are not good candidates. On the other hand, some goats are as gentle as a spring rain and will allow an owner to pet and lavish them with affection at will.

This is only one type of behavior you should take into account. You must also take into account any dogs or predators as well. For the most part, even the most well behaved goat will become distressed if confronted with dogs, coyotes, bears, gunshot or loud noises, etc. And each of these will cause the goat to behave in ways that it normally wouldn't. The end result: the goat may become tangled in the tether.

Weather also plays a factor. Should you decide that tethering a goat will work for you, take into account sudden rain or snow showers. Designing a shelter that will accommodate a goat on a tether is an article in itself. Believe me, it can be very tempting to just leave a goat without a shelter during a thunderstorm, especially when the goat is up or down the hill and you are cozy and dry in the house! Make your plans to eliminate that scenario. Don't leave a goat unsheltered during inclement weather.

Over the years, I've tried a number of tethering methods and have only had one specific system that has been 95% flaw free. Despite what I mentioned earlier about detailed planning, there is always a certain amount of unforseen circumstances that can arise. And with goats, you can almost bet upon it.

An above the ground aerial runner
I've not had good luck with this system. This involves running a cable or rope across a span from tree to tree, building to building etc. Take into account the ends at which this cable or rope is fastened. Trees are a perfect opportunity for a goat to wrap itself around several times. You'll probably find yourself unwrapping the goat several times before you move onto the next tethering system I'll discuss. Also, I've found that a lead rope or chain above a goats head (especially one with horns), is just not a real good combination. I've had a couple of goats nearly strangle themselves this way.

Single Lead Rope To A Post
This is a little better, but the same problem exists where the goat will most likely wrap itself around the post before too long. Goats who are even the slightest bit nervous tend to walk in circles when tethered. Using this method, you'll soon find yourself renaming your goat "dum dum" as I have done with many of mine.

Single Lead Rope To A Swivel Post
Now your getting warm. This system can work and I have used it often. The swivel on the post eliminates the goat wrapping itself around the post and saves you from unwrapping the goat time and time again. But, there are some considerations to keep in mind here that I will explain near the end of this article (see Line, Ropes, Chains, and Snaps).

Post To Post Run Length Line
This is the system I have had the most success with. Many years ago I employed this method to leave my Doberman and Weimaraner dogs on. What I recommend for this system is to mark two spots (A and B) on the terrain you wish to let your goat browse. In my case, I run 100 feet between point A and B. At each point, dig a fairly deep hole - for smaller goats, a hole deep enough to completely cover a large coffee can; larger goats, a hole deep enough to completely cover a five gallon bucket. There are variations on each of these which I will discuss further.

The purpose these holes serve is an anchor for the line you will run from point A to B. Using the coffee can as an example, I place an eye bolt into each can (an eye bolt is simply a bolt that has an eyelet on one end) and then pour cement into each can and let it harden. The variations I mentioned are things such as old tires, sections of railroad ties, tree stumps, etc. Anything that can be buried into the ground and not easily pulled up by a goat on the run.

Next, available at most hardware stores is a cable that I will refer to as airline cable. It is a braided steel cable. Beware of the coated steel cables that are often used for tethering dogs. While the concept behind the coated cable is good (to prevent rust), consider that continual friction and rubbing on the coating will eventually cause it to wear and fray. This fraying may be just enough to snag the goat attached to the line.

Also available at the hardware store are an item called cable clamps. The clamps have a U bolt piece that fastens down onto the end of the braided cable - you simply loop the cable into the clamp and tighten. Loop the braided cable through the eyelet of the coffee can at point A, tighten, and then proceed to bury the coffee can into the first hole you dug at point A.

Next, take the other end of the braided cable, the remaining coffee can and the cable clamp and proceed to point B. Go ahead and place the remaining coffee can in the hole at point B before attaching the braided cable. Now, while you want the braided cable to be as taut as possible, a little slack will not hurt too much and actually give the goat a little extra side to side coverage.But do keep in mind that too much slack will tend to pull the coffee can at either end out of the ground.

In my opinion, gauging from the center of where the braided cable lies between point A and B, one foot slack or less to either side is acceptable. Before you actually attach the braided cable to the eyelet at point B, please read Line, Ropes, Chains, and Snaps to determine what method you will use. Go ahead and attach the braided cable to the eyelet of the coffee can, bury, and you are finished with this part.

Depending upon the soil where you live, you may want to give the areas at point A and B a few days to dry and harden. For real loose, loamy soils, simply dig deeper holes. Personally, I wet down both areas and let dry for about a week. This seems to solidify the ground to an almost cement like texture.

Line, Ropes, Chains, and Snaps
A good rope is worth every penny or dollar you spend for it. But I do not recommend rope. Rather, I prefer to use chain. Ropes tend to get wet, twist, snag, tangle, you name it. And a wet rope when you are in a hurry will leave you reaching for a bottle of aspirin. The length of whatever you use to fasten the goat to the braided cable is as important as anything you will use.

But first, how to fasten the chain to the braided cable. I have used two items, both producing successful results. One item is a large, round, porcelain donut insulator that is meant for use in making corners on an electric fence. The center opening of these allows for fast, unimpeded travel along the length of the braided cable. The only drawback is porcelain against braided steel - they will last a long time, but not forever. A donut needs to placed on the braided cable before attaching the braided cable on the eyelet at point B.

The next item which is perhaps far more durable is a regular snap hook. While these too will eventually show signs of wear, they work well. The only drawback to these is on a cold winter day, you need to pull out a pocket lighter to get the snap opened if needed. A certain advantage is that you can simply unsnap the hook from the braided cable at any time, alter the length of the lead chain to the goat, etc. Perhaps the best way to go.

For the purpose of example, let's use the snaphook method. Now you need to decide upon a chain and attach this chain to the end of the snaphook using wire, or more effective, a chain link extender. Depending up the overall length of lead chain you want for your goat, attach the same to the other end of the chain (snaphook, chain extender, to goat collar).

The size and type of chain you choose should be at least a 3/8" type steel chain. This chain will be unlikely to break and tangle. Using a larger chain might catch a goats hoof from time to time. So do not go into this area with overkill. I use the 3/8" chain with success and the length I use is anywhere from 12" to 25" - this just depends upon what kind of coverage you want your goat to have.

Final Notes
Now that you've installed the braided cable, built a lead chain complete with snaphooks, get a good collar for your goat that when placed on the goat, you can still get your fingers between the collar and the goat with ease. Go ahead and attach the other end of the lead chain to your goat, stand back and watch.

This is where your study on the behavior of your goat comes into play as well as watching for any potential hazards such as snags. Small bushes and stalks may need to be dealt with right away. Or you may be lucky to where your area has no obstacles and such, and the goat dragging the chain across this area helps to flatten any potential snags.

Most important, keep a close eye on your goat to ensure no potential hazards exist. I knew a person that went away for an hour and the goat had somehow wrapped itself up to the point that it was hardly breathing - all because of one small bush that snagged the chain. Also, on hot sunny days, do the right thing and don't let a goat get to hot or go without water. A little planning and patience and this system does work. The little bit of work that you do now to make sure it will work, will be the weed eating and brush control the goat will be doing for you later!

About the author: Gary Pfalzbot is the webmaster of GoatWorld. He has raised goats over the years, been involved with 4-H (as a young boy) and currently resides in Florissant, CO, situated within the Rocky Mountains. He and his wife Pam began raising a few breeds of goats, mainly precipitated for the control of Kudzu vine. They now primarily author the GoatWorld web site to continue to inform, educate, and promote the industry and those persons who are interested in goats.

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