Dairy Diaries: Goats Gone Missing

396928_1744080219284_2108549644_nHow I met Honey Doe Farm is actually a much more interesting story than one might think.

Though I had, from time to time, seen their advertisements online, I had not yet had a chance to visit their farm, which was only about twenty miles from our then home. When another goat friend decided to go see what they had available, I hitched a ride, and we drove up to check it out.

I was surprised to find such a beautiful farm tucked away along the highway, hidden from plain sight and pretty much a complete unknown to the local goat community. Even better, as the sweet and friendly owners described their method of care, I was impressed to hear that they were up to date on the latest in goat maintenance.

The herd was made up of Nigerian Dwarves, my breed of choice, and some funny earless critters I knew to be La Mancha goats. I’d not yet seen one in person, and at first I thought they were rather off balance, but as they swarmed around me to be patted, I had a newfound appreciation. Especially since the Nigerian Dwarf members of the herd only stared at me suspiciously.

Now I had quite the problem! There was an entire herd of Nigerian Dwarves in front of me – and I wanted one! But I hadn’t thought to bring any money. Thinking quickly, I offered to make the farm owners a website in exchange for a doe – after all, it was a shame that no one knew this nice little herd was here. They accepted, pleased with the idea, and I picked out a little golden doe named Cinder.

Unfortunately, Cinder ended up being sterile, and when the website came up for renewal, I returned to Honey Doe Farm and picked out a replacement – a lovely red and white Nigerian Dwarf doe, and a cute little golden Mini Mancha in exchange for another year of hosting.

Upon returning home, I secured the now screaming newcomers in a small pen, and went inside for a nap. I woke up later and immediately realized it was entirely too quiet.

I had left the shelter (a large dog house) too close to the fence, and my new goats were gone.

Great, I thought. Just great. I grabbed a feed pail and went searching. A couple hours later I came back, retrieved my pony, and expanded the hunt. By nightfall, I had to call it quits with no luck. I sent an embarrassed email to Honey Doe Farm, describing how I’d managed to lose the goats in rather record time. Immediately they responded, offering to come help me look. I was very grateful, and that next morning they arrived, toting a border collie alongside, and we set out searching.

During this time, I got to know both owners better, and we traded stories as we trekked through pastures and along roadways. They told me about their plans for the near future, plans to build a dairy and make cheese. They even promised to bring some along next time.

We didn’t find the goats that day, but we persisted. During one evening, putting up posters, they asked if I would be interested in helping butcher some turkeys in exchange for one. Well of course! I’d seen their big fat delicious looking turkeys, and it happens to be my favorite bird to eat.

Just three days after the disappearance of the two runaways, I received a phone call from a lovely family a mile down the road. Their dog had cornered a little goat in their shed, and that morning they had seen my post at the feed store. It turned out to be the Nigerian Dwarf doe, who earned the name Gypsy for her wandering ways. I took her home gratefully, and she stayed in the pen this time. One of her daughters still resides in our herd – K-N-S Farm Catnip.

Unfortunately there was no sign of the little golden Mini La Mancha, and as the days went by, my hopes of finding her dropped lower and lower. It was very likely she had been killed or died somewhere, and I pretty much chalked her up to a loss; an easily preventable loss that I had caused by one silly little mistake. Ah well – we are all harder on ourselves than we should be.

During this time, I did indeed help with a group of turkeys and took home one for myself, along with some ground turkey as a bonus. It was the best tasting turkey we’d ever had. They also shared some smoked queso fresco with us – so delicious my husband and I fought over it. As we continued to visit and help out, more invitations to come and work came. The farm owners were not put-off by my inability to drive – “Why, it’s not that far at all! We’ll come get you.” and were always very interested in hearing the latest in goat news.

One day I pointed out several just beautiful Nigerian Dwarf kids and mentioned I could probably get those sold for them if they wanted – I had by now been dabbling quite often in “brokering” goats (selling for people and earning a commission on the sale) and had a fairly good grasp on the market. We quickly came to an agreement, and I toted home a crateful of kids that I disbudded, broke to the bottle, and sent to new homes.

Another afternoon after finishing up tattooing some yearlings, the upcoming dairy was the topic of the day – it was a short time before construction began – and I laughed and said, “Well, you’ll surely need help once you get going. I know where you could find a good goat keeper, at least.”

Two weeks after going missing, Yumi the golden Mini La Mancha was found on the side of the road ten miles away. A friendly chicken farmer picked her up and brought her home, and later saw my now faded and tattered flyer on the Post Office bulletin board.

They never ran away again.

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