Q: Would you tell me about the goat walking program at Autrey Mills?
A: You are inquiring about one of Autrey Mill Nature Preserve and Heritage Center’s programs led by Conservation Educator Jessica Legato. This is a private on-demand program offered year-round scheduled for a day and time that best suits the availability of a family (up to a party of five). During the program, participants will learn about goats, socialize with them and take a couple on a walk.
Prior to COVID the center offered a program that centered around raising and taking care of goats. Introduced this year under Legato’s direction is the interactive goat walking program based around the animal’s enrichment.
Safety is first. Rules for entering the goat enclosure begin the 45-minute adventure.
“They are very important to make sure that both the goats and participants are comfortable. I always let participants know you wouldn’t just walk into somebody’s house who you are just meeting for the first time and barrel through. This is their space,” she said. “Then it’s time to greet them.
“You pet them like a dog. You don’t pull or go against the grain of their fur, you don’t poke or smack and you don’t stand directly behind them for obvious reasons.”
A bit of time is spent learning about the four Nigerian dwarf goats - their ages, personalities, and in general, how to take care of them, why they look the way they do - for example.
“They often ask me questions and sometimes they are very silly when they come from the kids. Like ‘Do they wear clothes?’, I say no but maybe on Halloween. It’s a darling time,” she said.
Legato said one of the biggest myths about goats is that they eat everything.
“They have a sensitive digestive system contrary to them being able to eat grass. They have a four-chambered stomach. It only seems like they can eat everything,” the educator stated. “They are very curious and use their mouths to interact with things they are curious about. So they put things in their mouths to kind of wiggle around and see what it is but they don’t eat it.”
Participants will hear Maggie’s (one of the four goats) story and watch her perform tricks. In turn, usually Legato will let the kids take a turn holding the treats and practicing the tricks they observed.
Ending the program, participants take Maggie and Kirby (the oldest goat, age 8) on a walk.
Address: 9770 Autrey Mill Rd, Johns Creek, GA 30022 (678-366-3511)
For more information or to register, visit: https://autreymill.org/programs/on-demand-programs/
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Credit: Family contributed photo