Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Goat Behavior

The Prayer of the Goat
"Lord, let me live as I will
I need a little wild freedom
A little gladness of heart
The strange taste of unknown flowers
For whom else are your mountains?
Your snow, wind? - These springs?
The sheep do not understand as they graze
All of them and always in the same direction.
But I - I love to bound to the heart of your marvels,
Leap your chasms
And, with my mouth filled
With intoxicating grasses
Quiver with an adventurer's delight
On the summit of the world."

I don't know who wrote that poem, though I find it on many websites as I search the Internet for goaty things. Whoever it was, he or she knew goats.

If you're thinking buying goats, read my writer's blog entry, If You're Short of Trouble... (reprinted from the Friday, March 26, 2010 edition of Storey Publishing's blog, Inside Storey) before you do. And if you've just gotten goats or love studying goat behavior as much as I, check out these great online resources.

Start with Goat Behavior at Fias Co Farm. Fias Co Farm is my first-choice website for everything to do with goats or home dairying. Even if you have pet goats or meat goats, don't miss this fantastic site!

Next, download a 16-page PDF, The Behavior of Sheep and Goats from The Ethology of Domestic Animals by Per Jensen. I go back to this book time and time again, whenever I write about a new species.

Behavioural Profiles of Domestic Animals – Goats is brief chapter from Judith K. Blackshaw's downloadable book, Notes on Some Topics in Applied Animal Behavior. It's not as extensive as most other chapters, but it's good.

Dr. Clive Dalton of the New Zealand-based, fantastic, Woolshed1 blog (if you have Angora goats, you'll love this blog) wrote a number of exceptionally useful goat behavior entries: Goats & Man: Senses: Social Behaviour; Feeding Behaviour; Reproduction: Birth, Survival; and Handling: Welfare Issues. 

Goat Wisdom offers an interesting page about goat behavior, too.

Goat packer websites are often unusually good sources of behavioral information and tips. Northwest Packgoats' Goat Bites, Butts, Horns People is a must-read for people with slightly ornery goats; while you're there, follow the links to additional articles about catching, leading, and other goaty problems.

And for fun (and a good deal of insight into working goats), read the goat breed profile article, Which Breed is Best at High Unita Packgoats. It will make people who know these breeds smile. I find their assessments right on, except my Nubians have excellent work ethics—maybe because I clicker train and food is involved.

While researching this blog entry I happened upon Goat Behavior and Children at the Wild Roots Homestead blog. If you have goats and small children, check it out—it makes very good sense to me.

Finally, if you're interested in the odd and usual (I am!), read Gary Pfalzbot's article, Moon Phases, about kidding as it applies to phases of the moon.

And, I talk about goat behavior, including influencing behavior through clicker training, quite extensively in my Storey Publishing book, The Backyard Goat; An Introductory Guide to Keeping and Enjoying Pet Goats, from Feeding and Housing to Making Your Own Cheese. If you don't have a copy, I'd love it if you'd buy one. It's been my favorite book to write thus far (with The Backyard Sheep, coming out in 2013, a very close second) and I think my love of goats shines through.

Now, grab a folding chair or a blanket to sit on and go out among your goats and settle down. When they're through chewing your hair, climbing on your lap, and begging for scritches, they'll go back to what they were doing and you can study herd dynamics firsthand. It's fascinating, fun, and a best-bet way to spend quality time with your goats. While you're at it, give a goat a kiss and hug from me!


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