Youth Livestock Safety - 2 - Goat Safety: Behavior Basics

Meat Goat Safety Lesson 2: Behavior Basics: Getting to Know Your Meat Goat

To work safely with your meat goat, you should have a basic understanding of animal behavior in general, and the behavior patterns of goats in particular. Goats tend to be gentle animals that tame down easily with regular human contact. Keep in mind that, as with all animals, some meat goats are naturally gentle while others may take more time to tame and train for show.

A meat goat’s behavior is determined by genetics and experience. Work with your goat regularly and you will experience positive results. Goats that are handled gently and quietly will have smaller flight zones and be easier to handle than goats that have been handled roughly or have little human contact.

Meat goats, like all ruminant animals, have a strong “herding instinct” and prefer to be with other goats. Many breeders will strongly suggest that you have more than one meat goat even if you only intend to show one. When separated from their pen mates or their herd, a meat goat will become stressed and worked up. Minimize this stress by keeping goats together as much as possible. Meat goats tend to organize into family-type groupings and, if present, an older doe will likely be the group leader. Meat goats are naturally curious and like to explore using their senses of smell and taste. Their curiosity allows goats to readily find weak spots in fences and handling equipment. The goat will escape when it finds the weak spot.

Meat goats have a strong sense of hearing and may be distracted by loud noises or sudden movements. Keep this in mind when taking the goat to the fair.

Meat goats have a wide field of vision, which means they can see nearly everything around them without moving their head. A goat can also see well into the distance. Halter or collar breaking is a good way to begin to tame your meat goat to get it ready for showing. Allow time for the goat to adjust to the feel of the halter or collar on its head or neck. Then work slowly and deliberately at teaching it to lead and most goats will respond positively. Your meat goat may be gentle at home in familiar surroundings, but may become aggressive or stubborn when taken to a different location with new, strange sights, smells, and sounds, such as the county fairgrounds. Do your best to make your goat’s first experience in a different location a positive one. For example, when moving it to a new pen have some feed in a pan waiting. You could also bring some water from home to help it adjust to the taste of new water at the show. Fear typically causes an animal to run away from whatever scared it, but your meat goat may lie down and refuse to move when scared. Many shows will require meat goats to be clipped. Allow time for your goat to calm down after you have caught it and before you begin to clip. Work slowly and carefully so the goat adjusts to the sound and feel of the clippers on its hide, which will help keep it calm, and avoid cuts to it or you. When you understand how your meat goat might react in different situations you can use that understanding to help make livestock shows safer for everyone – exhibitors as well as people who are watching the show. Keeping your meat goat calm is a good start. Other strategies to keep in mind at the show include:
  • Be aware of where others are at the show – the general public (in the stands and walking around) and other exhibitors.
  • Move slowly to and from the show ring with your meat goat. When you get excited or in a hurry, your goat will sense the change in your behavior, which might scare it. Remember that fear may cause a goat to lay down and not want to move.
  • Get to know your meat goat’s behavior patterns and help it adjust to new surroundings.
  • Do the best you can to keep away from crowded areas while leading your meat goat to and from the ring. Because it is a relatively small animal, people do not understand how easy it is to scare a goat since it will look so calm when you are leading it.
  • Practice, practice, practice show day activities – at home and again when you get to the show. Whether you show with a halter or collar practice haltering/collaring; leading on halter/collar; jumping on and off the blocking stand; leading to the show ring; leading to and from the pen or stall; opening and closing gates; washing and grooming. Your meat goat will be much more comfortable doing activities it has practiced before and it will be less likely to be scared of the show ring if it’s been in there before the show.

Discussion Questions

With your project group members, discuss how you stay safe when working with your meat goat.


If you bought your meat goat, how did it act the day you bought it? Whether purchased or raised, how did your meat goat act the first time you led it with a halter or collar? How did you feel the first time you clipped a meat goat?


How does your behavior affect the way your meat goat behaves? How do its surroundings affect the way your meat goat behaves?


Why is it important to practice showing your meat goat? What can you do to make sure your meat goat is ready for the show ring?


List some ways you can you show others what you’ve learned about animal behavior?

GO ON TO GOAT SAFETY LESSON 3: Facilities and Equipment

Goat handlers and youth