Pack Goat Central

Full Version: New Member Intro: From Oregon
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
Pages: 1 2 3
Hi -

I live in Oregon and I'm interested in getting goats for packing. I spent years packing with horses but I'm learning there are lots of benefits for packing with goats -- not to mention the fun!  I look forward to learning and contributing.  I'm currently looking for several goats, so please let me know of breeders in my area.  Thanks!
Welcome! I hope you find some goats that are perfect for you!
Me too! I'm finding that pack goat, at least those bred for packing, are hard to find.
I assume I should be cautious about Alpine kids coming from a dairy operation, yes?
Well, it depends on the dairy operation. Some of them are cranking out strong, healthy goats with great packing potential. Others not so much. My first packgoat was a cull from a small dairy herd that I got for $25 and he was amazing! Others have not had such good luck. It's important to train your eye to look for strong, active, robust, healthy-looking kids with good feet and legs and level, balanced conformation. One risk of buying from a dairy operation (especially a large one) is that buck kids are not always cared for as well as doe kids because most of them will end up on a meat truck. They also may not be socialized. I find that many dairy goat kids are small for their age because their mothers' milk is being sold so the kids don't get fed as much milk or are being raised on replacers and weaned too early. But not all breeders do this. It can be helpful to visit several farms and see how they do things and also talk to people at fairs and goat shows.

Ask if you can look at the parents. The goats at any operation--whether they are breeding for milk, meat, packgoats, or pleasure--should have bright eyes and healthy coats to show that they are properly fed and their parasites are under control. Unhealthy parents often produce unhealthy offspring. Nursing mothers usually look skinny and often have duller coats than their non-lactating herd mates, but they should not appear unhealthy or listless.
That is great feedback. Thank you! I spoke to one dairy operation that has 4mo. old kids. They've been on pasture for a while, though. She says they are friendly and a couple may even take a bottle still, but I think too much time has passed for the best bonding and feeding program. They did say that I could be put on a list to pick up the 1 day old bucklings, which I can do if I don't find a better breeder before then. She sells her bucklings too for $25/each. I raise hair sheep so I do have some understanding of confirmation. If I can get them at just a few days old, I can feed and train them properly, right from the start. I've asked for pictures of the sires and dams. She says the Sire is 200lb+, pure alpine. They are local, which is nice, but I would prefer to find and buy from a packing breeder.
It's going to be a journey!
Regardless of where you get em, making sure they are clean and disease free is where your main focus should be. Followed closely by finding the kind of goats you are looking for. Very few breeders (including myself) breed specifically for pack goats. Size is important but not even in the top 3 for a typical dairy breeder. Production, confirmation are the top 2. A dairy breeders main income either from the milk or from the doe kids. When I can sell a 3 month old dam raised, wild, never been messed with wether for butcher at nearly the same price as a bottle raised, tame and friendly one thats going to go for packing, not a lot of incentive to focus on just the packing aspect. But I do it cause its freaking awesome Smile So potentially any dairy breeder will work. But if they dont test for CAE / CL / Johnees (though the later two are not that simple to test for) then you should just keep looking.
Good advice on disease testing, Dave! Unfortunately, some breeders claim disease-free status when their herds are not actually clean. Ask to see that year's tests (especially for CAE since that one is the most common in dairy herds and it's also the easiest to accurately test for). When you buy a kid, you won't be able to test for CAE until he's six to nine months old because titers are not accurate on recently weaned kids, so ask to see the herd test.

Many breeders do not test for CL because these tests are more expensive and less accurate, but if they do test then ask to see it. Some vaccinate their herds for CL which causes the tests to show positive. Look for lumps or scars over the lymph nodes (behind the jaw, shoulders, flanks, back of the leg) on adult goats. These could indicate that CL is present in the herd, but if you see any lumps ask because sometimes goats get abscesses for other reasons. Injection site abscesses are common and can be mistaken for CL if the injection was given in the shoulder area.

Johne's disease is less common in dairy goat herds and more often affects goats that are raised with cattle or are in intensive situations in which many animals are housed in a small area. Johne's is contracted as a kid but usually does not shed or become clinical until the goat is 2-4 years old, so if you're concerned about it you'd need to see a herd test of the mature animals. Johne's is a wasting disease so once again look at the adult goats in the herd. Do they look healthy and in good weight? Do any of them have diarrhea?

Many breeders (and this can include packgoat breeders) like to say, "We tested five years ago and we've been a closed herd since," or "We raise our kids on CAE prevention" (in other words on pasteurized milk). I personally would not take this as proof of a clean herd. If someone is going to claim that their herd is disease-free, they should be able to provide proof. I advertise my herd as CAE free because I can provide proof in the form of my annual tests. However, I do not advertise as CL-free because although we have never had a CL abscess, we did once have a goat who blood tested positive twice and was culled. I then vaccinated the rest of my herd which makes CL testing pretty useless. Since I can't test, I don't make any claims, but I'll certainly be honest about why we don't test.
Dave and Nanno -

Thanks for taking the time to respond. Your feedback is very helpful and I will heed your advice. I guess I'm struggling with the ability to get a goat bred specifically for packing vs. a dairy goat that has genetics and confirmation traits that would help them become a good packer. Unfortunately, in my area, at least to my knowledge, there are not local breeders that specialize in pack goats. This means that I either have them shipped across the country (which I assume could be cost prohibitive) or visit a dairy farm with a keen eye, insightful questions, and deal with some unknowns.

If I understand you properly, you might say that a dairy farm kid could work if it has confirmation traits that would make a good pack goat. I may have access to some now that are about 4mos. of age. They were recently weaned from their mother and have been on creep feed and now just pasture. The farm says they are friendly and socialized but I can't imagine the bucks/whethers getting a lot of attention on a dairy farm. I could buy some of them now at $150 or wait until their next kidding and take them at day 2 or 3 for $25. I am leaning toward the latter to help ensure they can be socialized properly right from the start; plus it gives me time to see if I can locate a couple mature ones or a breeder that has more packing qualities. But I read about packgoats being upper 250# range or even more and I don't imagine that is being bred into a typical dairy goat. I assume that some of their size has to do with how they are fed from newborns to a year of age. Like a goat on steroids! Lol.
I want my goats to have the capacity to pack 25-30% of their weight (let's say 50-60lbs) for 7-10 miles on a given day. A few shorter (packless days) of 3-5 miles, and a 7-10 mile trip on the way out with the full load. This, to me, seems very reasonable with the right conditioning.

So is this pretty doable with the right dairy goat? Aside from the vacc testing results, are there real specific confirmational traits that I should look for? How much does the size of the dam or sire play (a lot, I assume)?
Welcome! Hope you find some good goat friends to start packing with!
There aren't many packgoat-specific breeders, so finding one close to you is definitely tricky no matter where you live, but the northwest (Washington, Oregon, Idaho) has more than most other areas so you're in luck there! There's also no guarantee that a packgoat breeder is going to churn out exactly what you're looking for either. Breeding is not a hard and fast science, so some packgoat breeders are going to produce some real duds and some dairy breeders are going to produce some outstanding packers. Much of it can end up coming down to each goat's attitude and will to work.

I encourage you to go check out the weanlings. Even if you're not ready to buy anything, visiting different goat herds and asking questions may help you figure out what you want. The weanlings may be perfectly well-socialized and if so you may end up deciding that it's better to buy a weaned kid than try to raise a bottle baby. Bottle babies are a lot of fun but they are also a lot of work and it can be tricky to feed them properly so they get enough growth without overfeeding and causing other issues. I never sell kids less than three months old because I raise them on their dams for optimal early growth and health. This means they are more expensive for the buyer, but I feel they have a better chance of surviving and thriving than if I sold them cheap as bottle kids. Every breeder does things a little differently for different reasons so ask a lot of questions, and when looking at weanlings, make sure they are friendly as advertised. They don't have to be trained to lead and tie yet, but they should walk up to you for attention and not run away when you reach down to pet or pick them up. They should not be tense or jumpy around people.

A good packgoat prospect should have strong feet and legs. If a goat looks spindly with splayed toes and weak pasterns he probably won't hold up as a packer. He should look sturdy throughout but not necessarily bulky. While some packgoats get to be 250+ lbs., this isn't necessarily always a good thing. A goat that heavy needs to have extra good conformation (especially in the legs) to be able to heft around his own bulk as well as your load. If a big goat is not exceptionally well-built, you're going to run into diminishing returns because he may only be able to carry 20% of his body weight, which means you're no better off than if you used a 200 lb. goat who could carry 25%. These are just some things to think about. Having spent most of my life working with horses from ponies through drafts, I've gotten leery of work animals that are overly large. The big boys can heft a lot of weight for a while, but they tend to break down a lot younger due to their own bulk, and they don't have the endurance or agility of a smaller horse. In general I think the same principle applies to goats to it's important not to get sucked into the "bigger is always better" mentality. I tend to think athleticism and correct conformation are more important than size.
Pages: 1 2 3