Stanchion Training Dairy Sheep and Goats


Ewe/Goat Stanchion 

Sheep/Goat Milking Stanchions

Over the years we have dealt with many personalities in our dairy livestock. Some are very docile and easy to train; others take a lot more patience and work. No matter which personality we are dealing with, we have found that by planning ahead and giving the animal plenty of time to learn, we have successfully trained them all to stand in the stanchion for milking. I will share our strategies for our sheep, though the same training methods work well with goats.

In the weeks leading up to lambing, it is important to increase the ewe’s nutrition to help with growing the lamb, as well as to prevent pregnancy toxemia. This is a perfect time to use food motivation (in the form of the grain you are introducing to their diet) for stanchion training. We begin training about 4 weeks out from the ewe’s due date. That gives us plenty of time to get her confident with the stanchion so she is ready to milk after she lambs. Some ewes move through the training faster than others. If the ewe is very docile and friendly, she can potentially finish the training in just a week’s time. Whereas some of the harder ones to work with can take the whole month. It is important to work with the ewe at her own pace and be patient with her. Getting frustrated and angry will just set into motion her prey instincts and set your training back. Always stay calm and confident with her, and it will help her stay calm and confident.

We do the training each morning at barn chore time while they are still closed in the barn. Throughout the training, the amount of grain they are getting is slowly increasing, starting with just a handful 4 weeks from lambing, and ending with ½ to 1 pound of grain per day the week of lambing, depending on the ewe’s body condition.

4 Weeks from Lambing

The main focus of the first week of training is just getting the ewe used to grain, and helping her see how much she likes it and wants to eat it. For some ewes there is no training involved here - they want the grain and are happy to eat it. For the more skittish ewes this can take some time. We start with just a handful and try to get them to eat it from our hand. If they are too skittish even for that, we put it in a feed dish and give it to them that way. Through the week, as the ewe learns that she likes grain, we work her up to eating it from our hand, and also being willing to follow us around to get it.

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