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!