Friday, April 23, 2010

How we got into Goats

About 4 years ago we bought a billy kid at an auction. He was only a day or two old, solid white and helpless. We rushed him home and bottle fed him human baby formula. After talking with a friend who raises goats, we got him some lamb milk replacer and continued bottle feeding him. We named him Spot the Dog. "But Mom- he doesn't have any spots!" lol. "He's not a dog either!"

We let him eat as much as he wanted, feeding him every couple of hours. Gave him a kitten for company in the barn. Through the day he wandered around our property, following us wherever he went, trying to come in the house. If I sat in a lawnchair outside, he tried to jump in my lap. He really was more dog than goat.

He loved car rides, and would jump in the car at any opportunity. It didn't matter who's car either. Other people would stop by, and if they left their doors open, he would jump into their cars!

When he was about 6 months old, he developed some nasty behaviors. He peed all over himself. He would lay on the lawn and lick and suck his private parts. He would climb on the children. Our goat raising friends told us this was all mating behavior, and he would settle down if we got him a girl friend.

The search for a girl friend led us to Nanner. She was a black pygmy goat, also raised as a pet. She was 8 years old, and had never had kids, even after being sent to live on a farm after the pet cuteness had worn off. She was kind of nasty with her long horns. Being the smallest in her farmyard had taught her to stick up for herself. It was a long time of butting heads, and slamming into his side, before Nanner accepted Spot as her companion.

The following spring Nanner attempted to deliver two kids. Spot was a lot larger than her though, and the kids got stuck. I had to reach in and help pull them out. We saved her, but both kids were still born.

When we bought our farm up north, the cost of moving the animals was very high, so we had to let a lot of the critters go. We sold the rabbits, butchered the chickens, and, sadly, took Spot off to auction. I cried my eyes out saying goodbye. He was my baby, my buddy, my Spot. He went to a farm where he would have the pleasure of mating his heart out, and with his friendly personality, would be easier for the farmer to work with. We took Nanner with us, simply because we thought she might be pregnant, and I didn't want her to go to someone who might not be prepared for the consequences if the kids got stuck again.

For two and a half years, Nanner has been the only goat here. She wasn't pregnant after all. We call her the alpha mare, as she still uses those horns to keep the bigger critters out of her food dish- or their own feed dishes. She eats first. She has her corner of the barn, and the horses don't mess with it.

Goats in this area are a lot more expensive than they were down south. My oldest boy, John, 14, has been asking to get into raising goats for profit. This spring we bought a young nanny and a bred doe at auction. He named them Mama and Lucy. It took a few days for Nanner to accept their presence on her turf, but now she leads her herd with pride. She's also braver and more independent, leading them off into the bush without the horses. We gave up trying to fence Spot in, there didn't seem to be any fence that would hold him, and Nanner had never wandered off too far without the horses, except to come to us or up to the house. On the one hand, wandering off into the bush is good, because we want the goats to keep the brush down around the house to help with the fire brake. On the other, they have wandered onto the road a couple of times, so we will need to do something about fencing them in.

Chance, Choice, and Mama
Mama delivered the kids, all on her own, like a pro, on April 12th. Twins, a boy and a girl, cute as can be. They're doing great, growing in leaps and bounds, and climbing on every thing.

The first time Mama left them sleeping in the old turkey shack and went to feed with Nanner and Lucy was very funny. I was watering my plants in front of the window when I saw the three of them walk by. I assumed the kids were too short to see from the window, so I went outside to see them. They weren't there. "Where are your children?" I asked Mama. She just stood there watching me. John looked a little panic stricken, and ran off to the turkey shack to see if they were there. Mama ran off after him. They weren't there. More panicked, he headed for the chicken coop. She stood there for a bit, calling the kids. Then took off after John looking for her kids. I stood watching from the doorway. John and Mama came out of the chicken coop, Mama calling away. The kids weren't there either. And then, out from under a tarp used to cover winter hay, popped the kids. Too funny. Mama ran over, and I swear she was scolding them for frightening her, but they seemed to be laughing as they ran around.

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