Drama Queen

Every goat has its own personality and quirks, and if I had to sum up JuneRose in one word, it would be: Dramatic!

JuneRose is the only daughter of our original herd queen Hope, and the mother of Minx herself, and for the longest time she stood in a shadow between those two great does. When she returned to our farm, missing an ear, she was a very quiet submissive doe. It was almost as if she had no personality of her own at the time, and she sort of just existed among the other goats.

When we moved to the dairy, that attitude lingered for a short time longer, but following her dam’s death, JuneRose started to settle in and show a little more substance to her little buckskin body.

 

She made friends and began to stick up for herself, not allowing her slight handicap and her small size to put her at the bottom of our now much larger herd. But it wasn’t until she kidded for her third freshening that she really came into her own here.

It was a normal pregnancy – she was carrying one of the last Blizzard kids, a full sibling to Minx herself. Due a little later in the month, I wasn’t too concerned about her; her first two kiddings had gone quite well and she has always been an excellent mother. So imagine my surprise when I received a text, “Hurry, JuneRose needs help! It’s bad!”

I grabbed my jacket and boots, popping the door open as I went. I could hear a doe shrieking in agony all the way from the barn (I think people in Louisiana heard her squawking honestly), and I doubled my rate of speed and trotted out towards the sounds of distress. Slipping through the gate, I found one of my partners wringing her hands in worry as JuneRose lay prostrate on the ground, moaning in what appeared to be her dying gasps. Two black legs poked out of her backside and I turned the hose on to wash my hands, preparing to go in and find the problem.

JuneRose, impatient with my apparent lack of attention, staggered to her hooves, bleating with eyes rolling around in her one-eared skull, then screamed at the top of her lungs and flung herself to the ground again with an audible thump, letting loose another wail as she rolled about in the dirt. The two forelegs hanging out twitched as JuneRose waved her own legs in the air, upended like an angry old tortoise.

Of course, now we were terribly worried! Obviously she had to be in great pain to be behaving so. I’d never seen a doe act like this in all the kiddings I’ve attended. Even as we stared at her, she jumped to her feet again, each one stomping out an erratic beat as she scrambled in a silly little circle.

Once more she threw herself to the ground and rolled about, bellowing as if there was a lion attached to her hind end. The other goats were as shocked as we were, and nearby does looked over with wide eyes to stare at the spectacle. I could practically see some of them exchanging glances of disdain for the show that JuneRose was putting on.

At this point I’d seen enough; my partner seized JuneRose by the collar to prevent her from rolling over again. I got a grip on the two admittedly huge forelegs being presented, bending over for a better look. I could see just the tip of a nose, so the kid was in proper position. As JuneRose pushed (and shrieked) I gave just the slightest pull, and with what I swear was an audible *pop* the kid flew out and landed on the ground with the same startled expression I had.

JuneRose immediately shut her mouth and was on her feet again, turning around to softly talk to and nuzzle her newborn buckling, who only looked around like, “It’s about time.” I checked her to find no tearing or bleeding. The kid was a monster and looked several weeks old already, but despite that – and JuneRose’s dramatic labor – it was a good birthing. We couldn’t help but laugh now that the theatrics were over – what a sight it had been! I’ve never since seen anything like it, that’s for sure.

JuneRose loved that buckling, and how I wish he would have been a doeling, but alas, the time came too quickly for him to find his new home. Being such a handsome and stout little man, he easily landed a home as a hobby breeder’s new herd sire. I know he surely made some great kids. His mother moped around for a time before recovering – but her antics were not quite finished.

A couple of years later, after her twins by Khan were sold, JuneRose decided enough was enough. She was determined to have her own kids here – while Minx is her daughter, they were separated when Minx was quite young, and although they are familiar with each other and friendly, they were not close companions like many mothers and daughters are.

So JuneRose stole two kids that year – taking Kiyoko’s little daughter Kiki was easy as pie, as poor Kiyoko can never remember which kids are hers, and in fact ended up taking care of kids that weren’t her own that year herself. Sneaking away with Hot Spot was a bit harder, as Anise is a attentive mother herself, but JuneRose did it.The three are close now, but JuneRose and Kiki are inseparable to this day.

Moony’s Return

I think we’ve all faced the tough decision of needing to sell some stock to pay bills. I faced this very dilemma myself last year, and with a heavy heart I chose to part with two of my unregistered does: a yearling Minx daughter and Moonstone, my Juliet x Blizzard doe. I found them an excellent home and off they went. Moony’s mother Juliet, had at this point is the has been with me the longest, and for many years she enjoyed a top position in my herd, and even after we moved to the dairy and joined their much larger herd, she found her footing quickly.

Moony was born that first year we were here, and as she grew, she supported her dam, causing both to rise in the ranks. Juliet and Moony were very close – too close really, as Juliet continued to allow her adult daughter to nurse despite my every effort to get them to stop. While much of a doe’s status relies on her own personality and ability to joust and fight, a great deal of it comes from her daughters and close companions as well. A doe with good support behind her will gain a higher rank and then both her and her daughters enjoy better positions at the hay racks, or the best place to sleep.

When I sold Moony, it knocked a massive support out from underneath Juliet, and her fall from the top was slow and sad to see. Other does who had respected her reign for years began to gang up on her and push her around. Though she fought back, Juliet’s confidence was shattered, and her position slipped further and further down the ladder of goat hierarchy. It made me sad to see – Juliet had once been a herd queen’s second-in-command, and now she waited at the back for her turn at the water buckets, or snatched a few mouthfuls of hay when the bigger does were napping.

As we grew closer to kidding season for that year, the jostling for higher position escalated; each doe wants to gain a step or two so that her kids will have better privileges once born. Juliet did her best, but the other goats, many with daughters backing them up, were inevitably successful in rebuffing her attempts. I allowed her to keep her doeling, a pretty gold and white baby, in the hopes that it would help her regain some position, though it would be years before her daughter was old enough to really take part in the Game of Goats that goes on around here.

However, her fortune was about to change, as I received a message that Moony’s new owner was making a change in her goat path and Moonstone was for sale.

Honestly, I had regretted selling Moony by then, not just for Juliet’s sake, but because I missed my big black and white goofball of a doe. So it really wasn’t any question and I bought her back immediately. She’d been gone just seven months, so I had no doubt that Juliet and her would remember each other. What I was very interested to see was how Moony’s return would affect Juliet’s position – would she regain any rank? Was it too late? How would Moony respond to Juliet’s new daughter, who was nearly weaned but still with mom.

There’s little I enjoy more than diving deep into goat behavior and trying to figure out what is going on in their heads.

Moony arrived with minimal fanfare, hopping down from the truck and looking around with the very obvious air of knowing exactly where she is. As soon as her quarantine was up, I put Juliet and her current daughter in a pen and brought Moony over. The interaction wasn’t very exciting to see – they sniffed noses, and Moony peered at her little sister for a few moments, and then they stood and ate hay together.

However, it’s what I didn’t see that made it really interesting. When a doe meets a strange doe, there is almost inevitably some posturing. Ears go back, face tightens, eyes widen. They will stand sideways to each other to show how large and strong they are, turning their heads and lowering them to threaten headbutting. In many cases, it does end in a fight of some sort, until one or both does break off – either to continue the battle another time, or because one admits obvious superiority to another. There’s always tension in these situations, but in this one, there was simply none. It was as if they had seen each other yesterday.

 

Moony rejoined the herd with her mother and little sister, and I made the decision to move the young gold and white doeling on to a new home now that Moony was back. Almost immediately upon reentering the herd, Moony was pressed to prove that she was still a heavyweight fighter, which she did with gusto. Being extremely stout, Moony is very difficult to move, not unlike a brick wall. She knows how to use this to her advantage, and now instead of Juliet making headway with Moony on her flank, it was the other way around.

Juliet didn’t even appear to notice when her younger daughter left, but she and Moony were never far apart. Even better, Moony’s best friend rejoined them as well. The beautiful orange and white Mini Mancha named Mandarin was a year younger than Moony, but they had been friends before she left, and they picked up their companionship where they left it. Being another heavy doe with a high ranking Mini Mancha mother, Mandarin only helped push their little group back up in position.

Though they never regained their original ranking, Juliet and Moony now comfortable reside in the upper mid-range of the herd. No longer is Juliet bullied and pushed around, and Moony is a changed goat herself, carrying her bulk with a new confidence. And I have a greater understanding and appreciation of the deep-seated bonds that goats create amongst themselves.

Moony and Juliet will never be separated again.

 

The Lunatic La Mancha

Rarely a year goes by without the addition of a new buck to the herd, as I’m forever on a quest to improve both of our breeds here at the dairy. When I spotted a young La Mancha buck called “Just Got Paid” online, I thought, there’s a nice buck for this year! Though young, he was already quite large and very handsome, with a properly disbudded head (always a huge bonus to me, and can be hard to find), and a bit of flash on top.

The seller sent me more pictures – JP, as he was called, lived with his little group of does and was a very friendly boy. Since a good temperament is always key, I worked out a trade and before long we were heading out to pick him up.

It was November, so JP wouldn’t be used until almost an entire year later, but I figured at least I wouldn’t have to worry about finding a new buck last minute. As we lead him out to the car, JP took a big whiff of my jacket, which no doubt reeked of does, and proceeded to jump on me quite vigorously. Not wanting to hit him in front of his now previous owner, I jerked the leash to make him put all four hooves back on the ground, then shoved him into the back of the car. It wasn’t unusual for bottle raised bucks to often exhibit such rude behavior, so I didn’t concern myself with it too much – he would learn his manners as did any goat with inappropriate behavior that arrived on our farm.

We popped him into a Quarantine pen and pulled blood for his testing. The next morning he was wandering around looking a bit vague. Well, the Q pen has short walls and he’s quite a tall boy, so I figured best to put him in the trailer to finish his Q period. Once he’d passed his tests, I took him to the buck pen. The fencing here was stronger and higher, and he would have male friends, so he’d settle in quickly enough, right?

Wrong.

I went out the next morning to find him sleeping with the entire doe herd. Annoyed, I realized he must have shoved the gate open just enough to slip through, so I latched it extra tight this time.

The next morning he was with the does again. This time I put wire over the spaces between the gate bars, thinking he slipped through. But even that didn’t stop him.

Worse, despite the majority of our herd being bred and ready to kid in just a couple of months, JP went into full blown rut. When I went into the buck pen, he lunged at me, swiping a foreleg against me and blubbering with lust. I won’t mince words, I hit him as hard as I could with an open palm across the nose. Despite being just a yearling, this buck was already much larger than I am, and I began to get an inkling that this boy had a screw loose. You see this kind of behavior in bottle-raised bucks that aren’t socialized properly, and are allowed to get away with inappropriate actions when they are still cute and little. Unfortunately, it’s not so funny when they became testosterone fueled breeding machines. I hung a whip on the buck pen gate.

It took some time and a few close calls, but eventually JP learned that attempting to mate with me only led to a painful and swift punishment. There is no room on this farm for aggressive animals.

Alas, the trouble didn’t stop there – it only escalated. JP spent hours pacing the fence line screaming at the does he could see. Morning after morning I came out to find this buck with my does, and afternoon after afternoon was spent attempting to stop his escapes. I patched fencing, strengthened posts, and even strung electric wire along the fence.

Nothing deterred him. He bounced off the hot wire like it wasn’t there – hot wire charged by the biggest box Tractor Supply offers I might add. Eventually I caught him escaping, and to my horror, he wasn’t squeezing through, around, or underneath anything. He was going over. Hot wire across the top only made his jumps more dangerous as he skimmed over like a champion show jumping horse. Frustrated, I pulled him out and put him in a dog kennel we keep near the buck pen. Eight foot straight panels should stop him from going over at least, until I can find a solution for the issue he was causing.

I was wrong – I had barely enough time to walk away before JP backed up three steps, then launched himself out and trotted towards the does, who by this time were getting as sick of him as I was. I ran to catch him, then threw him back into the trailer, slamming the gate in his face.

Something had to be done. I wasn’t ready to give up quite yet, so we put a wire top on the dog kennel and dubbed it the “Punishment Pen” and locked JP inside. It was better than the trailer, but not by much, at least when it comes to long term living. There had to be a better solution. I finally decided to pull out an old trick from my childhood; if you had a dog that was a fence jumper, there was one guaranteed solution. I was apprehensive about using the same method with a goat, as they’re notorious for killing themselves in any way possible, but after discussing it with the others, I felt like it was our only option. If he continued to jump out, it was only a matter of time before he broke a leg. I figured, one way or another, he’s going to hurt himself unless I do something.

So I took a length of dog tie-out, the type coated in plastic to prevent it from tangling easy, and I tied one end to JP and one end to a cinder block. It took careful adjusting to ensure the line was long enough so that he didn’t bang his legs with the block, but short enough that he couldn’t actually jump up and then get caught, effectively hanging himself. My goal was not to keep him on the block for life, but just long enough for his brain to think he can no longer jump without getting jerked back to the ground.

He drug his brick back and forth, complaining bitterly, but he stayed where he belonged. Eventually, it was like his brain suddenly clicked off and he was a gentle friendly buck again. When he wasn’t acting like a complete lunatic, JP was a pretty nice guy. I didn’t feel comfortable allowing the bucks out to graze while he wore the brick, but as time went by and JP bonded with our other bucks, I decided we could wean him onto something smaller, so I tied a house brick to his collar. My hope was that the weight of it would continue to trick his mind into thinking he can no longer jump. After some time the twine holding the would brick wear out, leaving JP without burdon at long last.

It worked, and within a month, the boys were able to go back out to browse, and I didn’t find JP in my doe pasture.

Unfortunately what I did find there was a lot of pregnant yearlings. During his escapades, JP managed to impregnate nearly all of my open La Mancha yearlings, several older does who hadn’t settled during breeding, and a couple of Nigerian Dwarf as well. All kidded without trouble, and had quite a few pretty little babies. If nothing else, it made it very easy for Citation, one of the few girls to escape his lust, to win best First Freshener her year, as most of her agemates no longer qualified!

The rest of the year went without incident. At least until breeding season was looming on the horizon. When the first doe came into heat (sweet old Nissa) his brain snapped again and I watched in despair as JP leapt the fence to get at her.

He went straight back into the Punishment Pen and the decision was made – JP had to go. We hadn’t even used him for a season, but there was no question about it. He was too hard to handle, too unpredictable, and with hormones in the air, he became aggressive all over again as well. Nothing I had done had stuck. We had new bucks coming in, so I listed him for sale.

A friend of the farm wanted him, so we traded him to her for a hundred bucks and a few dozen farm fresh eggs. I think we got the better end of the deal honestly.

The day JP left, I bred him to Crown Royal, representing the first and only time I actually bred him to a doe on purpose. Once they were done, some friends came over and helped me load him into their truck to take him to his new home. The moment we got him in the crate he lost his mind all over again, flailing and screaming. He flipped the crate over, sending it crashing onto its side as he threw his legs out in protest of confinement. We got him uprighted and tied down, and headed to his new home as quick as we could.

His new owner was very aware of his issues, but as she runs her buck with her does all year, the hope was that he would be happier and stay where he belonged.

Well he did – for a while. Once he’d bred all the does in his pen, he began to visit her other pens. Before long he was jumping out of anything he was put in, just like he had here. The last I heard, he was living on a tie out. An unfortunate life for any goat, but it is what it is, and I’m just grateful he is no longer my problem.

Five months later I pulled Bumble out of Crown Royal. And recently, she has really shown off what she got from her daddy by jumping into a hay feeder and breaking her leg. I guess it’s true what they say – the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Rather – it leaps straight into trouble!