Environmental enrichment ideas for goats from Fiona French on Vimeo.

Sophie Collins, Sofya Baskin, Juan Haladjian and Fiona French presenting ideas for goat enrichment.

Philosophy = Consider the whole space / environment = ceiling, side walls, ground area.

Unlike cattle and sheep which are grazing animals, goats are ‘browsers’ which means they have evolved to predominantly eat woody vegetation, such as shoots and leaves from shrubs, bushes and trees, alongside grass and other vegetation that grows close to the ground. This means they tend to search for their food at an elevated level and are able to rear up on their back legs to reach vegetation growing above them. In the wild goats move from plant to plant, selectively nibbling different bits of foliage and as a result they are very motivated to explore their surroundings - particularly with their mouths. For example, they will often inspect and nibble at items in their environment and are known for being rather good at escaping from their enclosures because they have a tendency to manipulate gate bolts and tied knots with their mouths. Because goats originate from areas of the world with mountainous terrain, they are very agile and good at climbing. Wild goats are able to easily traverse very steep cliff faces and narrow mountain paths and in some places even climb trees, and domesticated goats readily climb on and jump on and off of elevated areas in their environment if given the opportunity. As a result of their natural history, goats are very active, inquisitive and playful animals, and it is important the environment domesticated goats are kept in is able to meet their behavioural needs. In particular, goats should be able to satisfy their motivation to explore, browse and climb

In the farm environment, housed goats are typically kept in straw bedded pens. These pens can be relatively uniform and un-complex in terms of their design/set-up, in that they often contain few internal structures other than water/feed troughs and the pen is usually all on one level (i.e. no elevated areas are present). The goats’ feed is generally provided to them in bulk at ground level either in troughs or in the passageway running adjacent to their pen - although additional elevated hay racks are sometimes used and the passageway next to the pen on which feed is presented is sometimes elevated.

Think of innovative but practical ways to enrich/add complexity to the goats’ housing, focusing, in particular, on ways of promoting normal browsing behaviour and/or satisfying the goat’s motivation to explore/climb. In addition to satisfying these behavioural motivations, your enrichment item(s) should be safe for the goats to interact with; accessible to as many individual goats as possible; easy to install, clean, and remove if necessary (e.g. when the pen is cleaned out); and relatively inexpensive to build/use