Despite the fact that we are both veterans of the Navy, and the mascot for the US Navy is a big, fierce billy, Randy and I never imagined having goats. How strange it is then, that we have more goats than any other animal on the farm. Thanks to the tornado of May 2009, we lost just about every decent tree on our place. We were left with a few shards of trees here and there that weren’t up to the task of disguising decades of overgrown vines, sumac, and nameless tick-laden weeds. What to do? Well, once we got chat-ting to our neighbors and folks at the feed store, it became clear to us that we needed some goats to get to munching on nine acres of ugly and help us regain some farm charm.
It all started with Harold and William, two hefty Boer goats raised by Maelee Crum. Harold and William were pretty efficient eaters, but we decided to buy them some girlfriends to give them a helping hoof or two in gobbling up the underbrush. Nature took its course, and the next thing we knew, the goat pen was a barren moonscape overrun with a herd of bleating tramplers. Hmm…that was fast! Maybe we could make these four-legged mowers pay for themselves, and make a buck or two on top.
A couple of weeks ago I made the assertion that even city girls like me understand where baby animals come from. Apparently not; I learned NOTHING from last winter’s experience of dis-covering shivering babies in the field, dragging reluctant mothers into the barn by the horns, and teeth-chattering hours in sub-zero temps helping a new kid figure out how to latch on to mom for a meal. This is our second year of expecting kids to arrive in the middle of winter, and instead of leaving it up to Herky the Won-der Dog to handle the midwifing duties, we were prepared.
We designated one of the horse stalls as the Nanny Nursery and set about making it goat-friendly. Randy moved the heated bucket and hay rack to goat level and installed a feed trough and we filled the stall with a foot of straw so it would be warm and dry. Pleased with our handiwork, we went to get Vanilla and Snow-ball. They were bagged up and ready to give birth any second, we thought, so we planned to be very careful and gentle as we caught them. What could be simpler? Just put some grain in the feeders, and when all the goats are gobbling up the chow, snatch your victim by the horns and get to stepping.
HA! Gentle and careful went out the window the second I laid a hand on Vanilla’s horns. My whole world suddenly collapsed into that moment. Every fiber of my being was concentrated on just one thing: DON’T LET GO. It was like wrangling a raging rhinoceros. “Get the gate, get the gate!” I yelled, quickly chang-ing to “Help! I’m losing her!” As we made our way to the gate, me on her horns, Randy shoving her backside, she bucked, bleated and squawked as though we were dragging her off to the guillotine. Chucking her into the stall, we slammed shut the door and leaned against it for a minute to catch our breath. Randy heaved a big sigh and said, “OK, let’s go get…Sticky? Sunny?” “Snowball,” I panted, “She’s the black one, and she hates people.”
All the goats were really worked up after our amateur rodeo catching Vanilla. Even Herky gave us the eye, not sure whether he needed to bite us or help us. Panicked goats can’t be tempt-ed with grain; they all ran from us. Snowball on the run more resembled a watermelon with toothpicks for legs than a goat, but those little sticks propelled her up the hillside just as fast as any other goat in the herd. She finally made the mistake of running into the goat house and Randy was able to grab her in a big bear hug. Assuming his muffled bellowing to be a cry for help, I hunched down and entered the fray. Grunting and straining, we half-dragged, half-carried Snowball out of the pen while being treated to a chorus of bleating blandishments from the remaining goats: “Butt him in the head, Snowball! Bite her, bite her! Kick them, Snowball, you can do it! Fight!”
We stood in the aisle of the barn congratulating ourselves on a job well done, laughing ruefully about our bruises and ineptitude. You can imagine our dismay when up over the side of the stall popped the heads of two unhappy nanny goats, mouths agape baa-ing their grievances. Next to appear were four front hooves. Not waiting to see any more body parts emerge, we leaped into action. “I’ll stand guard,” barked Randy. “I’ll bring stuff,” I yelled, running out the door. Despite the curious nosing’s of the now quiet goats, we were able to tack up a pretty decent looking mesh barrier inside the stall so the “Goaty Girls”, as Randy calls them, could not escape.
I think we both thought we would find some new kiddos in the barn the next morning, but we were disappointed. In fact, it was three more weeks before any goat babies arrived. Two days after Valentine’s Day, Randy and I were rocking to 70’s hits while mucking stalls, and I glanced at the goats and spotted newcom-ers. After all of the drama of preparing for the big event, we were right there in the barn and missed the whole thing! Snowball looked big enough to give birth to six goats, but she turned out a very nice little pair, one white with pretty brown swirly markings on its head, and a black one with two white feet and a white belly stripe.
Though we weren’t planning to be goat farmers, it may be our des-tiny, at least until our new acreage is cleared of sticker bushes and poison ivy. We’re still fairly clueless about goats in general, but if you need some help figuring out the WORST way to go about catching them, give us a call. We are experts!