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Introducing new babies - Jack-Sven - 03-06-2017

Hi there all, 
I've kinda been a lurker around here for awhile, learning lots and enjoying all the topics. I started last spring with two wethers from two different breeders with the intent on growing my pack with two new wethers a year. My boys are the friendliest animals on the property and I never put any thought to having issues with bringing in younger guys. 
The breeder is concerned that this years babies will get bullied by my one year olds. How do you work through this and is it permanent or will they grow accustomed to the little guys after a week or so?


RE: Introducing new babies - Nanno - 03-06-2017

Hello Jack-Sven, and welcome!

I love having goats of various ages around the place. It's hard to say what's going to happen if you introduce younger goats. In my experience, yearlings tend to be the most brutal toward younger/smaller goats, especially when there is no older goat present to act as referee. However, it all depends on the personalities of the individual goats, and there's no reason it has to be a bloodbath. My guess is that there will be some rough-and-tumble in the beginning, then the youngsters will learn to stay well out of the way of your older goats, then the more dangerous type fighting and bullying should die down within a few weeks. Goats are always nastiest toward each other when there's food involved, and sometimes also when fighting over shelter. Make sure to put food down in several spots far enough away from each other that even the lowest goat gets to eat. Next make sure your shelters are adequate. Not only should there be enough room in the shelter for everyone to fit without being too close, but the doorway needs to be large enough that one goat can't lay across it and keep everyone else from entering (or exiting as the case may be).

One thing you can do that will reassure the breeder is to give your new little guys access to a place where the yearlings won't fit. There are several ways to do this. One might be to section off a corner of your pen using a picket fence with openings wide enough for babies but not wide enough for yearlings. Or it can be a shelter with a low roof (make sure it's deep enough that the yearlings can't put their head inside and pound the kids against the back wall!). I think the biggest cause of trouble between goats is not enough room. If your bottom-rung goats have plenty of space to get away from the head honchos, the head honchos will usually not harm them. I've only had one goat that was so mean she would run others down without provocation, even when the others were already running away from her. Most goats are not that sadistic once the pecking order has been established. Best of luck to you!

RE: Introducing new babies - Jack-Sven - 03-06-2017

Awesome thanks for the info, sounds pretty encouraging! I think I'll press on with an updated shelterWink

RE: Introducing new babies - Dave-Trinity-Farms - 03-07-2017

Nanno gave some good advice. Horn are a big factor in this as well. Any goat can be a jerk but a horned goat thats a jerk is dangerous. Goats live by a pretty strict ranking system. They typically fall into place. A herd boss is chosen and life goes on. But a jerk goat can an issue at any rank higher then the bottom. Sometimes they are down right vicious and never fall into peaceful state within a herd. Whats worse is you will never be able to detect a jerk goat until you put someone he can bully in with him. Not likely to kill a subordinate, a jerk goat will tend to push them out of shelters, chase them away from feeders, take cheap shots at them when they get to close. Doing the later even when you are standing among them. Which in turn can make the subordinate goats shy away from any group interaction. This can also bleed over to the trail when the time comes. So there is a lot to consider when introducing new goats.

With all that said, it could turn out perfectly fine. Where the yearlings are more interested in and play with the younger goats. A good way to test this if you are going to introduce new and especially younger goats is to have them in a separate pen right next to each other. This way they are able to see, smell and interact with each other without worry. Then take them out together only when you are present to watch over and reprimand and bad activity from the older goats. Personally, I would never pen babies of any age with adults. Here we even keep the yearling dis budded does penned separate from the adults till they are 16-18 months old. Its not that we are worried they will get beat up (which they would) but they would be bullied out of shelters during say rain, wind and or snow and away from feeders. Hindering growth and comfort of life. Not to mention when it comes time to give out scratchers, the younger does would be chased away. Potentially causing them to be aloof.

So there is no for sure way to tell whats going to happen. But if you prepare for the worst now, you wont be scrabbling later to get shelters and pens built.

RE: Introducing new babies - Nanno - 03-07-2017

Amen on goats becoming shy if others are allowed to bully them away from you when you feed and pet. If I'm petting a low-ranking goat and another tries to knock him out of the way, the higher ranking goat gets disciplined.

Unlike Dave, I like to keep my babies with the herd. The older herd members show them what herd dynamics are all about, which I think leads to fewer of them growing up to become bullies. I've noticed that my young goats (6-18 months old) are the ones most likely to bully babies and be mean for no reason. An older herd member always steps in and puts a stop to this before it gets dangerous. Older herd members will also spar with the young rogues and teach them how to "play nice". My two young wethers have begun stepping into this "mentor" role now that they are approaching three years old. Both have gone through phases of bullying and downright meanness, but old Cuzco has kept them from getting too big for their britches. He's also taught them by example how to mete out appropriate discipline, when to break up fights, and generally keep order in the herd.

Since your yearlings have no older goat mentor to keep them in line, you'll have to do this when you're out there feeding and interacting. Ideally your yearlings will be perfectly happy to play with the babies and not be brutal with them. They'll learn in time how to become good herd leaders so that as you continue to add babies through the years they will be the ones to break up nasty disputes and keep anyone from getting injured.

RE: Introducing new babies - MosesBrowning - 03-07-2017

Welcome! Lots of wonderful, knowledgeable people here.
Good luck with your new babies.

RE: Introducing new babies - Jack-Sven - 03-08-2017

Sounds good thank you! So, on the same topic of "bullying" my two oldest have been de-budded. I was hoping to have the new ones with horns intact,( for many reasons, but I thought it might help to prevent them from getting too picked on).
But from what Dave says this could

RE: Introducing new babies - Jack-Sven - 03-08-2017

Whoops sorry that got sent mid thought!
Any ways I have heard it's not the best to mix horned with no horns, but would this be ok given that the horns are on the little guys? From Daves post it occurred to me that a younger goat with horns could likely do just as much damage just trying to defend its self? I thought it would level the playing field but I don't want to introduce that if it could end up doing more harm...

RE: Introducing new babies - Dave-Trinity-Farms - 03-08-2017

Not to likely to cause much damage defending itself after a few good head butts from the older goat should be enough for them to stop. We actually tried something like this last year with breeding bucks. Ours are disbudded, a friend of ours isnt the boy was between 6-10 months old. Granted this is breeding bucks, so testosterone plays a big part, but the younger boy had a clear advantage. The head butts didnt effect him at all and it was clearly going to mess up the bucks heads. After a few minutes I had to separate them. The bucks learned pretty fast that it wasnt fun to head butt the younger boy. The problem was the young boy thought it was a fun game and kept... taunting them I guess. I could see it wasnt going to turn out good. Again, this is white breeding bucks. Wethers are typically much more chill. But all boys fight and at some point the horned boys will dominate the dis budded boys.

RE: Introducing new babies - Nanno - 03-08-2017

I keep a mixed herd of horns/no horns and haven't had problems, but so much depends on the individual goats. The only goat-caused injuries we've had were perpetrated by a polled doe. She injured two of my does and and tried bullying the wethers as well, but between their horns and the sheer size of them she really couldn't harm or intimidate the boys so that's who I penned her with at night. She couldn't be with the pregnant girls at all during feeding time and I seriously doubt that even a horned doe would have been able to stand up to her. So much comes down to who has the biggest attitude. This doe (Lilly was her name) came to the NAPgA Rendy in 2013 as a yearling and she picked a fight with every goat there. The crazy thing is that she won most of them! She dominated the coveted ash pit and chased several 250-lb. horned wethers out of "her" spot. Some of those boys were like "whatever" and laid down anyway because they knew Lilly could not hurt them, but others hung back and decided not to engage with the little spitfire. What made it very comical was that she had recently kidded and had an enormous udder, but it didn't stop her from rearing on her hind legs, and pawing and charging like an angry bull at goats twice her size. She was the Tasmanian Devil goat.

Your little guys' horns would probably not make much difference during the first year--the big guys are still going to rule the roost and show them who's boss. Once your youngsters start feeling their maturity at around 9-12 months, they will begin challenging. Over the next year or two the tables would probably turn and your disbudded goats would most likely be deposed. This doesn't necessarily mean the horned goats will bully them once dominance is established. I've noticed that my horned boys are very good at pulling their punches unless someone is directly challenging them, or if they are fighting over a doe. If you really want the new babies to have horns, I say it's ok to try things. Sometimes conventional wisdom is spot-on, and other times it's based on the fear of what might happen rather than real world experience. Many of the problems people blame on horns are actually problems with fencing, feeder, and housing designs. Or maybe there's not enough pen space for the goats to get adequate exercise, or perhaps they are bored with their surroundings and become destructive as a result. Don't be afraid to try things, but always do it with your eyes wide open to the possibility that conventional wisdom may be right.