Gotes with Totes - Available for Hire!
If you have to breed milk goats every year to keep them milking, what do you do with all those baby goats? Around 1990, all of our friends and acquaintances had all the pet goats they could possibly need. We were not ready to make goat sausage when we read an article in Sierra Magazine about back packing with goats. John Mionczynski worked in Wyoming with the task of observing and recording a band of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. He had a good deal of equipment to carry into the high mountains, including a big radio receiver to follow the radio collared sheep. He tried horses and then mules to follow the sheep into the high wild terrain. He could not get near the area where the sheep lived. Stuck with this dilemma, he trained his pet wether (castrated male goat) to wear a modified mule cross buck and off into the rugged slippery upper reaches they went; the goat’s presence did not alarm the wild sheep. He ultimately wrote a book called The Pack Goat and is considered the father of American goat packing.
Our first trial hiking with our own goats was with Ben and Jerry. Ben had no interest and would lie down in the trail. Jerry, and soon Peter and Jill (with milk,) started carrying our gear for pack trips. We taught them to jump into the back of our pick-up that had side rails and a cover. It didn’t take long before we were taking camp chairs, softer mats, more shade tarps as off we went getting older every year but more comfortable in camp with fresh milk for coffee and evening pudding at night...
We have rarely missed a year with the goats for a trip. We spend a lot of time on the trail explaining the situation to other hikers as the goats patiently wait to move on. They can carry 25-30% of their body weight; a mature wether weighs 200-250 lbs. The ideal body types for packers are larger goats such as French Alpine, Saanen, Oberhasli, and Toggenburg. We like the sweet milk produced by French Alpines; this has guided the choice of goats for our milk herd.
The babies (kids) are human-raised after two weeks on their mom. They are hand fed mom’s milk for about three months and the boys are castrated at weaning as they start thinking they are sexually mature. We become their moms and leash train the ones with good conformation, manners, and a working attitude. They need to be trained to cross water; they follow our mature herd which takes them out to graze on our land. We keep 4 wethers each year as future packers and 4 does as future milkers for the dairy. By the time they are 2 years, they can carry a light pack with about 20 lbs. If they continue to be trail worthy, they stay on and are ready for a full pack the next year.
In 2012, we packed supplies into the new Soda Mountain Wilderness with the Pacific Crest Trail Association and the BLM. In 2013, we worked with the Siskiyou Mountain Club as they refined the Lone Pilot Trail, also in the Soda Mountain Wilderness; it drops off of the PCT and re-joins after 12 miles with incredible views of Pilot Rock and Mount Shasta.
Book A Goats with Totes Trip with Lanita
This is the first year of offering GOATS WITH TOTES. Lanita is the wrangler-for-hire at $150 a day and $25 per goat a day. You plan the trip, pay mileage, bring food for Lanita and we will pack your “things” on the goats. Off we go. Pack goats are permitted everywhere except National Parks. For more information about Goats with Totes or to own your own pack goat, contact us at Willow-Witt Ranch.
Until next time,
Lanita & Suzanne