Travel Tips Make the Long Haul Easier

Travel Tips for Goat Owners

Travel Tips Make the Long Haul Easier

By Joseph Larsen – Traveling with goats is always a challenge but there are some tips my family, the Larsens of Colorado, have learned by trial and error that make the long haul a bit easier on our animals. It seems every time we embark on a show trip there are new tricks to try and old tips to remember that have become vital to the success of adventures.

In 2003 we started planning early for our extremely long, eight-hour trip to the ADGA national show in Iowa. The previous year we had attended our first national show in Pueblo, Colorado. Pueblo is the home to our state fairgrounds so it made sense for us to go. The national show bug bit us. So there we were trying to figure out how we could make it to the 2003 show. We asked some local breeders who had traveled quite a bit about how to make this trip the easiest we could on our goats. We developed a plan and set off for Des Moines.

It is funny to look back on that trip, as now we often travel further than that for some “local” shows. The 2004 national show was in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. My mom quickly said that Pennsylvania was too far away. Seven years later we were on our way to Springfield, Massachusetts, for the 2011 national show where we went right through Pennsylvania. So now, here we are 13 years later still cleaning up from traveling 1,600 miles to Harrisburg. We have learned a lot about how to travel with goats through listening to tips from others and the good old trial-by-fire technique. Success in traveling with goats comes from trying new things and figuring out what works best for goats and their owner.

When taking our goats on a long trip we focus on three areas: packing, preparing, and travel.

When packing our trailer for a long trip we always take more hay than we plan to use. We have some very picky Alpines, so ensuring that we have plenty of familiar hay is a must. If we can’t bring enough for the whole trip, then we want enough to at least make it through show day. Switching be-tween hay before show day can cause a drop in milk production. We pack grain with the same goal in mind —packing enough to get through show day. While we make sure that we have packed enough hay and grain to make it through show day, we also try to purchase some of both at the destination. This gives our picky eaters some choices because, for them, even our fourth cutting of western alfalfa is still not good enough sometimes.

We also pack water from home in case we have a breakdown on the side of the road and need to give the goats a drink. When we started traveling, we took water in two-gallon jugs. We have now invested in a 35-gallon tank that fits in the back of the truck.

Another item we have learned to pack for a long trip is panels. We have Sydell panels and four-inch square combo panels. This way if we get stuck somewhere and need to let the goats out of the trailer, we have the capability to do that. Or if we stop for a while and want them to have a breeze then we can open the rear trailer door and cover the opening with a panel.

We have learned there are benefits to preparing goats for a long trip. When traveling more than an hour or two from home, the goats don’t seem to keep weight on. In the days leading up to leaving, we feed our milkers an extra helping of grain in the middle of the day. This allows them to put on extra weight in order to try and overcome the weight they will lose on the long trip.

Another preparation task often overlooked is the clipping schedule. Depending how many days the show is from us, we may have to change up our normal schedule for clipping goats and trimming hooves. Are we going to have time to clip while staying at a local fairground? Or do we need to clip everyone before we leave? If our goats show on Monday, we need a different clipping plan than if we show on Friday. Do we want to trim our doe’s hooves before getting on the trailer or trim them right before the show and risk making them limp?

When we travel we try to break our trips up into days. We try to ensure the travel in a day is 700 miles. Most of our days average 500 miles. The plan is to always put the longest days at the start of the trip. That way the goats get more hours of rest between each leg of the journey the more days we have to travel. To find a stopping place, we look along the interstate we will take to find the counties in different states that overlap the interstate. Once we decide how many miles that each day will need to be, we can then use Google to find the phone number for the different counties that fall into that area. We look for fairgrounds that are close to the interstate and have the appropriate people and goat facilities. For goat facilities, we are looking for pens that are clean and haven’t had goats or sheep in them for a while. The worst thing that could happen is to pick up a pesky fungus or virus (or worse) while traveling. As far as people facilities go, we are looking for a place with running water, electricity and bathrooms (preferably with showers). Surprisingly, the people facilities are some of the hardest criteria to meet.

Traveling distance will dictate clipping and hoof trimming plans.
Traveling distance will dictate clipping and hoof trimming plans.

A couple of challenges that we experience are that often the contact number found on Google is to the Fair Office and that sends you on a phone tree to the proper person. Or secondly, sometimes the Fair Board has to vote on allowing you to stay. This can only happen at a board meeting so we are left hoping that the meeting happens early enough for us to be able to search for another place if they say no.

When we travel to the national show, a couple of other things that we take into account are the condition of the roads between here and there, the day that we show on, and the age of the does that we are taking. One thing that we have experienced is that I-70 is very rough through some states. We often joke about how it feels like we are driving on corduroy in those states. When I was practicing driving with goats, my parents always told me whatever you feel in the cab of the truck, the trailer is twice as bad. So if it feels like corduroy to us, then it must feel like crossing a cornfield to the goats in the trailer. These kinds of road conditions can cause us to plan our trip a little differently.

When we took our goats across the country to the 2016 ADGA national show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, we had to keep in mind we were scheduled to show Alpines on Sunday afternoon and Monday morning. We were also traveling with several older does; because of this we left early. As members of the national show committee we were allowed to check in on Friday in order to get our pens set up before spending Saturday helping others get checked in, etc.

So, instead of planning on arriving Friday, we planned our trip to arrive at a close fairground on Tuesday night. This gave our does a chance to recover from the typical travel stress as well as the bumps and bruises from the corduroy interstates. We let them rest until Friday when we checked into the Farm Show complex in Harrisburg. When showing later in the week, this rest period is less important as they have more days to recover at the show.

One of the worst things that can happen while traveling is to have the does stop drinking. Our goats (and us) are spoiled with mountain spring water where we live; therefore they often don’t like the water available to them while traveling or at show sites. Something we do to try to ensure that all the goats continue to drink is use a flavored electrolyte. We use a horse electrolyte supplement that we get at our local vet supply store. We put this in the water anytime we travel and that way, even though the water doesn’t taste the same as home, it still tastes the same from stop to stop. It also gives their system a little boost. BlueLite is also a good option to put in their water.

Traveling with goats is always a challenge but paying close attention to the goats and their needs while traveling can make the resulting show a successful experience. One thing we are going to add to our fair-grounds routine in the future is a bug spray for the pens. We heard other goat owners talk about their goats getting bit up while staying at a fair-grounds on the way to Harrisburg. Spraying is a simple step to prevent that from happening. When traveling to far away shows and meeting new people, ask them what they do to travel more successfully. The results are beneficial for our dairy goats.

Originally published in the September/October 2016 issue of Dairy Goat Journal.

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