What age to start hiking? packing?
I have two Alpine/Toggenburg mix wethers that are just over a year old. I've recently started taking them hiking on some rolling trails behind my house, and they are doing quite well both on and off lead.

Our usual route is about 3 miles, and they seem to handle the distance pretty well. I'd like to start going for longer hikes, but how much is too much? Will it be obvious if they are starting to get overworked and need to rest?

Also, I would like to start getting them used to carrying packs. How long should I wait before putting empty packs on them, how long before I start loading them, and how much weight is too much?

I want to get them in shape but don't want to overdo it either.
Good questions! First off, there's not much reason to get your goats used to empty packs. Goats don't need to be desensitized to gear the way horses do. They may dance around and stare at their sides the first time you cinch them up, but they're highly unlikely to spook and bolt like horses (and the danger factor of a goat spooking is nil compared to a horse). But it can still be fun to put a soft tree dog pack on a young goat and let him carry your sandwich on the trail. Hard packs made for full-sized goats should never be used on youngsters even unloaded as the rigid tree will rub and bang their withers and hip bones as they walk.

As for mileage, that depends on the goat. I tend to think a young healthy goat should be able to handle as much or more hiking than you, and probably over more difficult terrain as long as he hasn't been allowed to get fat in the barnyard. My goat Cuzco used to follow me over hill and dale when I rode horseback ever since he was a youngster. The horses never outpaced him, even on all-day excursions on rugged mountain trails. He even kept up with us at a trot and canter at high altitude. I can't say he wasn't tired at the end of the day, but it never hurt him and he absolutely LOVED going out with us. Just keep an eye on your goats--they'll tell you if they're getting tired. If they're panting hard, give them a break in the shade. If they start lagging far behind and not trotting to catch up when you round a corner then they've reached their limit.

Have fun!
keep the weight off them until they are at least 2,5 years old and then start with 1 lbs in each pannier. Build up more weight over several weeks and pay close attention to your goats.

The more you load, the shorter distance you can travel per day. Rule of thumb is 20% of body weight which can be increased to up to 25% in goats in really good shape. Also, the more difficult the terrain, the less load a goat should carry. So, if you're planning to cross a glacier f.e. you should rather opt for 20% and shorter distances per day.
Sabine from Germany
[Image: zoVgi.gif]

Excellent answers...agreed 100%. I will also add, from my limited experience, that I'm a big fan of hiking them early & often. (No weight for at least the first two years & then only minimally as noted.) I think they bond much tighter to you earlier and stronger the more you do. Hike them with your older experienced goats most of the time & THEY will teach them good trail habits & what is expected & appropriate. I have hiked my five 3 month old bottle babies:
  • 90+ degree heat
  • 7-10 miles
  • over boulder fields
  • in the mountains (7000+ ft elevations)

The were a bit tired sometimes but loved it & did great...we rested as often as needed. (10 min/hour) BTW, I did try to avoid the heat as much as possible but it's not always possible here & heats up quick. They also naturally keep up with the weight carrying adults...sometimes even better. They will stay right on your hip in the front of the herd.


LOCATION: Top-of-Utah at the South base of Ben Lomond
TOU, how are your youngins growing? As I recall, sounded like they were going to big boys.
(10-18-2014, 10:11 AM)nebs Wrote: TOU, how are your youngins growing? As I recall, sounded like they were going to big boys.

Thx for asking. I just wethered the two munchies after going through the rut...YUCK, NEVER AGAIN! They were 105# (7 months old) & 106# (6 months old)...after very visibly losing weight. Vet estimated they were likely AT LEAST 115# & 116# pre-rut. They are starting to gain back in the past two weeks now that they have other interest.

My other three aren't likely too far behind at 7 months, but I need to officially weigh them some how...picking then up doesn't work as well. (The pure Ober is & likely be the smallest...but is by far the smartest, boldest, most agile , adventurous & friendliest. The other two are 50% Ober.)


LOCATION: Top-of-Utah at the South base of Ben Lomond
(10-19-2014, 08:02 AM)TOU Wrote: Thx for asking. I just wethered the two munchies after going through the rut...YUCK, NEVER AGAIN!

What?? You don't like buck cologne??!?? Tongue

My three boys are in the stinky bucky stage right now, especially five-month-old Finn. Naturally he is also the friendliest goat in my herd. Yesterday he was trying to climb in my lap, and he loves to rub his nasty yellow face all over me. I'd wether him now but he has a job to do in another month or two, so we get to enjoy the aroma at least until January. Undecided

It's good to hear about you and your crew, TOU!
You will get many different answers on this. What I have come up with after sifting through all the info is as follows:

Once a goat reaches 100 lbs & one year old, I will put up to 10% of their weight on them, including weight of the saddle. So this generally consists of having the goat carry your lunch and maybe something like a small first aid kit or an extra sweater etc.

I stuck with the 10% rule until through age 2. The goats weighed more, so naturally 10% was a little more weight with a 180 lb goat. My goats are now about 210 lbs, and are almost 3 now. This season I will start them off at 10% then work up to maybe 20% once they are conditioned. When they are four I might try to get them to 25% with good conditioning.

I think carrying a pack, even a very light one, helps keep you in the game and it also teaches the goat how to maneuver with a pack on. It's easy to loose interest and end up selling your goats as weed munchers if you have to wait 4 years to really start packing at all. For me, having the goats carry an appropriate light load keeps me interested in the hobby and gives you that packing "fix." They also need to get used to the idea of having these things sticking out from their sides, and that does take some time.
I like what you just pointed out about how a goat needs to learn how to maneuver with a pack on. I hadn't really thought about that until we put the empty panniers on Pac-Man for the Christmas parade last month. They were stuffed with wadded newspaper so they stuck out, and he kept banging them on everything. It's been so long since we trained Cuzco to wear a pack that I forgot that goats aren't naturally careful with them!
You'll find this learning curve will vary with the character of the goat. 2 of mine figure their total width quickly. My class clown, the daffy goat, takes much more time figuring the width and is likely to knock someone over inadvertently. He is not dumb but it seems somethings just don't click with him, like he suddenly just got wider and doesn't fit between trees.

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