I’m just going to say it, a screaming goat is a seriously misunderstood caprine. The internet erupted with viral posts of screaming goats. It was shocking how human-like these goat voices were.
I’ll admit, I was amused…until I had a screaming goat of my own. From the first moment I heard my sweet Boer Goat, Fern, scream like a child being thrown into the back of a candy-toting van, I was no longer entertained by the internet phenomenon.
Why Do Goats Scream and Bleat?
In the goat world, screaming or talking is actually referred to as bleating. It sounds like a sweet term. But bleating hearts of the world unite! I couldn’t handle the hollering.
All I’m going to say is, my goats are darn lucky they won me over before they started making a ruckus, or I think they’d have been back on the trailer.
Usually, when something is out-of-sorts on my farm, I try to make sure I understand the behavior.
I ask myself:
- When did it start happening
- When does it happen, typically
- What’s different?
I know if I can start to see patterns, I can usually head off the problem.
Because, fixing, a behavior issue with livestock isn’t just going to be a quick fix. Making a screaming goat stop isn’t as simple as a gruff “HAY, KNOCK IT OFF!” although I tried it, of course.
I know I have to get to the bottom of the behavior. Because even though they are livestock, they are trying to tell me something. I’m serious…stay with me here.
1. A Screaming Goat Screams for Treats
Goats are extremely interesting animals. If you’ve seen them at their best, you’re in love…unconditional love. And what happens when you’re head-over-heels for a precious, endearing, adorable critter? You treat it…and then those sweet little goats turn into screaming monsters.
I know, its fun to give goats treats, but in my experience, it’s only produced more problems, such as:
It’s like they get crazy in their eyes. Because they only have eyes for licorice treats.
2. Grain is an Addiction (Don’t Enable it)
Depending on the breed of goat you raise, your climate conditions, and hay supply (among other things) it’s inevitable that you’ll need to supplement your goats’ diets with grain at some point in their lives.
We raise Boer goats, and luckily, they do fantastic on straight-up hay. But one winter, the hay quality was not up-to-par so I needed to supplement. It was the noisiest winter of our lives.
The herd stopped eating their hay altogether and screamed all day for grain. I couldn’t wait for winter to pass so they could get back out on their legumey grassy pasture…and once they did, they were quiet once again.
They just love grain, and always want more. It’s like after gorging on your favorite fast food and the flood gates open. You become a bottomless pit…at least that’s what I’ve likened my goats’ relationship with grain to.
3. Goats Scream to Communicate Something
Whenever we add a new animal to our farm, one of the first things I do is spend hours observing and learning about their behavior. I read tons of books, insert myself into forums, and scour the internet to find as much as I can about my new additions.
Understanding why goats communicate through screaming to one another is key here. Because you may have noticed, your goats are quiet when you’re not around, but as soon as you’re in sight…they start in.
If your goats see you as a herd member, and you’re not directly with them…they will scream to you to tell you where they are (and to “get back here this instant young lady”). If you’ve ever removed a single goat for hoof trimming, screaming ensues.
The “lost” goat is upset, and the heard calls back to show her the way back.
So, if your goats see you as a herd member, they’re only being a good herd-mate and guiding you back home.
4. Some Screaming Goats Were Born that Way
This one was a hard pill to swallow because, by the time I realized that some breeds were more, couch cough, talkative than others, I already had one of the louder breeds in my herd.
Nubians, for example, are known for being quite vocal. If you know you want a quieter breed, reevaluate your goat-raising plans and adjust the breed you would like to raise.
Honestly, if having loud goats is going to make you hate your herd, then opt for something quieter, like Boer goats. No one should ever hate their goats…because well….goats.
Oh, and don’t add loud goat breeds to your herd, because goat screaming seems to be contagious. My once peaceful herd became what sounded like a child’s playground 24/7 once I added a Nubian…just saying.
5. Discontent Amongst the Herd
If your goat isn’t screaming because of grain, treats, herd or breed behavior, it might mean they are uncomfortable with something.
- Are they not getting enough fresh air, room to run, or sunlight in the winter?
- Is someone getting bullied by another goat?
- Are they cold or wet
- Is their hay soiled?
We try never to discount the possibility that there’s something our goats need when they become noisy. They are communicating something and instead of feeling annoyed, we try our best to look into the source of their complaining.
6. A Screaming Goat May Be Sick or Hurt
Lastly, although most importantly, goats may become more vocal if they are sick. If one of my quiet goats is suddenly screaming or bleating a lot more than normal, or the rest of the herd, something may be wrong.
According to Colorado State University, “crying out in goats can be a sign of enterotoxemia (overeating disease)”
It’s worth doing a health check when behavior changes unexpectedly to ensure there isn’t anything underlying that is causing the discontent.
How to Stop a Screaming Goat
Understand the behavior and act accordingly when you’ve got a goat screamer on your hands. These are a few things you can do to counteract your screaming goat.
1. Create Reliable Routines for Your Herd
Feeding routines, as well as visiting time, should be scheduled. If your goats never know when they’re going to get fed or see their favorite herd member, they will scream until they do. And usually, they’ll scream even when you are around and feeding them. In general, goats without a routine are stressed out…all.the.time.
2. Stop Treating Your Screaming Goats
I’m grimacing as I type this because I know how fun it is to treat goats. Their soft little muzzles searching for their favorite treats in my palm is irresistible…but treats are like crack to goats, and if you want to keep the crazy out of their eyes, it’s time to stop enabling the addiction
3. Alter Your Behavior
Ignoring your goats’ screams, as long as their needs are being met and they are healthy, is the way to go. If you go running every time your goats call to you, you’re only training them to keep it up.
Do not reward bad behavior. Because if they’re just bossin’ you for treats or pets, then they’ve got you wrapped around their adorable little hooves.
4. Ensure Your Herd’s Needs are Fully Met
If it’s the middle of winter, for example, and your goats are just beside themselves, make sure they are getting enough nutrition from their feed and mineral licks. If the screaming isn’t a behavioral problem due to treats, grain, or otherwise being spoiled, there could be something else your goat is trying to tell you.
5. Evaluate Your Goats for Underlying Illnesses and Injuries
Always rule out the possibility of illness. Worms, for example, can cause great discontent amongst a herd. Leg or foot problems can also create a complainer…so always evaluate your herd for illness or injury, especially if goat screaming isn’t typical for your kiddos.
When it comes down to it, some goats are just vocal. Even within some of the quieter breeds, you’ll have a chatty cathy who just won’t stop. But if you ensure your goats have everything they need, and you don’t enable their behavior, the screaming should subside.
It can take a lot of willpower to ignore and stop treating your beloved herd, but if it means the difference between coming to hate your goats and having a loving relationship with them, it’s time to practice some tough love!