Goats need to be held still in various contexts, including slaughtering, hoof-trimming, and milking. Ideally, the method of restraint should be comfortable/humane, strong, portable, easy to use, and affordable. We’ve developed a homemade goat restraint that fits these categories and has worked for many years
The restraint consists of a wooden frame, with a rotatable curved head-lock. We simply lash the restraint to two T-posts with a few turns of baling twine, at a height appropriate for the intended animal’s size, and it’s ready to use. Food (like hay or grain) placed in front of the restraint entices the goat in the first place, and provides entertainment and preoccupation during whatever comes next. The goat puts its head through the frame, then the head-lock turns on a bolt and latches into place across the goat’s neck, holding the animal securely in place.
The drawing gives a few basic dimensions, but most of these do not need to be absolute; the design can be adapted to fit the wood and goats on-hand. We initially designed this restraint for use in fall slaughter of first-year kids, though we quickly found other uses as well.
The neck hole as shown is slightly small for full-size adult goats (though still workable), while it’s too large for young kids, who can slip their heads back through. The latter problem is easily prevented by slipping a thin slab of wood across the bottom of the neck hole, thus raising its base enough to narrow the opening.
If you do your own slaughter, as we do, a proper restraint is key to a quick and humane death. Holding the goat steady, with its head slightly down, gives us the perfect angle for a .22 bullet to the back of the skull, a location which drops a goat instantly. A bit of attractive food keeps the goat happily occupied until the shot. Then the arm is opened and the animal is quickly dragged away for further processing.
The restraint can also be easily repositioned after each kill if you’re concerned about the smell of blood, though we’ve done multiple animals in a row without any demonstrated concern. As in other cases above, this setup allows slaughter to happen anywhere you like; we prefer working in the open near a good tree for hanging the carcass.
Restraining an animal may be necessary for various health reasons, such as regular hoof trimming. On rare occasions when we’ve needed to give injections, a practice we’re not accustomed to, having the animal restrained helped greatly. Other times we’ve wanted to dust the goats with diatomaceous earth for lice control, or otherwise work with or examine their bodies.
This flexible, portable restraint is especially useful for such work, as it can be quickly set up in pasture or anywhere else, allowing you to work with the herd without moving individual goats to a permanent location.
A basic restraint allows for milking a small herd on pasture, without lugging around a heavy milking stand, if you incorporate milking space into whatever moveable shelter you use. One downside, compared to a full milking stand, is the lack of solid floor and the lower angle of work (having the bucket on the ground rather than set up on a stand). But depending on situation, this setup can also save a lot of work and hassle, particularly for small or mobile herds.
While we used a full-size milking stand for our own herd, having the portable restraint around was quite handy. The photo above shows us using it to milk a neighbor’s family herd, which we were boarding during their vacation, a favor made easier by setting up the portable restraint within the animals’ temporary shelter so that we didn’t have to move the animals around on unfamiliar terrain and paths.
We’ve been very pleased with this portable and sturdy design, which stores easily on a shelf when not in use. The ability to quickly set up and take down a restraint, for whatever situation or needs a goat herd demands, has been an excellent improvement to our goat management.
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