How To Stop A Goat From Head Butting?

Goats are notorious for head butting, but why do they do it? The simple answer is that head butting is a natural behavior in goats. You’ll see kids butting heads and play, does butting heads in competition for food and other desirable items in situations and bucks butting heads as a show of dominance. In this article, we share tips to help you prevent the start of head butting in goats. We also share some tips to help you put a quick end to this bad habit if/when it begins. Read on to learn more about how to stop a goat from head butting.

Is Head Butting Dangerous?

is head butting dangerous

Head butting can be harmless, or it can be quite harmful and damaging. While kids at play will seldom hurt each other, pregnant does competing in earnest can hurt one another and even cause miscarriages. Mature bucks fighting can do a great deal of harm to one another.

Additionally, sometimes mature bucks will simply butt inanimate objects (such as wooden walls) for the sheer joy of destroying them.

The real trouble begins when your goat decides to butt you. This is entirely inappropriate no matter why it happens. It is not all right for your goat to play with you in this manner, and it is certainly not all right for your goat to try to hurt you.

How To Prevent Head Butting From Starting

how to prevent head butting from starting

1. Have All Kids Dehorned When They Are Young

While this will not stop the behavior of head butting, it will greatly reduce the potential damage. There is absolutely no reason to have a goat with horns. They are dangerous and destructive.

2. Be Confident And In Charge

If you are afraid or tentative around goats, you have no business having them. Learn how to handle goats and always present yourself with calm confidence.

3. Introduce New Goats Carefully

It’s a good idea to let goats get to know each other through the fence for a week or so before allowing them to come into direct contact with one another. It’s also wise to always introduce two or more new goats at a time to a herd rather than introducing a single new goat. A goat alone is bound to be picked on, perhaps by the entire herd.

4. Understand Goat Herd Pecking Order

Anytime new goats are introduced to a herd, a tussle is bound to ensue. Goats need to establish their hierarchy or pecking order. A little bit of head butting (especially by dehorned goats) is fairly harmless. Nonetheless, keep a close eye on newly introduced goats and separate them as needed.

5. Use A Trough For Feeding Rather Than A Single Round Pan

If you put all the goat feed into a single round pan and expect the goats to gather around it and eat peacefully, you’re dreaming. This is just setting up a situation that will cause them to head butt in competition over the feed. The end result will be lots of chaos and feed trampled into the ground.

Instead, use a long trough that is elevated off the ground so that goats must approach it and eat with their heads raised to shoulder level. There should be plenty of room for all of your goats to find a place at the trough without having to push anyone out of the way.

6. Don’t Use Feeders That Require Your Goat To Put Its Head Inside To Eat

This obscures the goat’s line of vision and makes it vulnerable to being butted by jealous rivals.

7. Use Good Behavior Management

Always reward the behavior that you desire by giving your goats a pat and speaking with kind words in a pleasant tone of voice. Respond quickly to unwanted behavior with a sharp, stern “NO!” Begin this when your goats are very young, and they will learn which behaviors are acceptable and desired and which are forbidden.

Don’t rely on rigged solutions as shown in this video.

How To Keep Your Goat From Butting You

While it may seem cute and possibly effective to do things like putting sections of pool noodles on your goats’ horns to mitigate potential damage, this sort of thing is actually ineffective. Even without horns, a head butting goat can inflict quite a bit of damage and injury.

Additionally, any strange thing you put on one goat is bound to be pulled off and chewed to pieces by another goat.

How To Stop Head Butting In Goats

how to stop head butting in goats

Kids At Play

For kids at play, there’s no need to stop head butting. This is a natural and harmless behavior. Kids who grow up together head butting will continue harmlessly head butting each other as they mature. Just be aware that this behavior may escalate into damaging behavior if and when they are separated into new herds.

Your Bucks

Don’t keep your buck with your herd or with other bucks. Intact bucks are well known for head butting for all sorts of ornery, dominance seeking, destructive reasons. Your dehorned buck should be kept in his own pen with a strong fence and a sturdy metal house that he cannot butt to pieces. He should only be allowed in with the does at breeding time.

Your Does

If your does are head butting each other, it’s an indication that something is wrong. Evaluate the situation and make changes to your feeding set up or any other circumstance that may trigger does to compete with each other. If larger does are picking on a smaller doe, separate her.

What About Pet Goats?

If your pet goat develops the horrible habit of butting you, you’ll need to nip it in the bud by responding quickly and decisively. You can do this with a loud, stern shout of “NO!”

You may wish to accompany this with a sharp whack on top of the head using a sturdy stick or a riding crop. Don’t worry that you’ll hurt the goat. Remember that they have extremely hard heads that are just made for butting.

If the head butting is very aggressive and dangerous, you may need to use a cattle prod to shock the offending goat, but only do this in very severe cases.

Some goat keepers have had very good luck stopping head butting by using a high-powered water gun as shown in this video.

Solution For Aggressive Goats

Remember That Goats Are Not Lap Dogs

Even if you are keeping a pygmy or dwarf goat as a pet, remember that it is essentially a farm animal and should not be treated like a lap dog.

Don’t let it jump up on you, sit in your lap or butt you with its head as kid. This may seem cute when the goat is tiny, but even a miniature goat can hurt you with these behaviors when it is grown.

If you have a farm, whether you have your goats for milk or are raising them for meat, teach them to walk well on a lead, have good ground manners and respect your space from a very early age. By doing so you will not have problems with head butting when they grow up.

If you are looking for more tips to help you with your goats, check this advice on trimming their hooves.

Nicky Ellis
Nicky has been an editor at Farm & Animals since 2019. Farm animals have been in her life from her earliest memories, and she learned to ride a horse when she was 5. She is a mom of three who spends all her free time with her family and friends, her mare Joy, or just sipping her favorite cup of tea.

2 thoughts on “How To Stop A Goat From Head Butting?”

  1. i have 2 male fixed dehorned goats they seem to like to butt heads most of the time they are not doing it enough to make there heads bleed but today they did . i put sav on them but i want to know how to get them when iam not with them to not be doing it . they are like peas in a pod love each other they are lost with out each other so seperating them wont work the one will cry all day and night
    hope u can come up with something

    Reply
    • Hi Sandy,

      Thanks for your question! If you’re lucky, your goats may have learned a lesson from hurting each other, and the solution may be in the problem. Even so, you might try installing a surveillance camera for a few days to determine exactly what causes the more aggressive butting. Maybe they are fighting over feed or hay, or maybe some event is triggering them.

      Otherwise, try these tips:

      1. Be sure they have plenty of space so they can get away from each other if things get too rough.
      2. Make sure they are getting enough to eat.
      3. Avoid feeding sweet feeds. Check sugar content on the feed you use. Too much sugar causes behavior problems in everyone!
      4. Try feeding them in separate dishes on separate sides of the pen, or completely separate them at feeding time.
      5. Put hay in two or three separate places so they never have to fight over it.
      6. Give them open pasture time, if possible, or take them on walks to work off extra energy and add interest to their lives. You may want to take them on leash like dogs. I have found that goats will pretty much stay close by when taken for a walk off-leash, but you’ll need to experiment with that in your circumstance to know what works best for you.

      Remember that head-butting is a normal behavior for goats, and they may hurt each other occasionally. Giving them first aid was the right thing to do. If the injuries become serious, consult your veterinarian for care and recommendations.

      Best of luck to you!

      Reply

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