Goats – introduction

Information about the physical and behavioural characteristics of goats.

Varietal range differences

Breeds commonly used in Australia can be divided into the following production categories:


  • Angora
  • Australian cashmere


  • Anglo-Nubian
  • Toggenburg
  • Saanen
  • British Alpine


  • Boer Goats
  • Kalahari Red Goats

Schools that wish to maintain a goat enterprise need to select a breed based on consideration of the local climatic conditions, space, enclosures available and accessibility of markets for any outputs.

Breeds of Goats

Image: The Anglo Nubian breed is distinctive with its long attractive ears.

Physical characteristics

Characteristic Details
Size measured at the withers

Dairy goats

  • does – 73-93cm
  • bucks – 90-95cm


  • does – 50-55cm
  • bucks – 60-65cm
Weight varies with breed

Dairy goats

  • does – 55-64kg
  • bucks – 60-65kg
Age at adult size approximately 1.5-2 years
Weight at birth

dependant on breed – usually 2-4kg

This is an approximate. As the weight is dependant on the age of the doe, feeding regime of the doe, breed of buck, whether a single or multiple birth.

Gestation period 145-153 days
Number of offspring 1-3 – twins are common and 150-180% kidding rates are common
Range of breeding ages Sexual maturation occurs in the first year of a goat’s life when they reach 16-20kg, which is usually around 6-8 months. Earliest mating age is about 7 months depending on the individual goat.
Weaning age 3-5 months
Healthy characteristics

Temperature: 38.9-40.5°C

Heart Rate: 60-100/min


Goats have prominent eyes on either side of their heads enabling them to have a wide field of vision, 320-340° and a binocular vision of 20-60°.This characteristic is typical of prey species. This is in contrast to predators that have eyes on the front of their heads. Goats can determine some bright colours from shades of grey.

Image: Goats have prominent eyes on either side of their heads. This is characteristic of prey species.

Behavioural characteristics

Goats are agile, alert and observant animals. They will seek out shelter from rain, wind and cold and will avoid water logged or muddy areas. Kids like to play together and all goats like to climb onto high platforms and areas. Providing goats with large rocks, logs or mounds of dirt will discourage them from climbing on fences and other structures. Goats will escape if fencing is low enough to jump over or can be pushed up or to the side.

Goats are prey animals and find comfort in herds where a leader can keep watch to protect the herd, however unlike sheep they will often spread across a paddock to graze. They have a very good sense of smell and will investigate food by sniffing it first.

Goats develop their own personal space referred to as their flight zone. A herd of goats have a collective flight zone determined by their individual characteristics, breed, age, environment and previous handling experiences. Goats raised in a pen with close contact to people will have a smaller flight zone and be calmer when being handled as opposed to goats raised in a paddock.


Goats are agile and playful and should have space to run. If possible it is advisable to provide objects for them to climb on. This will hopefully discourage them from climbing on fencing and other structures.

In general the goats used in school situations should have reduced flight zones and be familiar with people due to extensive and appropriate handling. Goats are rarely aggressive towards people but individual goats, most commonly bucks, may have more aggressive tendencies. These individuals should be culled and not used in the school situation.

Image: Goats kept in schools are generally calm and comfortable with handling by students.


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