In the comments, Karen of Via Martina asked me about whether imprint training was as important for goats as it is for horses. I had no idea what imprint training even was, so I googled, of course. I soon learned that basically it’s getting the animal used to being around and handled by humans.
As it turns out, I apparently instinctively “imprinted” Pasqualina as a kid because I held her and caressed her from an early age — although not as early as you’d start with imprint training as she was already about a month old when she came to us. Still, she’s quite docile and cooperative whenever it’s time to trim her nails or give her a shot. Of course, so are the other two goats, and to my knowledge, they weren’t handled very much until they came to us (both already several months old), so who knows?
That said, Pasqualina is definitely the most affectionate of the three, and the most attached to us.
I did find information on goat imprinting, in particular, at the Howling Duck Ranch (great blog!), and as it turns out, I did a lot of those things with these kids naturally, except I waited until they were all dry after birth to begin touching them. Many people encourage drying off the kids with towels to help the dam, but the weather wasn’t cold, and the dams seemed to be getting the job done, so I just let them be. The kids also ate right away without intervention.
After that, I started entering the pen and just letting the kids come to me. Goats are naturally curious animals, so it doesn’t take much to get them interested. Your presence is plenty. Sitting on the ground is the equivalent of an engraved invitation.
Within minutes they started crawling all over me, and I just let them, giving them some petties now and again and talking to them in Goat Baby-ese (why yes, it *is* it’s own language!). After a little while, usually after they slipped on my leg, they’d just lay down for a while, and I’d pet, being sure to touch all parts from the tips of the ears to the tips of the hooves — just getting them used to my touch. We’ve been doing this for a few days, and it’s going well.
Now when I enter, it barely takes a squat to get at least one of them to come over — in this instance, Nina.
And of course, where there’s Nina, there’s Carmelina — always wondering what I’m doing with her baby.
Regarding petting the kids, my instinct told me that as the human, I should let the goat mother come and see what I’m doing while bonding with the little one; aside from it reassuring Mom that I’m helping her take care of the kid and not doing any harm, it’s really just the polite thing to do. I mean, she *did* do all the work.
And the pseudo-imprint training continues in the other pen as well; Pinta is still getting used to us (she’s a day and a half younger than Nina), and she doesn’t mind being held at all.
What you can’t see here is that Pasqualina was in between my legs as I held her baby.
Off-topic from the imprinting, but I just have to say: We’re lucky that all three of the dams are uber-attentive and are really taking excellent care of the kids. In fact, they’re so good, they deserve some special love themselves.
So, I suppose I was kind of imprint training the kids the whole time without even knowing it, and also, obviously, without following any kind of set schedule or checklist. My personal theory, based on our experience with Pasqualina and now with how these kids are responding, is that generally being there with the kid physically, petting, caressing, etc. from a young age will get that imprinting accomplished.
That, and a lot of love, of course.
(Colombo, by the way, was sleeping during the photo shoot, but Margherita and he are doing just fine as well.)
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