A 2012 agricultural census showed that there were more than 2.6 million goats in the United States. 80 percent of American owners keep the animals for their meat, and farmers must often transport their goats to markets and/or buyers. Nonetheless, goats may find transportation stressful, so it's important to consider how you can move your animals around safely and humanely. Learn more here.
Understanding transportation stress
Like many herd animals, goats are prone to various transportation stress factors. Goat owners must contend with immediate, short-acting stress factors that occur as soon as you move the animals, as well as slow, long-term stress factors that can affect the whole journey.
Immediate, short-term stress factors arise from:
Unfamiliar surroundings, such as the interior of a trailer.
Unstable footings because the vehicle is moving.
An unexpected change in standing position.
Slower, long-term stress factors occur as a result of:
Noise and vibration from the trailer or vehicle.
Forceful contact with other animals.
Heat and humidity.
It's not always possible to avoid all of these factors in transit, but there are plenty of steps that goat owners can take to minimize the stress of transportation for their animals.
According to the number of goats you need to move, various transportation options are available. You can use the bed of a pick-up truck, as long as you have a topper and you can securely fasten the back door. A few smaller goats will cope with these conditions quite well, although you should consider how hot things may get for the animals.
Dog crates are suitable for carrying one or two smaller goats. You can place a dog crate in a car, truck or minivan, and the device will keep the animal secure for the journey. What's more, a crate gives the animals plenty of fresh air and light, but space is sometimes an issue. You need to make sure the goats can stand up and turn around comfortably.
For larger goats (or a larger herd of smaller goats), you'll probably need to invest in a trailer. The trailer must have secure sides that are strong and high enough to stop the animals jumping or falling off. You should also make sure that no part of the animal can protrude from the trailer. The trailer doors must also close firmly and securely, ideally with a livestock-proof locking system.
Check the inside of the trailer for any fittings that could injure the animals. For example, look out for bolt heads or sharp edges. You must also make sure the floor gives the animals sure footing. Straw or wood shavings on the floor are essential to absorb urine, as high levels of humidity and moisture can affect goats badly. Excessive moisture can cause pneumonia and/or parasitic infections.
Transportation best practices
Even with the right type of transportation, the way you handle your goats will make a big difference to their stress levels. You should think about stress factors from the moment you need to move the animals from their normal dwelling.
Load goats carefully and gently. Don't lift them by their heads, horns or legs. If necessary, grasp them around their bodies, supporting their chests and abdomens. Set up your transportation so you don't need to reverse or turn the vehicle around to start the journey. Remember that the animals' stress levels will increase suddenly as soon as the vehicle moves, so make sure you can set off slowly and smoothly.
Allow plenty of time for your journey, and keep your speed down throughout the trip. Careful driving will prevent the need to brake suddenly, which will startle the animals. Corner slowly and carefully. Goats can easily lose their footing when you turn a corner, and injuries can easily occur. Secure any loose fittings in your trailer that will rattle and increase noise levels, too.
Goats are also susceptible to cold stress, so you need to make sure the animals stay warm. Cover all openings to stop cold winds and rain getting in the trailer. Goats will naturally move away from cold drafts, but if you carry too many animals at once, they won't have the necessary space to do this, so avoid overcrowding. What's more, overcrowding can also cause overheating in hot, sunny conditions.
Goats are increasingly popular with American farmers, but these animals need care and attention during transportation. Before moving your animals, make sure you take all possible steps to avoid stress. For help choosing a suitable trailer, contact a company like Colorado Trailers Inc.