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Social behaviour in goats

  • goatspikeGoats are a flocking species but they don’t flock as tightly as sheep.
  • Feral goats are hard to muster as individuals (especially males) keep breaking back and prefer to escape rather than stick with the mob. Sheep stick with the mob for safety unlike goats who seem to more keen to take a chance on their own.
  • Goats will stick together better when you get them off their home range. It’s a good idea to have some sheep in the goat mob to encourage flocking during mustering.
  • Goats are a lying out species like cattle and deer. This is in big contrast to sheep.
  • Males join harems of females in autumn but the rest of the year they are in bachelor groups of solitary males. They sort out a social order in these groups by bunting and horn wrestling.
  • So most of the year, an alpha female leads a small family group of females suckling their current kids, with previous adolescent females still in the group. A dam may suckle a kid till the next one is born.
  • Younger members of the family or tribe are submissive to higher-ranking females.
  • As most feral goats in NZ have horns, they use these along with head butts to sort out their social status.
  • In farmed milking goats, you see them bunting and biting each other in the milking bail to sort out their differences.
  • At mating the buck is the harem leader and fights off any on-comers. There may be younger lower-ranking males in the group waiting for an opportunity, but the old buck is the boss and does the mating.
  • Mature bucks sort themselves out by serious head butting, and rising on their hind legs to attack with horns and heads. They use their horns to side-rake their opponents.
Climbing and digging
  • Goats are remarkable in their ability to climb and can move safely along narrow mountain paths to graze herbs.
  • See how roadside goats can stand on the ridge of their A-framed shelter.
  • The contrast between goats and sheep is best seen at school pet days, where the goat kids are tested in extra exercises like climbing and walking over a see saw.
  • This ability can be a problem in farming, as goats will climb fence stays and jump over. So electric fencing is necessary to run goats at the high stocking rates needed to make them eat weeds.
  • Goats will also dig holes below fences to escape. They also like to dig areas to lie in and enjoy the sun.
  • They do this especially on North facing slopes which then start eroding.

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