Goats – handling

Information about handling, training and showing goats.

Schools that keep goats must have the use of suitably constructed yards and a race. These yards and race may be portable but must be solid in construction and erected in a way to be safe for both humans and goats.

Fences, gateways, gates and all facilities used to handle goats must be constructed and maintained to reduce the risk of injury.

Goats must not be lifted off the ground by only one leg, or by the head, ears, horns, neck, tail or fleece, unless in an emergency.

Goats that are not standing must not be dragged by only one leg, ears, tail or fleece, unless in an emergency.

If a dog is used with goats, then it must be under control of the teacher, farm assistant or person in charge of the activity, at all times. If the dog habitually bites goats it must be muzzled while working goats.

Behaviour of goats

Approved activities Category
Observation of animal behaviour 1
Observation of particular animal behaviours 2

Goats are a species that are preyed upon. This means they feel more comfortable in a herd as this provides comfort and protection. Individuals will become stressed if isolated from the rest of their herd. It is important to avoid getting in between an isolated animal and its herd as the animal will feel vulnerable and want to return as quickly as possible to its herd. This behavioural trait can be used while mustering as one goat will want to follow the others.

Goats have panoramic vision of 320-340°. It is important to take this into consideration when handling goats. Loading ramps and races should always have solid walls to prevent animals from being able to see distractions with their wide-angle vision. Animals can be frightened or balk if they see moving objects and people outside of the race especially if they are not completely tame or unaccustomed to the facility. Blocking the goats’ vision will prevent escape attempts.

Goats’ wide angle vision gives them a blind spot behind them. Standing in the animals blind spot for too long will cause the animal to turn and face the handler, stopping forward movement.

Goats have a flight zone that will influence how they can be handled depending on whether they have a large or small flight zone. Goats will have a decreased flight zone after extensive handling when they feel comfortable around the handler and in handling facilities. The majority of goats that are kept by schools have had extensive handling and therefore have very minimal or no flight zone. This means that handling them is much simpler than handling goats in extensive situations.

In areas where goats are handled, illumination should be uniform and shadows and bright spots minimised. They have a tendency to move from a dimly lit area, to a brighter lit area. For example a light shining into the entrance of a loading ramp or truck will encourage the goats to move towards the lit area providing the light is not shining directly into the animals’ eyes.

Four principles that are important when working with goats are:

  1. Position. The position of the handler in relation to the eye of the goats is extremely important. This means that the handler should always work animals on the side.
  2. Pressure. Whatever pressure is applied must be released. This translates into moving towards the animal then moving away, stopping the movement of the livestock talker and reducing the number of people in the yards.
  3. Movement. This can be increasing or decreasing the movement of the handler’s body or livestock talker. Jumping, waving or using a livestock talker are all acceptable and effective ways of increasing movement. Sticks, flags and livestock talkers should be used as extensions of the handler’s body. They should not be used as a tool to hit animals with.
  4. Communication. It is essential that the handler communicates clearly to the goats and to the other handlers.

The way that goats behave during handling is a result of:

  • the amount of handling they have had
  • the quality of that handling
  • their genetics.
Image: In general, goats respond well to the school situation.

Mustering, drafting, capture and handling of goats

Approved activities Category
Mustering, drafting (in crush or bailhead), capture, restraint and handling of non-free-living domesticated animals (leading or riding an appropriately trained animal). 3
Familiarisation 2

Because of their temperaments, the nature of goat enterprises and the small numbers of goats kept by schools, the handling of goats in the school situation is generally quite simple. The animals generally have no flight zones and are easily caught and restrained by entering the paddock with food. These goats will then follow the handler and can be easily taught to lead.

Dairy goats become habitualised to the milking routine and are generally very easy to handle and move.

Best practice mustering of goats in extensive situations, usually with meat or rangeland animals, is carried out using the same principles as mustering sheep and cattle. Advice about these principles can be found in the sheep and cattle notes.

Sheep yards can be used for goats although goats jump over fences more often than sheep. Extra care needs to be taken with goats with horns, as they can easily get stuck in fences.

Goats should be restrained on their feet and not thrown like sheep. Goats may be restrained by a head stall or in a bail that will allow hoof trimming, washing, milking, ageing by dentition or shearing. Angoras can be held by their horns for short periods.

Kids can be caught by the body, never by the legs as this can cause dislocation of joints.

Training animals

Goats should be habitualised or trained to help make working with them more efficient and safer for them and the handlers. Training goats is typically used for better outcomes in a variety of situations and for different purposes. These include:

  • For yard and race work
  • For showing and preparation
  • Transportation
  • Movement between paddocks and facilities
  • Routine husbandry procedures, including milking.

Routines are extremely important when training animals. Older, well trained animals can be used to guide younger or newly acquired animals into good habits and help reduce the time taken in training.

Showing goats

Approved activities Category
Familiarisation 2
Taming/gentling 3
Training for competition or showing 3
Tethering/restraining for shows 3
Coat/fleece clipping 3
Hoof paring: sheep and goats 3
Loading and unloading animals onto transporters 3
Showing animals at school and away 3

Time and effort needs to be put into training animals for the show ring. The way the goats are shown will vary with the type of goat, e.g. Dairy goats are lead around the ring.

Training is best done slowly from a young age. They generally learn to lead quite easily particularly when rewarded with food. Selection of goats suitable for showing, needs to consider their temperament as well as their conformation as part of the selection criteria.

When goats are taken to shows it is the responsibility of the teacher or staff member in charge of the goats to check that the movements have been recorded on the NLIS database. Many show societies complete these recordings but this is not guaranteed and so schools must ensure that movements both to and from the show have been recorded.


  • Teaching and learning

Business Unit:

  • Curriculum and Reform
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