The Tauernsheck has been bred and raised in Austria since the 1800s, having resulted from crossbreeding Austrian Landrace goats with Pinzgauer goats, as well as an unknown third breed. Traditionally kept for milk production and occasional meat consumption, today the Tauernsheck is a conservation priority, with only ~200 animals registered in the 1990s. Their numbers have climbed some since then, but they are still a rare breed in 2014.
Due in part to the traditional style allowing the goats to free range on the mountains during spring and summer, the Tauernsheck is notable for its robust good health, general hardiness, and exceptionally long lifespan. Females kid once a year, typically having one kid although twins are also reasonably common in the breed; further multiples are quite uncommon. Kidding problems are few, and does generally make extremely good mothers.
Appearance / health:
Medium to large-sized, Tauernsheck goats should be black and brown, with a white line on the face and at least two large white spots on the sides, though the spots shouldn’t break the line of black or brown across the back of the goat. Legs should be brown and black, though some animals have entirely black legs. Their distinctive markings have been intentionally bred into the breed to aid herders as they identify their flock and collect wayward goats during the fall when herds have to come down from the mountains to spend the winter in their barn and pasture. Height should be 70 – 90 cm at the withers, and both sexes have medium to large horns.
Goats are sensitive animals that can suffer from various infectious and chronic diseases that are sometimes undetected until too late. Vaccinations, as well as de-worming and de-lousing applications must be conducted as needed. Milking goats should be checked regularly using prescribed mastitis tests for udder health. Milking areas should always be clean and the goat’s teats treated with teat dip after milking to prevent mastitis.
Goats must be inspected frequently to detect any signs of poor health, infections, or other ailments. Signs include cloudy or teary eyes, dull or fluffed up coat, droopy tail, hunched back, or poor appetite. A veterinarian should always be on call to address health concerns.
Behavior / temperament:
Perhaps due in part to their free ranging on mountains for a large portion of the year, Tauernsheck are noted for their high activity levels and the propensity of males in particular to fight with one another. Does may be frisky and occasionally given to fighting, but are generally friendly and will usually become quite accustomed to being milked so long as you keep to a regular schedule and routine.
Goats are inherently curious, active, intelligent, and social. They are known to have the ability to overcome enclosures by unraveling the gate, climbing over the mesh, or pushing and ramming the fence down. Goats have good coordination and balance and can manage to climb low trees, ledges, and overhangs. Their curiosity leads them to constantly investigate items with their mouths; most items get chewed and swallowed. With a little patience, goats can be taught to carry or pull loads, respond to calls, and lead a herd. As social animals, they easily get along with other farm animals.
Housing / diet:
As herd animals, goats are best kept in pairs or groups. As grazers, they require an outdoor habitat that is securely fenced to prevent escape or foraging in restricted areas. The area should be large enough to allow the goat to roam. The recommended habitat per goat is 200 sq. ft. of yard or pasture plus a sheltered or indoor area of about 15 sq. ft. The sheltered area should be adequately built to keep the goats safe from rain and strong winds.
The ideal food for domesticated goats is alfalfa hay and grass hay. This should be available daily in quantities of at least 3% of the goat’s body weight. Small quantities of feed grain and concentrates (often protein-enriched) like goat show or goat grain can also be given to add nutrition. Supplements are often used to address deficiencies inherent to local habitats.
Clean water is essential to a goat’s daily diet. It should always be available and provided where it cannot be soiled. Dirty and moldy water is hazardous to the goat’s health. Milking goats should be kept away from aromatic or strong-tasting foliage like garlic, onions, mint, and cabbage, which could taint the flavor of the milk.