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PACKGOATS

By: George Bogdan 06/15/00
Web Site:Owyee Packgoat Supplies

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Goats are used for many purposes, dairy, meat, hair, and most recently as a beast of burden. Most people are surprised to find that a goat is capable of carrying a usedful load since he is so small compared to the larger, conventional pack animals like horses and mules. His small stature is one of the main reasons for his growing popularity, people are oten intimidated by a large horse and are concerned about the safety of their children in who desire a wilderness experience, retired or older hikers who no longer wish to shoulder a heavy load, and hunters who have discovered that packgoats are ideally suited to packing out meat.

Let's discuss the prominent factors pertaining to this increasing popularity..

Goats that are raised in the presence of humans and are handled while young become bonded to their owners and follow diligently without the need of a lead rope. At night they remain near the tent, browsing awhile but never very far away. They are receptive to being tied at anight as long as they are within sight or sound of their owners.

One of the first questions asked is often, "How much can a goat carry?" The answer is about 20 to 25 percent of body weight and since the averagae size is 200lbs, we are looking at 40lbs to 50lbs. per animal. Naturally there are exceptions, but it would be safe to plan on 40lbs per goat when deciding how many goats are required for your personal needs. I personally feel that at least two goats should be purchased to provide each with companionship.

Low cost is certainly an important factor. Goats can be purchased for as little as $25 but will generally cost from $75 to $150 for two week old kids who have a packing life of ten to twelve years. Rather than waiting till the kid (baby goat) has been weane, it is preferable to bottle feed the youngster, thus ensuring the bond between goat and human.

As for equipment needed, a saddle and panniers set will cost from $200 to $300 so an outfitted packgoat may cost as little as $30 per year.

The term "packgoat", by the way, does not define a particular "breed" of goat, rather it means that a goat is carrying a pack. My personal order of breed preference is: Saanen, Oberhasli, Boer, and Alpine, but not all packers agree with my selections.

Special trailers are not required to transport the goats. Utility trailers with protection from the elements are satisfactory as well as pickups. An 8' pickup bed will carry six goats and four will fit in a compact pickup. No ramp is required (they love to jump.)

Adult goats need about four pounds of hay per day and ample clean water. Housing can be a simple leanto. Worming medicine is given at least twice a year, but no regular calls by a veterinarian are necessary and hoof trimming is done by the owner as necessary.

In later articles, we will further expand these issues and other related topics.

References you may wish to check out in the meantime include "Practical Goatpacking" by Carolyn Eddy and "The Pack Goat" by John Mionczynski.

Other good sources for information include "The Goat Magazine" and "Goat Tracks." You may find links to these sources right here at GoatWorld.com.

About the author: George Bogdan is a veteran (over 11 years) of goatpacking. He lives in Southern Idaho near Boise. After attending the University of Idaho in Moscow, he decided he preferred the milder temperatures and drier weather of Boise and the fact that there is still plenty open space where he can embark on his goat treks at his convenience away from "civilization." George has written articles for Goat Tracks, Goat Magazine, Homesteader, British Harness Society and others.

He is an avid hunter and takes his goats with him to do that. Since retiring, he has devoted his time to his passion of goatpacking and has designs unconventional aluminum saddles and other packgoat equipment which he sells through his business, Owyhee Packgoat Supplies.

In this introduction to our new section on this fun, therapeutic and healthy sport, George gives newcomers a broad background on what to expect for and from packgoats and goatpacking.

Agricultural Research Service

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