For Mother’s Day, I have quite got a funny little tale about a funny little goat to share with you. Hemlock the La Mancha is actually a newcomer to our herd, purchased from a friend to join the dairy’s line up of milkers. Everyone knows how much we fancy black and white goats, and an unusual amount of pigmentation in one eye made Hemlock even more unique, and she was very much welcomed on the farm.
Once she arrived and went into quarantine, we were able to see what a lovely personality she had – if a bit needy. I was told she kidded in secret overnight and hoarded her doeling until morning, when it was removed to be raised by hand, as is very typical for many farms.
Most does forget about their offspring rather quickly, transferring that affection to their owners who are milking them, but Hemlock wasn’t ready to give up her dreams of being a mother – not by far. After milking one evening within days after Hemlock arrived, I watched her shove her nose through the fencing and call after a group of our own goat kids who were running by. They paused to look at her, then ran on, and I swear I saw her expression fall in disappointment. She repeated this process over the next week, even encouraging several kids to come closer and talk back. I noticed with interest it was exclusively the dark chocolate and black colored kids she was interested in, paying the lighter colored and patterned kids no mind at all. Curious, I sent her previous owner a message and asked what color her kid had been. Black of course.
Now I was incredibly interested in what would happen next – would she continue to show interest in the kids after being released from quarantine, or would she realize they were not their own after being able to sniff their little bums. By now I had no doubt that goat mothers recognized their kids visually, and kid theft was not an unusual thing among the herd – especially the Nigerian Dwarf. I imagine the herd itself carries its own scent, and the raising of kids has become an almost community project among them. Every year a few does would end up as baby snatchers, and some of those relationships still stand to this day. The young kids quite frankly don’t care who feeds them – any spigot will do. But for a stranger to walk into the herd and take a kid? Unheard of. I figured once she had taken her ritual beatings from the top does of our own herd, her mothering ideas would take a backseat to just figuring out this new home and her place within it.
Well – I was wrong. Two days after passing all of her health clearances and entering the herd, Hemlock came into the dairy with an empty udder. I followed her around that day, and watched her go from kid to kid, as if trying them on like new pairs of socks. Every single one was dark in color, and thanks to the buck we used on the La Mancha the year before, a beautiful chocolate fellow, we had a lot of them running around!
At one point she attempted to make off with Strawberry’s young daughter, who followed her willingly enough until Strawberry chased after them and gave Hemlock a bashing I don’t think she’ll forget quickly. Hemlock left that particular kid alone afterward, and it wasn’t long before she finally settled on her favorite – a little chocolate girl belonging to first freshener Cupcake.
In no time at all she took complete control of the doeling and Cupcake no longer had any say in the matter. Hemlock came proudly into the dairy every milking sporting a mostly empty udder, and even learned to kick and stomp in an attempt to protect her milk for her adopted offspring. We’re used to such behavior, since we do dam raise, and soon enough she realized it’s polite to share.
I did however, have to send a funny message to her previous owner – Excuse me, I ordered a milking goat, not a nanny goat!
She found it as funny as I did.
I found Hemlock’s escapades to be incredibly interesting. How strong must her mothering instinct be! She was separated from her own kid almost immediately, and it was several weeks until she had contact with new kids, kids that had to smell drastically different than her own. She was in a completely foreign place, confronted with a mass of strangers, and it still didn’t stop her. The first time she went out with the herd to browse, she hung back and refused to allow her new kid to stay with the others who preferred to play in front of the house. They slowly followed the herd, Hemlock talking and fussing over the baby every step of the way.
So now Hemlock is a mother again, despite all odds, and I feel happy for her. I do not consider the methods of hand rearing goat kids to be wrong in any fashion and could see myself doing it even in a different situation, but the bonds between dams and doelings is one of my favorite things, and it brings me a great deal of happiness to see the complexity of it, and even better, something new happened on the farm thanks to this funny doe who just would not stand to be “kid-free.”
What about Cupcake, the victim of such an absolute baby-snatching? She didn’t seem to care at all. In fact, her second doeling was stolen by a herdmate named Lime and Cupcake was able to continue the kid-free life that Hemlock was not interested in. Different strokes for different goats, as they say!
Our theme for naming this year is cars, trucks, motor vehicles, etc.
So I named her kid Grand Theft Auto.