GOAT WORKING YARDS, HANDLING & TRANSPORT: **UNDER CONTRUCTION**
WORKING YARDS: Working goats is definitely not a "hurry up" task. In fact, the faster you go, the longer it takes. Goats also need occasional handling for husbandry operations such as vaccination, worming, marking (identification), foot trimming, and sorting. Goats are agile, quick, and to the untrained, quite unpredictable. This is reason enough to construct a set of handling pens which gives the goat farmer something closer to an even chance.
The first requirement is a SECURELY FENCED WORKING YARD from which no goat can escape. Small operations can make do with a funnel shaped approach to get the goats into a holding pen and a small treatment pen. The pens should be sturdy, preferably solid sided, and at least four feet tall. Thus equipped, the goat farmer can place his or her body in a pen and assume whatever anatomical contortion is required to catch and manipulate the goats. A holding/treatment pen or goat shed is usually adequate for small operations, whereas a working yard, complete with chute, gates and pens, is suggested for larger herds (more than 40 goats).
There are three basic necessities of a working yard. Our Australian friends call them the race, the crush, and the draft. The RACE is what we call a working chute. The CRUSH, will be a squeeze chute or head gate, and the DRAFT is a sorting arrangement of gates and alleys that can be use to separate the goats at least three ways.
GOAT HANDLING: One should be extremely careful when handling goats at close range. Small sharp horns can create a lot of one eyed goat people. Horns can be both an asset and a liability in goat handling. Goats can be restrained using horns. You should restrain the goat by holding the base of the horn not the tips. Goats should never be caught or dragged by the horns or hair. Keeping the horns tipped or blunt may help to prevent injury to the handler, as well as other goats. Goats exhibit a natural "flocking" behavior; when one or two start to move, they all do. They frequently come into pens in family groups, with the older females first. They are creatures of habit, and once familiar with a set of pens or handling procedures, will expect to be treated the same way each time. They instinctively move in a circle around the farmer, or around a pen.
"INTERIM HOLDING FACILITIES: Provide adequate feed, water, and shelter. Rough handling is never acceptable. Adding several goats to an established group is generally less stessful and more successful than the addition of an individual animal. Whenever possible, goats should be habituated slowly to new routines."
---Goat Care Practices, University of California, Davis---
FORCING PEN: The working chute (race) will need a funnel shaped crowding (gathering) pen at the entrance to force the goats single file into the race. The forcing pen should be half again as long as the working chute and up to 12 feet wide at the open end. To avoid jamming, it helps to mount a vertical roller, about 30 inches in length, at one side of the entrance to the working chute.
RACE: A working chute (or raceway) for meat goats should be approximately 10 feet (240 cm) long, 4 feet (100 cm) high and 12 inches (43 cm) wide. Longer chutes tend to cause crowding and trampling at the forward end, and should be divided into sections with sliding gates. The sides should be solid. For horned goats, the sides should be tapered with the top nearly twice as wide as the bottom. Also, a series of canvas flaps suspended about half way down into the chute keeps the goats' heads down and eliminates riding. Note that that rails rather than solid sides would allow access to the side of each goat while in the race. This would be especially useful when vaccinating. . A curved alley means two things: more goats in less space, and smoother handling. Curved alleys keep the goat from seeing the chute until they are in it, and sliding gates keep animals separated for prep work and smoother movement. Panels of 4 feet (100 cm) high are not suitable for separating bucks and does during the heat of the breeding season.
CRUSH: At the head of the working chute (or raceway), there should be a squeeze chute or head gate for restraining goats. A squeeze chute allows complete immobilization of the animal. Its head is locked between stanchion bars in the head gate and the sides of the chute are moveable. Sometimes this end of the working chute is raised about 18 inches to provide easier access to goats for trimming feet.
DRAFT: For separating goats, a cutting gate can be mounted at the head of the working chute (race) for drafting the goats. A construction with two gates (solid rather than rails) that swing in to the race, opening toward the goats, and a gate at the head of the race, allow the goats to be sorted three ways as they move thru the race. There need to be three separate yard extending around the race to allow the goats to be drafted into separate groups.
MORE: Extra equipment can be purchased or made as the goat enterprise demands change. It is very useful to have some form of weighing equipment. A crate for holding individual goats can be added to the race. Other components of the working yard system may include a footbath, cradle (or tilt/turn table) and loading chute. Handling equipment can be made from pressure treated lumber or metal. Existing fences, walls and sides of buildings can be incorporated into the system. Buildings can also be used as gathering or holding pens. Building plans for livestock handling facilities are available at most county extension offices.
Woody Guthrie said: "So long, it's been good to know you."