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welfare issues with goats


angoraThere are plenty of goat welfare issues. Here are some common ones: 

  • Footrot. This a major problem with goats and is difficult to cure once established. The answer for chronic cases is to cull them.
  • Internal parasites (worms). Many goats now have worms that are resistant to all drenches.
  • Shelter and shade. Goats need more shelter in winter than sheep and shade in summer.
  • The roadside goat. These are very obvious to the public who are concerned about their welfare.
  • Goats released into the environment. When returns from goat meat or fibre falls, many are released and get into native bush and damage native flora.

Goats used to human contact will be little problem during transport, but even so, it’s important to study the Code of Recommendations and Minimal Standards (Number 15, 1994) on the MAF Welfare of Animals Transported Within New Zealand.

Goats need special care during transport because they can be very easily stressed with serious health consequences and even deaths. The code lists a number of stressors, which are worth noting:

  • Yarding & handling
  • Deprivation of or changes in the quantity or the quality of food and water.
  • Changes in climatic conditions.
  • Grouping animals that are strange to each other both within and between species.
  • Separation from others or the animal’s own kind.
  • Unfamiliar surroundings, noises and sensations.
  • Overcrowding.
  • Isolation.
  • Insufficient pre-travel rest periods.
  • Insufficient care during road transport.
  • Physiological responses associated with pregnancy.
  • Disease.

So it’s good stockmanship and common sense not to transport does in late pregnancy or at least give them special care. Does with kids at foot and young animals also need special care.

So the trucks, trailers and crates used must be well constructed, well ventilated and free from draughts, and should be driven to avoid stock getting thrown around. If you only have a few animals in a large pen, then reduce the space with gates or hay bales. Make sure they can get a good grip on the floor surface with slats, hay, straw or sawdust. Broken legs are the most common hazards. Goats may want to lie down on long journeys too so this is why a good layer of bedding is important. Bucks especially with horns should be penned separately.

It’s very important that animals not fit to travel are kept at home. “Fit to travel” means that an animal can bear weight on all four legs and does not have any clinical disease. If in doubt, then a veterinary certificate should be provided to the person transporting the stock as they could be in breach of the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

The recommended space needed per goat during transport is as follows:

Average weight (kg)
Space (m2/head)
Roadside goats

This is always a major animal welfare issue for SPCA and MAF in New Zealand. Problems include:

  • No proper feed - goats are expected to live on dead gorse.
  • No shelter - goats have little fat cover. If there is a shelter provided, it's often dilapidated and too small for goat to stand upright in.
  • No water - goats need water but owners often tell you that they don't! You often see a small container that the goat regularly knocks over.
  • Tethers are too long so they lie on the road (which is warm and dry) and the goats get run over.
  • Tethers get bound up around trees or in long grass so the goat is starved and may even end up being strangled.
  • There is no swivel in the tether chain so the goat is strangled.
  • The goat has no defence against stray dogs when tethered.
  • The animals are not checked and moved enough.
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