Goats, Sheep, Pigs and other Cloven-Hoofed Animals


We've given you two headlines, the first (in blue) being the original, and the second (in red) aims to be a more informative headline, so you can gain an idea of what the article is about more quickly. The source is also given in case you want to track down the original article.


Shona and her lambs, drawn by Lynne Guy

See also:

  • Goats, Sheep and Pigs: Health, disease and physiology
  • Reviews of vet books covering goats


Cow dung away

New Zealand imports dung beetles to deal with livestock dung

source: New Scientist vol 209 no 2800, February 19 p4

New Zealand has approved releasing dung beetles to tackle the country's livestock dung problems. The dung beetles will come from Australia, which introduced beetles from Africa and Europe in the 1960s. Beetles lay eggs in dung, and the larvae eat it. This prevents emissions from rotting dung, and parasitic worms and flies using it to breed.


Curtain falls on mad cow disease

BSE nearly extinct in cattle, though human cases may rise again

source: New Scientist vol 209 no 2797,
January 29 2011 starts p6, 2 pages long

BSE appears to be nearly extinct in cattle, though numbers of human cases may rise again. There were only 17 cases of the disease reported in cattle worldwide in 2010, whereas in 1992, there were 37,280 cases in the UK, where the disease began. Most humans affected have been relatively young. There are fears that some people may be incubating the disease, showing symptoms later in life, though human cases have fallen, and legislation now bans feeding ruminants to each other.


When the female of the species is leader of the pack

Why females can lead some groups of herd mammals

source: New Scientist 14 Feb 2009 vol 201 no 2695 p16

Females are often leaders among herd mammals such as sheep, elephants and reindeer. University of Sussex's Larissa Conradt and her team used simulations from a computer model to understand why. They discovered that individuals could become leaders and move a herd either if they had a lot to gain, for example if they were hungry and wanted to go where food was more plentiful, or if they stood to lose least if the group split. Males can lose mating opportunities if a group divides. 


Pigs behaving badly

Preventing behavioural problems in pigs

source: Philip Broomhead
Country Smallholding December 2003
starts p27, 3 pages long

Smallholders need to observe their pigs to understand normal behaviour, and be able to pick up on behavioural problems. Too much stress can cause problems, for example from bad weather for pigs kept outside, and not having an escape route for pigs kept indoors. A pig that is threatened by another pig may submit to being bitten, or fight back, if it cannot escape. Hierarchies may become more rigid if pigs do not have enough space. This can include one pig dominating a feeding trough, while, in contrast, outdoor pigs may have several feeding points. Very palatable food can also lead to conflict. Pigs foraging on harvested land are spread over a wide space, and eating more slowly, so are less likely to compete aggressively than pigs at a trough. Raised troughs may help reduce domination of the feeding space by a dominant pig. Providing escape routes and hiding places can also help to reduce conflict. Mixing strange pigs may create problems, for example at weaning. There may be fights to establish hierarchies. Fear may affect fertility, and infant mortality in pigs.

Stress thresholds are affected by routines, and pigs that have very controlled environments may become too vulnerable to change. Being handled and transported are more stressful for pigs unused to this. Pigs need some stimuli, such as noises, sights, and objects to investigate. Open pen arrangements allow pigs to see what is going on, and tyres and football can be offered as toys.

Chewing and tail biting may occur with indoor pigs, and rail chewing can be seen as stereotypical behaviour, due to lack of stimulation. Pigs also like social interaction. They learn from other pigs, are involved in more activities, gain reassurance from company, and their breeding patterns synchronise. Isolated pigs can become lethargic, and owners of single pigs can provide interactions with other species, such as sheep, to prevent this. Pigs may also interact with humans, and some people keep house pigs. 


Advice for pet pig owners on ID rules

DEFRA poster campaign on pet pig regulations

source: Veterinary Record vol 153 no 21, November 22 2003 p638

The British Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has launched a campaign to inform owners of pet pigs of new rules governing pig identification, in force from November 1 2003. The Pigs (Records, Identification and Movement) Order of 2003 requires owners of pigs to tell DEFRA where they keep their pigs, and they are given an identity code number. Owners have to identify pigs that are older than a year, through eartags. tattoos or slapmarks, when the pigs go to another location. These rules apply to pigs in England, with similar rules applying to Wales. DEFRA provides more information at www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/tracing/pigs.


And three million little piggies went to play...

British pigs to be given toys by law

source: Martin Wainwright
Guardian January 30 2003 p7

The British Department of Food, the Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has set out welfare rules for compulsory toys for pigs on farms. One farmer, Paul Fradgley, notes that his pigs like to play with a pair of wellington boots, or a bucket, and that they tend to fight more if they have no toys and are bored. Pigs like objects that they can move using their snouts, and they are very curious about new objects, he notes. The requirements apply to the whole of Europe, and were circulated by DEFRA in the UK. Fines of up to 2,500 pounds sterling can be imposed on farmers who neglect their pigs' toys. Compassion for World Farming's chief executive, Joyce d'Silva, argues that toys are a trivial issue compared to keeping pigs on concrete floors, a barren environment, though Fradgley sees the toys providing enjoyment for pigs. 


So why keep goats?

Benefits and responsibilities relating to goat keeping

source: Jenny White
Country Smallholding July 2002
starts p 62, 2 pages long

Goat keepers have a number of legal responsibilities, such as registering goat premises with the DEFRA Animal Health Offices in their localities, and this includes keepers of pet goats. There are also regulations for goat keepers selling milk, who need to obtain a licence from the DEFRA Dairy Inspector, and be registered with the Environmental Health Office of their locality, as food producers. There are also restrictions on moving goats, which apply to pet goats as well as goats kept for farming purposes. Any goat that was born after February 11 2002 has to have an individual ID number and its herd number, which should be marked on the goat's left ear, so British Goat Society and other numbers can go on the right ear. The marking has to be carried out within a year of the goat being born.

Goat's milk has a number of benefits, both for humans who cannot tolerate cow's milk, and for other animals such as kittens and piglets. Some goats can carry on producing milk even when they have not kidded each successive year. This ability is partly genetic and is also affected by how well the goat is looked after. Goats like company, and many people have two, with each kidded alternative years. The milk can be frozen and kept for up to four months, though strict hygiene is needed, and a four star freezer, using the coldest part for storing the milk.

Goats can also produce angora wool. Angora goats can be bottle reared so they are friendlier to humans when they grow up. Angora crosses tend not to have good quality wool, and even when crossed with dairy goats, they may not be good milk producers either.

Some people think that goats can clear ground for them, but it is easier to clear it with the right tools, such as mowers and sickles. Goats can be poisoned by some plants, such as ragwort, buttercup and bracken, and can be killed by yew, laurel and rhodedendron. They do, however, like stinging nettles, after the flowers have appeared, and will eat thistles.

People who take on goats should have affection for them. They are intelligent, and need commitment. Their coats are not waterproof, so they should have shelter from rain, and they need good fencing. Tethering is unwise, since accidents can happen leading to injury or death of the goat. It is possible to take goats on walks using leads and collars, if they do not have a field that is properly fenced.


Sheep and deer eat meat in the wild

Meat-eating sheep observed by British zoologist

source: Brian Unwin
Independent February 18 2002 p12

A sheep has been observed eating a grouse chick on Muggleswick Common, County Durham. The observer, Niall Burton, a zoologist, has reported this sighting in ‘British Birds’. The sheep ran forward, captured and ate the chick whole, and then sought to capture a second chick, but the zoologist prevented it. Glasgow University’s Bob Furness has also seen sheep eating chicks, in his case, chicks of Artic skua and Arctic tern in the Shetland Isles. Red deer have also been observed consuming shearwater chicks, in the Inner Hebrides. In the Scottish cases, not all the chicks were consumed, only their wings, legs or heads. Chick-eating could be linked to low calcium levels in the diets of these deer and sheep.


Unforgettable, that’s what you are…

Sheep can recognise other sheep from pictures

source: New Scientist November 10 2001 p27

Sheep are able to recognise other sheep from pictures, according to Cambridge University researchers. They showed pictures of sheep’s faces to sheep they were training, and gave them rewards if they went towards the correct pictures. The sheep’s brains showed activity similar to that found in humans on recognising familiar faces, and there was no such response to stranger sheep. The sheep were able to recognise other sheep from pictures two years after they were initially trained. This research was reported in Nature, vol 414, p165.


They know the face that feeds them

Pigs recognise humans who feed them

source: New Scientist June 16 2001 p25

Researchers from Hiroshima University, Japan, have found that pigs can recognise people who feed them. They trained pigs to go towards people wearing boots, gloves and overalls, with food rewards. The pigs were then faced with a choice of two people, both dressed the same way, and sitting behind screens at waist level. The pigs went towards the person who had originally fed them, even when perfume was used to mask the smell of the researchers, or when they hid part of their faces. This research was reported in Applied Animal Behaviour Science, vol 73, p45


Nearly half of herds carry E.coli virus

Children and aged at risk from infections from sheep and cattle

source: Severin Carrell
Independent June 29 2000 p12

The number of reported cases of E.coli O157 in humans in England and Wales has risen to 1,084 in 1999 from one in 1982, and sheep, cattle and pigs are seen as possible sources of infection. A survey of abattoirs discovered 0.16% of pigs to be carriers, rising to almost 2% of sheep, and 5% of cattle. Another survey found one infected animal at least in 44% of cattle herds in England. Picnickers and ramblers are advised to take soap with them on their outings. Old people and children are especially vulnerable to E.coli infections.


Taking your children for a day at the farm?

Risks to children from E.coli infection from farm animals

source: Steve Connor
Independent April 22 2000 p9

Farm livestock pose a risk to young children, who can become infected with E.coli O157 bacteria, according to bacteriology professor, Hugh Pennington, from Aberdeen University, Scotland. Young children are more likely to touch animals which may have manure smeared on them, and are more likely to place their hands in their mouths. Young children are also vulnerable to E.coli infections, which can lead to kidney and brain damage. Some E.coli bacteria are not harmful, but E.coli O157 is a toxin-producing bacteria. It was first noted in the 1970s in the US, and later found in Britain, where it has become increasingly common.

Ornamental farms and children's zoos, with small animals like rabbits, chickens and ducks are less dangerous to children. Ducks and chickens are not carriers of E.coli O157. They may have salmonella infections, but these are less easily transmissable, and result in less serious illnesses.


Billy goat's lost his gruff

History of goats in Britain

source: Harry Pearson
Independent on Sunday, weekend section
September 23 2000 p14

Goats have long been valued for their meat, milk, and ability to remove bush and scrubland from farms. There were large flocks of goats in Neolithic times. Goats are still wild despite having been domesticated for 10,000 years. This is especially true for billy goats, which urinate on hard ground with their heads down, in order to spray behind their ears and be more attractive to nanny goats.

Goats were championed in 19th century Britain by Baroness Burdett-Coutts, from a banking family. She favoured Nubian goats, which arrived in Britain from France. Nubians were kept in Paris to feed a hippo that the Emperor of Abyssinia had given to Napoleon III of France. Queen Victoria of Britain kept Cashmere goats in Buckingham Palace Gardens, London.

Modern goats have shorter hair and smaller horns, and appear to mate less than goats once did, and are also less sure of themselves as leaders.


Water buffalo are brought to Wales to save nature reserve

Asian water buffalo keep down reeds and gorse at Welsh Wildlife Centre

source: Mark Rowe
Independent on Sunday October 1 2000 p14

Asian water buffalo are being used to keep down reeds and gorse at the Welsh Wildlife Centre near Cardigan, Wales. They are prepared to eat tough plants, and to go into boggy areas. Cattle and horses were found to be less efficient at preventing gorse and reed growth. The water buffalo weigh some 1,000 kg and have large horns. They are inquisitive, but even-tempered.


Taking nanny to be mated

Goat breeding advice

source: Jenny White
Country Smallholding October 1999
starts p41, 2 pages long

Goats have to produce kids regularly in order to keep up an abundant milk supply. The fertility of goats that do not have kids for several years may be affected. The quality of the sire is important, since there may be a risk of infection with Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis during mating, and poor-quality kids are as expensive to raise as good-quality kids. The British Goat Society and other organizations can provide details of studs. Goats begin to be in season from the autumn for three-week cycles to February. Goats in season tend to be excitable, with a sticky, red vulva. Billy goats tend to smell strongly, so it is best to wear old clothes when taking a nanny to stud.


Kid care

Caring for young goats

source: Jenny White
Country Smallholding March 1998
starts p39, 2 pages long

Risks to kids, or goats under a year old, include Caprine Arthritic Encephalitis, and goat owners should ensure that kids are not infected. E.Coli also presents risks, and the kid's umbilical cord should be dipped in iodine tincture. Kids should be bottle-fed if they are not suckling properly. Their bedding should be dry and clean. Kids should not be tethered due to their liveliness.

Diarrhoea poses risks to kids, and dietary changes should be gradual to avoid this problem. Kids should not be allowed to graze where older goats and sheep have been, due to risks of worm infection. They should have access to sunlight, and should be groomed daily to help control lice as well as accustom them to being handled.


Goat shows

Advice on showing goats

source: Jenny White
Country Smallholding August 1998
starts p35, 2 pages long

Goat shows vary from large dairy and county shows to small local affairs. Goats should have CAE certification to avoid the spread of this disease. Competitors need water and hay, as well as feed and bottles, if they are to be some time from home. A white coat makes the exhibitor appear more professional. Bathing and hoof trimming should be done before the show. Preparation for milking trials and large county shows with goat classes recognised by the British Goat Society (BGS) takes longer. Goats should be trained beforehand so they walk easily using a lead and collar. The BGS provides information on shows for members.


Caring for young stock

Taking care of young goats

source: Jenny White
Country Smallholding May 1999
starts p48, 2 pages long

Young goats need to suckle from their mothers as soon after birth as possible. The mother's teat may initially be too big for the kid, or she may not cooperate. In this case, owners should milk the mother and bottle feed the kid with this early milk, or colostrum to ensure the kid benefits from protection against diseases. Bottle milk should be fed at 40 deg C, in an insulated bottle. Bottle fed kids need feeding every four hours, reduced to four bottles a day after a few days, and three a day after two months. They need a regular feeding routine. Clean water should be available.

Weaning can start at five months, using pre-soaked sugar beet, chopped lucerne or green food, with concentrate rations introduced cautiously. Kids should also be groomed weekly with their mother to accustom them to being handled.


Artificial insemination

Artificial insemination for goats

source: Jenny White
Country Smallholding July 1999
starts p43, 2 pages long

Artificial insemination (AI) for goats became popular from the 1980s, and can increase choice for goat owners. Owners of goats not yet tested for CAE can use this service, which is easier than taking a nanny to a billy goat. Owners can also store semen from their own goats. Conception rates tend to be lower than for natural service, and vary in line with inseminators' experience. Owners need to plan ahead if they want to use AI services, so they have to keep records to forecast when their nannies will ovulate. Caprine Ovine Breeding Services (COBS) trains inseminators, who work as freelancers.


Spring cleaning

Spring cleaning advice for goat owners

source: Jenny White
Country Smallholding March 2000 p45

All smallholdings with goats benefit from a planned procedure for springcleaning and maintenance. Goat owners can draw up a list of tasks to do, with a tick sheet, when they are less busy in the winter. Jobs can be sorted into those needing good weather, and tasks which can be done indoors. A shopping list of materials and equipment is also useful. Priorities should be established using criteria of urgency, manpower requirements and cost.

Pens should be cleaned before the weather is warm so that they dry and do not harbour infective agents. Phenol-based cleaning compounds can taint milk, so should be avoided. Feed stores should be checked, and stale and spilled feed removed to avoid attracting rats. Clutter allows rats to take refuge and prevents cats from catching them, so should be tidied. Goat owners should also check straw and hay stores.

Fence posts and gates should be checked, and paths can be repaired using stone, since goats do not like wet feet. Milking equipment should also be checked, and muck should be spread while it is useful and before the weather warms and muck heaps attract flies.


Goats were man's first livestock

Archaeobiologist argues that goats were humans' first livestock

source: Steve Connnor
Independent Feburary 19 2001 p12

Smithsonian Institute's Melinda Zeder is an archaeobiologist who has studied bone collections from museums from domestic and wild goats from Iraq and Iran. She has assessed whether the animals were wild goats that were hunted, or domestic goats that were slaughtered. She estimates that goats were domesticated 10,000 years ago, and were the first livestock animal that humans domesticated, with pigs, sheep and cattle domesticated later. Dogs, however, were domesticated before goats, but not for food, rather because dogs have hunting skills.


When too much sex is exhausting

Larger rams may run out of sperm

source: Alison Motluk
New Scientist April 10 2000 p8

Researchers from the University of Stirling, Scotland, have studied Soay sheep on St Kilda island, Scotland, and found that larger rams initially father more lambs, but this changes toward the last two weeks of the breeding season, when smaller rams father as many as bigger rams. Larger rams father more lambs overall, but toward the end of the five-week breeding season, they may become low on sperm.