Re: Pack Goats
If you can keep your total gear weight down to 50-75 pounds, I would think you should be fine with 4 to 5 goats. On the trip in you could spread the weight around all 4 goats, and then when you pack your game out the meat would be on 3 goats and the gear on 1 goat. I would assume that if you bone out the animal, you should have around 150 pounds of meat to haul out. I weighed the quarters of my elk this year, and the front quarters with the bone in were about 33 pounds each. The hind quarters were about 60 pounds each with the bone in. Taking the bone out takes off quite a bit of weight. If you plan on taking out the skin or cape, that can be quite heavy and might require another goat. If you plan on going into some really knarly country, you might limit each goat to 40 pounds each to be on the safe side, and that would also mean you would want to take an extra goat. I also like to have one free goat when possible. Lots of packers will have the free goat without a saddle, but I like to have the extra saddle on the free goat so that if I need to split up the weight a little better I still have the option. Basically you want to do the math as to how much you expect to carry in and out and then divide it by the 50 pounds each goat can carry. If you arent going to be that far in (say 2 miles or less of down hill trail) you can put some extra weight on if necessary. When I hauled my elk out, I was two miles in and it was all downhill, so I felt comfortable putting as much as 90lbs on each of my 200lb goats. This is the exception not the rule of course.
Its good to take a first aid kit, with some basic stuff to make splints for fractures, clotting agents for deep cuts, etc. Hoof care should be done at home. If the goats have some rocks and asphault to run around on at home, they should keep their hooves worn down properly. If not, you may need to trim them every 3 months or so. If you have the time to get them out for regular hikes and exercize through the year, you shouldnt have to worry about too much on the trail. I am thinking of starting up a 'goat timeshare' of sorts in my area, because there are lots of hunters and hikers around that would really like to use the goats a couple weeks a year, but dont want to have to worry about them the other 50 weeks a year. I figure I can maintain a couple pack strings at my place, take care of all their year round needs, and then the other owners would just pay me a monthly maintinence fee to keep the goats in good shape. That way there would be perhaps a group of a dozen or so owners for each pack string, and it would ensure that the goats got out a lot more than one individual owner could and that their talents would not be wasted. Maybe there are some other packgoaters in your area that would be interested in going in on a pack string with you so that you dont have to bear all the responsiblity of a pack string on your own. Or if you make it down to the lower 48, you can buy in to a group like mine or just rent the goats when you need them. Most folks that rent the goats out charge about $25 per goat per day, which may sound pricey, but when you figure that hay and vet bills for your own pack goats might run as much as $300 per year per goat, unless you plan on using them at least 2 weeks a year, it is almost cheaper just to rent. Plus you have to figure in the cost of buying the goats, the saddles, the pannier, and the cost of your time in training. It kind of makes sense to share all that with a couple other pack goaters.