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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Bringing the goats home


I once had a wonderful idea, I will get my husband a pair of goats for his birthday! My brother-in-law had recently bought three miniature goats. I gave him a call to find where he had purchased them. Turns out that he works with a couple that raise their own goats and they had several kids for sale. I called the couple and set a date for the following weekend to look and possibly purchase a couple of their goats. The woman on the phone went on for twenty minutes about how beautiful her goats were. And that right now, their black fur was a little dull due to them shedding for the summer heat. I asked a few questions that the homesteading books suggested, and upon hearing the appropriate response felt comfortable with dealing with them.

We were not totally unprepared for our new guests. The land we bought had goats living there at one point. The fencing was still up and their “house” was in decent condition. Nothing too run down, at least nothing we couldn’t fix in one afternoon.

The day I was to go out and meet my potential new friends, arrived. Wouldn’t it make a grand surprise? Here I was envisioning my husband taking the children into town and returning to find his presents merrily chewing on blades of grass, or cans, whatever it is that they eat. Back to one of the many homesteading books I own to find out the correct information. “Egg layers mash will kill a goat.” That is good to know, if one knows what egg layers’ mash is. It took the internet and some fancy wording for me to find out. I am starting to wonder if my books are outdated. I digress, the day I was to go and buy the goats was upon me, and I am not fully prepared to transport them. I do not have a large dog crate, nor a harness and leash. Sighing, I ask my husband if we had any rope. He of course asks me how long. But how am I to know that? None of the books talk about transporting goats. Dog leash length, is all I can think of. My husband is a very smart man, sometimes he is even a clairvoyant. He now knows that I have bought him something that needs to be tied down. A canoe? No. A goat? No, not a goat. I turn from him so that he can miss my eye rolling condition that I have had since I was a child. But my subterfuge is futile. He will be coming along with me, and I have no say in the matter.

My husband, three sons, and I pile into our Volvo wagon, and drive the 45 minutes to the small acreage that held more than two hundred goats. The boys stumbled over each other so they could see all the colorful and playful kids. Tiny, adorable things. My husband was immediately in love with a small gray and black kid. He told the couple of his admiration, and they went to retrieve it. They attempted to lure the goats into the sheds with the promise of food. But alas! Goats are not dim witted, and did not fall for the couple’s trick. A chase commenced. I watched as my oldest son, my husband and the goat breeding couple ran around the yard, kids and goats going every which way but the correct one. After a good fifteen minutes, I began to wonder if they knew what they were doing, and if I should offer them the use of some of my homesteading books. With that many goats, I for one would have thought they knew how to corral them.

With the goat now in the custody of my husband, we paid them the money they had asked for. All the while my husband’s eyes could be seen roaming over the remaining kids. Only one more, I told myself. With that thought, another should have quickly followed, you’ve just jinxed yourself. The chasing and capturing of two more goats began, fortunately it ended quicker than the first chase had. We now had a small half miniature, half fainting, black and gray goat, its mother, and a black miniature and I mix I forget black and white kid. The black kid had an arrow-shaped white spot between the eyes, and a demeanor that screamed “don’t mess with me!” He had been born over the winter, and was not as use to human companions as the other’s were. Here’s another point where I felt I should offer some of the homesteading books to the experienced goat herders.

Soon we were schooled in the ways of castrating a young goat. A mistake we will not make again. Looking back, we regret allowing them to do this. We will have to buy another male so we can have fresh goat milk. I have read I am missing out on something wonderful.

The three goats were coerced rather forcefully into the back of our wagon. My husband, being the eccentric {that would be the most polite word I can think of} man that he is, decided that his new best friends would be terrified of the car ride. I really wish I had a camera at the time. My husband, all 6-foot 1 inch, 175 lbs of him crawled into the back and sat amid the threesome. What a sight we must have made traveling down that long highway.

We made it home safely. No one was damaged beyond repair, and soon the three were frolicking happily in their new home. My husband paraded his party guests through the backyard, expecting to hear the ohs, and ahs that come along with seeing something so cute. Only the children cared. I feared my husband might want to camp out with our new friends that night. As they might be scared of the dark. I love my husband, but sometimes I stare at him and wonder what he is thinking. My fear did not come to light and he slept in the house. {No goats accompanied him}

Our dog found the new members of our family fascinating. He ran around the pen, barking merrily, sniffing at them through the fence. I returned to one of my homesteading books. It tells of how one might ward of wild dogs, and nothing much of your pet. How was I to know that introducing a once city dog to a new skittish animal would cause problems? Maybe if I had actually thought it through some more . . . but I am not the one known for logic, that would be my husband. So I will blame what happened next on him. Of course the more experienced homesteaders know what happens in the following passages, so my fellow homesteading fledglings I give you this, get a puppy and train it around any livestock that you might one day wish to own, please.

Our dog was more than happy to enter the pen, and gayly race around chasing the gray and black goat we affectionately named Smokey. Suddenly the mood changed and our dog clamped its teeth around the hindquarters of the goat. I began screaming, scolding the dog in a vain attempt to get it to obey me. My husband ran them down, grabbing the dog by all fours and flinging it over the fence. He landed with a thud, but unhurt and he ran up to the house, curling up on the ugly armchair that was left on our deck. Thankfully the goat was fine. Just terrified!

A few days have passed, and we have found a routine that fits us all. They seem to like only one kind of feed. Goats, picky eaters? According to the books I read as a child, this would be a false hood, but according to the books I read now, this is the truth and nothing but. Of course this fantasy of goats eating tin cans, comes from the fact that they nibble on just about everything, but never eat enough of one thing to do themselves great harm. I learn something new every day out here. This nibbling and the curious nature of our goats led up to what happens next. My husband, while out working on his motorcycle, hears what he assumes are our boys screaming. He yells at them to stop fighting and goes back to his work. The screaming comes again, yet it is somehow different from the normal “leave me alone” screams that we were use to. He walked out to the garden and instead of finding our boys piled onto one another, rolling around in the dirt at their attempts of playfully, and annoyingly harming each other, he finds our dog covered in blood. Frantically he ran around the out of control tomatoes, looking for what creature would cause that much blood to appear on our dog. Smoky stood, bleating and bleeding. My husband easily caught him and brought him into the barn. Our oldest son was the one to retrieve me. I ran out to see what had really happened. According to my son, not only was the goat dead, but his father was bleeding to death! Finding my husband in good condition, I sobbed at the sight of our goat. The dog had torn open the back and side of Smoky’s neck. Dark red blood seeped through my husband’s fingers as he pressed against the wound. “Get me the peroxide, a needle and floss.” Without thinking I ran back to the house to get him his requested items. I realize that what I am about to tell you will not come as a surprise, if only I had read about something similar in one of those books!

Now what on earth am I to do with this stuff? I stood in front of my husband, my mouth gaped in sheer panic and bewilderment. “You want me to sew the wound up?” This was not the time for jokes! He really wants me to thread this needle and sew up the flesh of a living panicking animal? If I had been a fainter . . . I refused to do as he asked, and placed a call to the {not so} nearest vet. Another thing that the novice homesteader might want to think about, finding a vet before livestock comes home. It was after hours for the office, and we were lucky the vet was still in. My husband placed Smoky onto our oldest child’s lap, and they drove the thirty minutes into town. Two hours later they returned. The goat’s injuries were not as bad as we feared, nor the vet bill as high. Smoky boasted a bright blue bandage, and my husband told me that the vet says she has seen many goats with injuries from dog attacks. It is the biggest cause of goat deaths here. Now we know, and the gates are more than just slightly secure, and our dog knows better then to even glance in their direction.

Besides the happiness of my husband, I am not sure why we bought the goats. So far we have benefitted from their companionship and keeping the grass around the lagoon down. My next step with them will be breeding the female, and turning her milk into yogurt and cheese. I have read how one should go about doing such things. We shall see how it goes.


deconstructingVenus said...

wow. this post was absolutely painful for me. as i was reading, i was like, Dear God! Dog's kill goats! Keep it away! So sad that that happened to your little goats. Live and learn, huh? One thing you might want to consider, is the breed of goat you have is not a milking breed, and therefore will probably not give you any sort of milk to speak of. Normal goats give just enough for their babies and dry off about the time their baby would normally stop nursing. I definitely do not recommend getting a male goat who's not castrated. They are another whole kettle of fish. Aggressive, stinky, and generally not worth having around unless you have more than 6 does to service. Better to take your does on "dates." Before you spend another day as a goat owner, do yourself and your goats a favor and read everything on She has the BEST website about everything a person knows to own a goat and keep it happy and healthy. Good luck!

Phelan said...

The goats are pets, nothing more. We will be getting dexters for milk. Our one dog is the only one that had a problem, the others are fin. No one informed us of possible dog problems, none of the books mentioned it.

We have had the goats for a few years now, and they are thriving wonderfully.

Celeste said...

Our dogs pay no mind to the one goat we have.

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