Goats are ecologically sound, easy to train, and love the contact with humans associated with packing. They are really useful and fun animals to work with.
The first three years of the goats life are used to grow and develop. These are the bonding years that make or break a good pack goat. They should be learning “manners” rather then “how to” pack. How to behave on a leash, in camp, on the trail, when to eat, or not eat, when to rest, how to follow, how to cross water. It is more important they learn these manners, the “packing” will come naturally if they have the behavior basics.
A goat’s impact on the land is minimal. Goats eat like deer. They forage for wide variety of food, so there is no need to pack food for them. Goats do not dig holes, or even leave much a a print at all. There droppings are not smelly. In fact, to the untrained, a goat’s droppings and hoof prints would appear to be those of a deer. Goats fit the “leave no trace camping” ethic very well.
Goats are ideal companions for seniors who can no longer carry a backpack, for families with small children, or people with limiting health conditions. Goats are personable, properly trained they prefer being with people. Well trained goats can be easily led by children. They are easy to pack for ALL ages, as you need not lift the load very high. Goats, like dogs, bond with humans at a young age and will follow anywhere. In areas not requiring tying, your goats will willingly follow along the trail, browse for his own food at night before being tied for the night. They prefer to be near enough to hear your voice or breathing in the night.
Horns on a pack goat function as a cooling system - they each have a large blood vessel running through them. This allows the animal to let off some of their excess heat as the blood circulates through the horn. The heat dissipates to the surface of the horn. Horns are also good for protection against dogs and predators. If a goat is bottle raised (and no one played with its horns), it should not drop its horns to people. For people that want to or have shown dairy goats, the 4H and the American Dairy Goat Association rules are “no horned animals”. This is for safety simply because many people do not hand raise their goats, and some breeds of goats tend to be more aggressive than others. If one chooses not to keep the horns, the best time to disbud (destroy the horn buds) is when the goat kid is ten days to two weeks of age.Two types of panniers are commonly used. The most common type of saddle is a cross buck, and is used to carry full loads of 25% to 30% of the goat’s body weight. The pack rig consists of the saddle (wood or metal), saddle pad, and panniers (carrying bags). Their is another pannier setup that is a bucket and strap system, most useful for hunting.