ways interacting with each other and with us. (Accord- ing to research 99% of goat owners talk to their goats, 0% of the goats listen).

I’m trying to understand their behavior, to make working with them easier and enjoyable. Because they are so smart, they are easy to train. It takes goats a few days to learn your routine. They are routine animals and like to be predictable. Knowing what to expect, is part of herd behavior.

Studies of feral herds taught us that they will form small foraging groups during the day. They’ll regroup for shelter during the night. Females group in hefts (herds that stick to familiar range) with rel- atives, sisters and kids. For our goats, it is essential that they stay bunched up together during the day. We want the nannies to teach their kids to stay with the herd at all times. The predator pressure is just too high for them to wonder off too far from the herd. Although families stick together, many goats have friends in the group. These friendships are not always based on same age or close relatives. Even though there will always be competition between animals for feed and best shelter, bonded goats tolerate each other’s presence. Keeping the peace in a herd can be a chal- lenge because they’re competing for the same re- sources. But by staying together as a herd, they’re protected from predators and they can learn from their peers.

When we have bums we try to get them to join the herd as soon as possible. Most of the time I’m un- successful. Bums form their own little group and are very reluctant to join the herd. Even when I put them in a nursery with other kids, the bums have no desire to stay with other goats. That means they have to learn what to eat without a teacher.

Bums seem more inquisitive than regular kids be-

Carolina Noya’s easy-handling Spanish-cross goats quickly learn their grazing routine.

cause they don’t have a nanny teaching them what to eat and what not to eat. For sentimental reasons these bums usually have a home for life, even the wether bums. We keep them with the bucks for mountain lion bait. That may sound cruel, but when we had mountain lions attack the bucks, they ended up killing the wethers and not the bucks. The horns of the wethers are so much smaller than the bucks’ horns, the lions killed only wethers and a young yearling buck, but left the big bucks with their large wide horns alone. Bums end up with names and the ranch rule is, we don’t eat anything that has a name. Once these bums become nannies, they are more goat than human. They’ll still come up to me during the day for a good back scratch, or to show me her kids, but otherwise they blend in well with the herd.

Goats decide who is head nanny without having to fight it out every time. Horn size, body size and age are big factors in who is boss. When they’re all same sized they fight to judge the size of horns, weight and strength. Horns are very important for a goat living in a herd. It’s impressive to watch the Spanish goats clash their big wide horns.

The herd has more than one lead nanny. That way the herd will always have a goat to lead them, if one nanny falls away. The lead nannies see me as their head nanny. They’re happy to give up the re- sponsibility when I show up. You can train a herd to follow you, or to come when you call them. There’s nothing wrong with training them to come to corn

at the end of the day. Do it three days in a row and they will be there every evening at the same time. When you don’t want them there anymore stop feeding them and after three days they’ll stop coming in. We use the goat’s flight zone and body language to herd and

handle them. There’s no right or wrong way how you handle your goats. In our case with a herd this size, it’s easier to use body lan- guage instead of body power. It would be too hard to push each goat individually into the chute,when you have to work them. Our herd is now mostly Spanish and, while they live out on the open range, I don’t think they’re wild at all. Some of our Spanish nannies came from the Weinheimer Ranch in Texas, where they roam free on large acreage without a herder. Yet, they have adapted well to our way of raising goats and did a great job teaching their kids how to behave in this herd. The trait to be herded is easily taught as long as they have a flight zone.

The goats are not the only ones adapting, we adapted our tech- niques to work harmoniously with our goats. By respecting goats’ natural patterns and tendencies we can achieve harmony and fulfillment in our herd. Happy Grazing!

(Carolina Noya of Carlile, Wy., is a rancher who spends her

days herding 1,000 Boer-cross and Spanish-cross goats. She can be contacted at

September 2020 | Goat Rancher 27

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