Social Media Burn Out

 

Those who follow my posts in various places no doubt noticed that there has been a several week period where posts were few and far between. I apologize for the lack of goat goodness for you all, but sometimes a break from social media is simply a necessary thing.

Anyone who has been online for any length of time knows how volatile the culture is on a whole, bolstered by misinformation, and quick to turn on anyone at a moment’s notice and with just the slightest misunderstanding. When you are someone who keeps animals/livestock and share them online, you learn quickly that everyone has an opinion on what you’re doing.

We live in a world where everyone feels very entitled to that opinion too. Opinions generally based on what they read by one stranger or another, then passed as their own thoughts, parroting what is often misinformation from forum to comment section, spreading like a contagion with no actual cure – not one people will take easily anyway. Those who are against the eating or “use” of animals make it a special mission to spread their view of livestock keeping, often bolstered by the worst they can find, aiming it at everyone with one broad stroke of their antagonistic brush. People with little to no practical knowledge of the animals they claim to love open rescues, raking in advertising revenue that they use to attack the very breeders and keepers of the animals they seem so desperate to save – even at the expense of the very animals themselves.

It’s not just the “animal rights” folks either that contribute to the spread of inappropriate advice and “facts” either – there are a multitude of forums and groups filled with keepers who have themselves been told or learned something incorrect, but insist on continuing to teach it to others, and they often not only clamp their hands over their ears when someone attempts to help them see a different path, but they will attack viciously at the least provocation at times, making giving any advice at all a dangerous habit to have. On the other end, there are keepers who consider themselves “above” others, taking any chance they can to leave a snide remark or questioning comment in an effort to “catch” you yourself doing something they consider wrong.

Minefields in every path for anyone who chooses to make their farm and their actions a public matter.

As someone who has been on the internet a very long time, I was well aware of these issues from the beginning. For the most part, I’ve always been more than able to brush them off without a second thought. Most comments stem from ignorance, and while some people are open minded enough to learn different than what they were originally taught, many more are insistent that the first thing they read is the only thing that matters. Nevermind the fact that what they read was written on Reddit or Facebook by someone who read the same thing somewhere else, and none of those spreading it have actually laid hands on what they’re speaking about. It happens far too often, in far too many places. Years ago I still had a lot of fire for fighting these issues, doing my best to educate and share the truth of what we’re doing – and not doing.

Now, the fire is barely more than a smolder I admit – the years have cooled my desire to spend so much time actively combating those issues. Not to say that I do not still do my best, but in more limited ways, sticking to my own “areas” of the internet and not putting my nose where it isn’t asked for. I am always around to those who come to me with honest questions or concerns, and I share as much as I can from my own experiences to those who come looking for them. I do my best to not hand out advice to anyone unless they are seeking it. All in order to avoid the confrontations and controversy that I just do not have a stomach for.

It finds me anyway of course.

Just a few of the comments I see on a regular basis – paraphrased of course, as I have seen multiple versions of each, in various places.

“How many baby goats did you kill to steal the mom’s milk?”

“You are taking part of rape culture by forcing those goats to breed.”

“Dairy is murder and animal abuse.” 

“Removing the horns goes against nature and is cruel.”

“Why do you take the babies away – that’s so sad and wrong.”

Really just the tip of the iceberg – but you can understand how exhausting and wearing it can be. I do not generally respond to these types of comments or messages, and in fact delete them immediately. I’ve learned through the years that responding almost never yields you any kind of positive response. The kind of people who leave these comments are close-minded and aggressive about it – responding is like throwing chum into waters infested by tiger sharks. I’ve also related it to beating your head against a brick wall – no progress is made and you are left hurt and in worse shape than you began. It’s not a complete loss however – more than once have I had one of the zealots approach me and asked why we responsible goat breeders do things the way they do (as you can imagine, disbudding is a common topic) and actually listen and consider the other side. Every one of those I can make understand our point of view – as people who actually work daily with these animals and understand them – it is a victory, and perhaps that person will explain it to others, making some small ripple against the other side’s continued attacks.

More hurtful to me are the other breeders who are giving bad advice to newcomers, or don’t seem to understand that their way – while good for their goats – may not work for someone in a completely different location. For instance, I have had keepers from other locations sneer at how often animals in our area – where it’s incredibly hot and humid nearly all of the year, with no freezing weather – struggle with parasites and pneumonia, as they themselves may not have so many issues with said things. Inversely, I’m quite certain they have problems that I have little experience with, although my friend who moved from Idaho to our area (which I’m starting to believe has to be one of the worst places to keep goats) often laments how little problems they had there compared to here. Other keepers who raise goats for different goals than we do have been known to gossip and judge – the low price of our kids have raised eyebrows by those who don’t understand that our larger size and need for the milk gives me the luxury of moving kids into new homes quickly and for low prices. Where I see this as a wonderful way to place well bred healthy animals into hobby homes that maybe could not afford it otherwise, others see it as some kind of proof that our animals are poorly bred. In a world where everyone knows everyone, you inevitably hear what so-and-so has said about you, regardless of how brightly they smile to your face.

I have to admit as well, even those who come seeking my help can be exhausting. While I have always been available to help those, it can turn into an exercise of frustration in many cases. You can give someone the best advice possible, only to have it all ignored. More than once have I helped a prospective goat owner to know what to look for in their future pets, only to have them purchase animals in poor health that bring home a host of problems that more often than not, they need help with. Others ask for advice, receive it, and are never heard from again – which of course, is their right, but it’s often disheartening to not get even a bit of gratitude for the hour I just spent advising someone, and to never know the outcome. Some ignore your advice completely (which again is completely in their right to do so) and then return to tell you so and describe how the problem is now twice as bad, wanting even more advice that will go ignored. No one should ever feel obligated to do as I say, only you can decide what to be done with your animals, but having these situations happen on a regular basis can become incredibly draining.

When it comes down to it, my advice is worth what you paid for it, and I will never claim that my opinion on a method of treatment or care is completely right, or the only way to do it. I always try to stay open-minded myself, ready to listen to opposing points of view and consider them. How else will I continue to learn? But remember that I am still taking the time to help you – sometimes even consulting with other breeders I trust – and these days, time is one of the most valuable assets I have, pinched and pulled to try to find enough of it to keep up with everything I do. The only payment I have ever asked for is honest consideration of what I have to say, and maybe a quick thank you.

When I chose to be such a “public” farm, sharing so much information about what we’re doing, I knew I was opening myself up to all of this. I accept it as a reality, no matter how much I might wish different. However even the most thick-skinned of us can be pierced by what the general public can throw at you, and the break from posting what much needed. I confess that during those weeks, I heavily considered bringing the social media presence of K-N-S Farm to an end. I wanted to close the pages on the majority of the non-essential platforms we post on, limiting the lanes of access in order to cut down on the barrage of interaction to deal with daily. It came quite close, to be frank.

But I remembered why the entire social media empire began in the first place – to share my love and passion for these funny little animals. To show people my beautiful bits of artwork that I have worked for years to produce. To help others learn from the inevitable mistakes I make, so that they do not repeat them with their own animals. To let so much hard work over the years fall into dust would be nearly a crime, and so we will keep at it.

We hope you stick around with us.

The Z-Team

One of the most valuable things on a goat farm can be your Livestock Guardian Dogs, and our farm is certainly no different. We have – in my opinion of course – some of the best darn dogs a goat keeper can ask for.

The Z-Team had its foundations before even I came to the dairy, when Bob and Sam the Great Pyrenees were adopted and brought to Honey Doe Farm to be the guardians of the herd. Sam had been living with a lovely lady when Bob, a young adult at the time, appeared in her pasture, wild and frightened. With time and patience she was able to gain his trust, and Bob became attached to Sam. Soon she began to look for a home for them together, and they found it here.

Bob and Sam were the guardians still when I started working at the dairy. Sam was a sweet fluffy friend, though Bob, still quite shy and wary at the time, made even me rather nervous. Unsurprisingly, Steven made friends with Bob right away, even rolling him over to rub his belly. As our time on the farm increased, I made friends with Bob as well, and he’d give his big welcoming smile whenever he saw us.

Those two reigned for years together, but soon Sam began to slow down. He preferred sleeping inside the house where the air conditioner was to being in the barn. He was ready to retire and it was time to find some young dogs to train. A short time later, he would pass away, leaving a little hole in the farm. I knew another goat breeder who had a litter of Great Pyrenees/Akbash crosses, so I reached out and secured two female pups for the farm. Traded a really nice Nigerian Dwarf doe to get them!

Shortly before they arrived, I spotted an Anatolian puppy looking for a home on the local Facebook swap page. I figured if I was going to do all the work training two pups, it might as well be three pups, so we whisked her home and my husband dubbed her Zeni for her totally zen-like attitude. Several days later two absolutely adorable fluffy white puppies arrived to join her, and to join in the theme started by Zeni, were named Zarah and Zofie. The Z-Team was born.

The two Great Pyrenees/Akbash cross girls looked extremely similar as pups, except that one – Zarah – was larger. While I was working with them, I ended up calling them Big Z and Lil Z, which has stuck so hard that they’re much more commonly known by their nicknames than their actual names now.

It’s a common misconception that Livestock Guardian Dogs need minimal to no training and “naturally” know what to do. Many a new owner has simply plopped their new pups into the pasture with the goats and let them sort it out. That wouldn’t do for our animals of course – if there is one type of animal that I have even more experience with than goats, it’s our common canine friends. I have had much success training and handling working dogs of many breeds over the year, and bringing up three LGD pups at once was a delightful challenge I took head-on. Another common myth is that these dogs are meant to completely independent, with minimal human contact – it’s even discouraged by some goat keepers, which is wrong! Livestock guardians were bred to work alongside the shepherd – they need our support just as we do theirs. So I took their training very seriously from day one.

The most important thing for any LGD is boundaries. There is an untold number of “lost” guardian dogs in shelters, because they wandered out of bounds. These dogs were developed to roam a large territory – and defend it. It’s incredibly important that they know where their territory ends. So the first thing I did – before even introducing them to the goat herd – was to take them for a long walk. Accompanied by Ana the Chinese Crested, and sometimes by Bob himself, the puppies and I gamboled along the fence lines of the big pastures. We took breaks to swim in the ponds and to explore exciting places, making it fun, while at the same time they were learning – and wearing themselves out! A tired dog is a content dog.

Once they were good and tired, then we went into the goat pen. The goats were horrified – more dogs? The pups had to tolerate some rude headbutting and threatening, but they all took it in stride, pressing forward to plant happy kisses on goat noses. We ended on a good note and the pups returned to their own kennel to sleep off the exciting day.

We repeated that for another week, regardless of the weather, and once I felt confident that the pups would not wander away or try to escape, they were moved to the goat pasture permanently. That’s not to say their training was over – far from it! As they grew and became larger at an astonishing rate, they had to be supervised in their interactions with the goats, especially the younger small ones. Playing with the goats had to be discouraged and redirected – goats are not playthings and don’t appreciate a game of chase or ear nipping. The great thing about having three young dogs at once is that they were able to expend excess energy playing with one another instead, and they learned quickly to not include the goats in such play – although even now they sometimes need reminders!

I had help as well – if they became too rambunctious, they were corrected not just by me, but by Ana or Bob, both of which they adored. This became invaluable when the pups experienced their first kidding season. Placenta is a very tempting treat, but I had to be very firm about not allowing them to attempt to take it from the goats before it had passed completely. Without Bob it would have been much harder – he aggressively punished them for bothering the does, and they learned quickly that they had to wait until they found an afterbirth on the ground to enjoy it. I admit I was wary that they would also eat stillborn kids before I found them, but the opposite was true. More than once the dogs brought me a stillborn kid gently, and in situations where a mother had walked away from her newborns, they laid nearby or even licked the babies clean, protecting them. These girls were naturals.

Before long, the entire Z-Team settled into their roles. Zeni became the “Hunter” of the pack – when the herd is out, it’s Zeni who is actively searching the nearby brush, and it’s Zeni who inevitably drives out the snakes or other animals she discovers. Big Z became the “Attacker” – she is always nearby, placed at an opportune position to run in and assist Zeni when she finds a potential danger, and she is the first at the gate to warn us of visitors to the farm. Lil Z, the most people shy and wary of the three, settled into the position of “Guardian” – she is always with the goats, hidden among them, ready to defend them at any moment.

Who could ask for a better set of dogs?

If you were to ask me my favorite animal, you would not be surprised when I answered goats. However, that answer is only correct because I consider the domestic dog on a level above “animal.” Dogs are our companions, our partners, our co-workers, our friends. When handled properly and trained as they should be, there is simply nothing more valuable than a good dog.

I have lived a life full of canines, from tiny Chihuahuas to actual wolves, coyotes and breed types of all kinds. I have participated in everything from Canine Good Citizen (and passing the test with wolfdogs, no less) to Agility and even dabbled in protection training with German Shepherd Dogs. And despite all of the very exciting and successful things I have done over the years, I will stand firm when I say that the Z-Team represent the finest working dogs I have brought up.

 

2018 Kidding Season Statistics

At long last, our 2018 kidding season has come to an end. No more kids are expected this year, so I thought it would be fun to sit down and do a run down of this year’s stats, similar to what I did last year (on Facebook) but more in depth. So let’s get to it.

Last year I scheduled 107 does to be bred to 6 bucks. This was easily our most ambitious season. My breeding plans for the previous season show 92 does were scheduled to be bred, and the year before, 91. We used 6 different bucks, 2 for the La Mancha & Standards (Marty & Nobby) and four for the Nigerian Dwarf & Mini Mancha (Forest, Arby, Twister, & Oreo), plus 2 outside breedings. For the season before I used 2 La Mancha bucks and 1 Nigerian Dwarf buck, and for the 2016 season I used 1 La Mancha buck and 2 Nigerian Dwarf bucks.

2 does slipped their pregnancies. (Oddball & Penny) With a herd our size, it’s inevitable that some will slip their pregnancies, and it was two of our new ladies this year. Both slipped just a couple months into their pregnancies, and I decided to leave them open for the season, as breeding had already mostly ended.

1 doe passed away while pregnant. (Mocha) This was a very unfortunate loss. Not only was she very popular both on and off the farm, Mocha was carrying kids from an outside buck, so very disappointing on the whole.

8 does did not settle. (Avalanche, Connie, Dazzle, Fennel, Glitch, Mouse, Sunset Strip, and Suri) Sunset Strip and Suri are repeat offenders unfortunately, so I was not surprised. Avalanche raised twin doelings last year so her vacation is only mildly resented. Glitch and Mouse would have been first fresheners, and will get another shot this fall. Not so pleased with Fennel and Connie, who are now becoming over-conditioned since they aren’t producing. Dazzle unfortunately recycled over and over despite my best efforts, so I will be using some hormonal assistance this next season in an effort to get her back on track and settled.

1 doe was sold bred and kidded in her new home. (Sea Salt) I almost never sell bred does, but this was a special case where she was going to another experienced keeper. She had a nice set of triplets in her new home I believe. None of the following statistics include her – all statistics only apply to kids born on the property.

1 doe was purchased bred and kidded here. (Ivy) Just like I rarely sell bred does, I rarely buy them (especially so late in a pregnancy) but Ivy didn’t bat an eyelash and delivered big healthy triplet doelings almost exactly a week after arriving. She and her kids are included in following statistics.

1 doe kidded prematurely. (Witchcraft) I was sorely disappointed when Witchcraft delivered four stillborn premature kids. I suspect she was hit by another doe, and unfortunately none of her kids were viable.

The season opened on December 31st, 2017. While Witchcraft unfortunately lost her kids earlier in the month (December 25th) I do not consider the season officially opened until Sunshine produced the first viable kids. Seems those triplets just couldn’t wait for the New Year.

The season closed on April 24th, 2018. As usual, Sweet Teaz waited until breeding season was well over to cycle. She was bred once to Marty, after which she walked away unconcerned with further intimacy. This is par for course, as my records show she kidded last season on May 23rd, a full month after everyone else, and she also ended the 2016 season, on May 15th. I suppose I should be grateful she conceded to being bred for April this year.

We had a total of 215 kids hit the ground out of 96 does. Last season we produced 193 kids out of 86 does, and in 2016, 173 kids. I unfortunately don’t have the number of does that kidded easily accessible for 2016 (and don’t really want to count manually).

There were 106 Doelings & 109 Bucklings. Bucklings come out on top, as they often do, but it’s hard to complain about a nearly 50/50 ratio. Last year there were 108 Bucklings and 85 Doelings.

There were 11 stillborn kids. I am very pleased with the rate of viable kids this year. Note that this number includes Witchcraft’s four premature kids. We did lose 3 kids that drowned in the sacks as well, which is always terribly frustrating to have happen. This happens more often in high multiple births, where the kids are smaller and less likely to break the amniotic sack on their own and the mother is overwhelmed (or inexperienced) and does not open it either.

1 doe died due to delivery related complications. (Onzie) Unfortunately I have to plan to lose one or two does each kidding season. Giving birth is a dangerous thing to do, and often an older doe that looks very good for breeding season may not be as strong as I expected after birthing, so losses are a real part of kidding season. This year’s loss was a younger doe however, who unfortunately ruptured her uterus and bled out internally. Her triplets survived, and one remains in the herd.

The average length of gestation for the La Mancha was 147 days. I’ve noticed that the standard size does will tend to carry their offspring much closer to the 150 due date than the miniatures do. No doubt the higher rate of multiples in the smaller goats plays a part. Regardless, many of the La Mancha went all the way to 150 days, with the does kidding earliest at 144 days, and the longest gestations being 151 days.

The average length of gestation for the Nigerian Dwarf was 143 days. Note that this statistic is for viable kids, and so does not include Witchcraft’s premature stillborns. As usual, the Nigerian Dwarf on the whole kid much earlier in their gestation, so much so that I mark their due date at 145 days, as opposed to the standard breeds where I continue to use the accepted 150 days. The earliest kiddings took place at 142 days, while the longest gestation belongs firmly to Moony, who went an astonishing 154 days (the longest gestation of the year) before delivering gigantic triplet doelings.

The average length of gestation for the Miniature La Mancha was 147 days. Interestingly enough, even though the does I label as Mini Manchas are much closer in size to their Nigerian Dwarf parents, they tend to carry their offspring for the same length of time as their La Mancha parents. The longest gestation was 152 days by one of our larger “Minis” (who should honestly be in the standard category, now that I look at this list again), and 142 days for the shortest.

There were 24 Singles, 39 sets of Twins, 20 sets of Triplets, 12 sets of Quadruplets, and 1 set of Quintuplets. Twins reigned supreme this year, and we had more single births than I have become used to. Not that I am complaining – give me a big set of twins or a big doeling over smaller litters any day. But our girls do what they do, and it was Minx who produced a set of Quintuplets this year. As usual, it’s the Nigerian Dwarf producing the high multiples, but don’t count out the standard breeds – many produced triplets and one set of quads came from their camp as well. Last year there were 16 singles, 41 sets of twins, 17 sets of triplets, 8 sets of quadruplets, and 2 quintuplet births.

We retained 49 kids. This includes 24 La Mancha doelings, 3 Nubian doelings, 14 Nigerian Dwarf doelings, 5 La Mancha bucklings, 1 Nigerian Dwarf buckling, and 2 Nigerian Dwarf wethers.

We brought in 4 kids. This includes 3 Nubian doelings and 1 Nigerian Dwarf buckling. This brings us to 53 total kids on the property – this is a real year for growth, though of course, some will not pass my strict criteria as they grow and will move onto new homes over the next couple of years.

All in all, a really good season. It’s quite probable our next season may be even bigger, which reminds me that it’s now time to turn my attention to planning breeding. A goat keeper’s job is never ending!

Difficult Kiddings

Everyone who knows me knows what my favorite time of year is – kidding season! There’s a lot to love about it – newborn goats, happy loving mothers, the excitement of seeing what years of work has produced. However, for all the good bits, kidding season is absolutely the most difficult time of year.

It’s exhausting – you work all hours, every single day. It’s draining – you’re continuously dirty and on your feet. And it’s heartbreaking – the act of labor and birth is dangerous and it doesn’t always go the way you’d want it too.

I’ve told some kidding stories before, for example Bumble’s birth, which was difficult and frightening, though it had a happy ending. Just recently I shared a fun story about bringing a doe inside to kid. Some ways back, there is a story of delivering my first set of quints during my first season on the dairy. Through the years, I’ve experienced so many kiddings that I’ve gained quite a few interesting little tales, so I thought I would share some of the difficult kiddings with you.

A very early kidding that sticks out in my mind is my first giant single buckling that needed to really be pulled. The doe was an undersized Nubian, and she just couldn’t push that boy out. Thankfully she got him through her hips, so he could come out, but she needed help to get him all the way. It was the first time I’d had to pull so hard on a kid, and I was terrified I would rip out his legs or rip the doe in half. Thankfully, all ended very well and once he was out, he jumped to his feet and begged to nurse.

Compared to the Nigerian Dwarf, the La Mancha have far fewer issues during kidding, but they are definitely not immune to dystocia. When the late Nissa was ready to give birth, I watched her get up and down several times, push, then she seemed to rethink the whole process and actually went to sleep. Concerned, I decided to do an internal check – I have come to know now that a doe that gets up and down over and over often has a kid badly positioned. Sure enough the only thing I could find was a big blockage. Exploring a little further, I realized what I had – a kid sideways, blocking the canal (it was the rib cage I could feel across the opening to the canal), with another kid t-boning her headfirst, preventing the breech kid from shifting. It took some wrangling to get them straightened out – I had to push the second kid back before slowly shifting the first kid sideways until I had to hind legs. Taking hold of those, she slid right out easily, and the second followed up impatiently. They were fine once they were out, and we dubbed them Traffic Jam and Citation.

A similar instance happened with one of my favorite does, Stormy. She delivered three kids without much issue, but when I palpated her stomach after those three, there was clearly another kid – a large one. An internal check found the same problem – an immense wall of flesh with seemingly no end. This one was very stressful – the kid was so huge I was worried the entire time I was slowly shifting him around, and I eased him very carefully out of the canal once I’d straightened him out. Alas, the kid was dead by the time I succeeded. He was twice the size of his three siblings, a real titan of a buckling.

Only once in my career (knock on wood) have I been unable to get a kid out. The doe was a very dainty yearling, bred too early. She had a single buck, and though she forced his massive forelegs out, when I felt inside, I could tell this was an incredibly large kid. I got his nose lined up properly and gave it a try, but it was quickly apparent he was not going to fit through her hips. He was still alive, so I sent her to the vet’s, where they performed a cesarean section on her. Both survived the surgery, and the buckling, though a little swollen from being squeezed in utero so hard, recovered fully. Sadly the doe, despite being bright and alert after surgery, passed away the next morning.

Sometimes an older doe who looks great during breeding season can just not keep up with the demands of kids in her aging body and when the time comes to labor, they struggle to find the energy and run a higher risk of ketosis and other metabolic issues. One sweet old lady named Jojo was obviously ready to kid, but labor just would not start. With a little medicinal encouragement, we slowly got the process started, but Jojo just would not push. She laid there, oblivious to the fact that her cervix was open and she needed to get her kids out. In the end, I went in and slowly extracted each kid myself. Not once did the doe push, and her muscle tone was slack and loose the entire time. I succeeded in producing three live squeaky kids, and Jojo’s lightbulb finally turned on. She passed the placenta with no issue, and adopted and raised another kid and lived several more years before her natural end – and even secretly kidded twins years into retirement, the naughty girl.

Though this year isn’t over just yet, there haven’t been too many exciting stories from it – birthings have gone smoothly and easily, with very little need for interference. There were a couple of kids with their heads turned back, which are always a pain to straighten out. Mandarin, a hefty Mini Mancha, attempted to deliver two kids at once, presenting with hind feet. I gently traced along the legs until I sorted out which went to which, and pushed the bigger kid back a little. The smaller kid shot out immediately, and two siblings followed. Almost too easy!

The most exciting – and terrifying – delivery of the year was not even a doe from our farm. I have made many goat friends in the area, and sometimes they turn to me for help when they need it. When I received a message about a doe in stalled labor that needed help at 9:30 one night, I didn’t hesitate – I told them to load her up and bring her over. I turned on the dairy parlor lights and put on a heater (it was cold!) and got my supplies ready. The doe arrived and we brought her in. Her little canal was so tiny that I wasn’t even sure I could get into her. I could feel the hard point of a kid – a hock I soon discovered. Once I’d eased my way in, I was able to hook a finger around the joint and gently slide the leg into the canal. With a little tug, a tiny underdeveloped buckling came out. He took a couple gasping breaths, but despite our best efforts, he died quickly.

I could clearly palpate another kid in the doe, but when I swept the uterus, all I could feel was a massive placenta. A goat has two “horns” to her uterus – two pockets, so to speak. Kids can be in either horn, and there are often kids in both. But I could not find the entrance to the second horn. I was getting nervous as this point, the doe was standing quietly, moaning and shivering, and her owner held her gently as I worked. Finally, underneath the placenta, I found the second horn, and there was definitely a kid within. Something was absolutely wrong with this kid, I could tell from the moment my fingers touched it. It took several minutes of positioning and tugging at it to even get it to the entrance. It was so bloated and decayed that the skin pulled free from the flesh as I maneuvered it through the canal.

When the dead kid’s cord broke while still inside, the doe gushed blood all over the floor. I was horrified, certain her uterus had torn – a certain death sentence, but I knew too that it was possibly from the kid itself, or its umbilical cord to the placenta, which can bleed heavily when severed. I finally pulled free the dead kid – its head was deformed and it had obviously died some days ago and began to decompose. It’s quite probably that this kid had caused the doe to go into labor before she was ready. I quickly wrapped it up in towels and treated the doe with everything I could think of to keep her strong and pull her through such a difficult firth birthing. I’m pleased to say that she recovered and seems to be no worse for the wear now, a month or so later.

Kidding, especially in the numbers we do, is exhausting. It’s both physically and mentally draining. We do not take any days off, and are often up late at night to help one doe and early the next morning to help another. Kids need to be cared for, fed, disbudded, vaccinated. Moms need their own medicines and hoof trimmings, and we also begin to train the first timers to be milked. Of course, regular chores don’t stop just because we’re busy with kidding! There is still hay to be unloaded, feeders to be filled, buckets to be scrubbed – the list is endless. When you’re exhausted and a highly anticipated set of kids arrives stillborn or you lose a doe, it can push you to the edge of goat keeping.

The rewards are what keep you playing the great goat game. For any bad that happens, there are beautiful newborn kids that thrive and bounce across the barn to lighten your heart. These new little lives were created by you, and for me especially, represent years of planning and thought. They are my new little friends, and their futures are bright with possibility.

The Goat that Held a Grudge

As we all know, most animals aren’t really capable of holding grudges, but I know at least one goat who is excellent at it.

Mudslide was already an adult when I came to the dairy, one of the only goats sporting a set of full horns. The story went that as a baby, she was mistaken for a buckling, and by the time it was discovered, her horns were too well grown to disbud, so she kept them.

While some folks prefer horns on their goats, we are decidedly anti-horn for a multitude of reasons, and when Mudslide broke the hip of another goat, a decision had to be made.

Sell her, or remove her horns.

Now, I have removed the horns on several adult goats. It’s usually done using the same bands one would use the castrate male goats, placed around the base of the horn and left to slowly constrict and stop blood flow to the horn, until it finally comes loose. It’s an unpleasant way of doing things, I would much rather disbud a kid than band an adult’s horns, but sometimes it must be done. Surgery to remove horns can be done, but is unfortunately quite risky as goats do not handle anesthesia very well.

The last goat I’d done was a nice little Pygmy mix who made it through the procedure with flying colors, leaving a nice head. Not so successful was a big Nubian mix, who I did too early – the horns continued to grow, and though one came off perfectly, the second left quite an impressive knob that stands on her head to this day. I keep telling myself to take it off, but it’s one of those chores that gets pushed back over and over again. However, horns are truly a ticking time bomb – I’ve learned that lesson over and over. When another doe with horns got herself caught up when out browsing, I knew it was time to decide.

Mudslide was queen of the herd at the time – those thick horns gave her an advantage none of the other goats could hope to match. I’ll never forget how Mudslide would stand at the dairy door with a several foot radius around her – no other goat dared to go in until Mudslide had, and she guarded her privilege fiercely. I knew from experience that taking away her horns would change her entire perspective, and I was regretful of that, but it had to be done. As much as I dislike to do it, I’ve yet to regret removing a goat’s horns – but I have regretted more than once not doing so.

So when the day came, I put Mudslide on the milkstand and I carefully put the bands around the base of her horns, wrapping them with tape afterward to protect it. Within hours, you could tell she was uncomfortable, and as the days went by, I watched her position slip further and further as she could no longer use her horns to be an aggressor. However the banding went as perfectly as one could hope for – slower is better, as there is a hole that leads to the sinus cavity beneath the horn, and it needs time to heal over before the horn comes off. Eventually they dropped from her head within days of each other. I found the first horn in the barn, and the second one of the dogs brought to the house, where I confiscated it.

Mudslide no doubt had a terrible headache and her position remained low for several weeks, as to be expected. What I didn’t expect was her change in attitude towards me. Mudslide has always been a very friendly doe with people and never had any issues being caught or handled. But after I banded her horns, I could no longer touch her. While others could pat her, Mudslide shied away from my hands. She’d kick at me on the milkstand, stamping her hind feet in protest if I was milking. Catching her for any reason meant a chase, and she’d squirm and complain once I’d caught her.

More than once I’d catch her glaring at me from a distance, warily watching my every move. Where every other goat had quickly forgotten and forgiven, Mudslide knew I had caused this discomfort. She knew I was responsible not just for the loss of her coveted horns, but her loss in position. I’d never seen a goat hold such a grudge before.

As her head healed, Mudslide’s attitude healed with it. Before long she was fighting her way back to the top, and the other goats clearly remembered her reign of terror and gave way. Soon enough she was top of the Mini Manchas once more, where she still remains. But she hasn’t forgotten.

Years later we have a decent relationship, after lots of work and treats. I’m allowed to touch her nose or milk her without troubles, but I can always see that glint of distrust as she moves out of my reach anytime she thinks I want to catch her. I regret this distance between us, but I don’t regret what I did – the few goats with horns that were left on the farm are gone now, as Mudslide would have been if I didn’t remove her weapons. I’d rather have a grumpy Mudslide than no Mudslide at all. Both of her horns are still on my desk to this day, a reminder of what a warrior she once was.

For the rest of my life I’ll remember the goat that was smart enough to connect me to what she went through; the goat who held a grudge.

Back Bedroom Babies

Today we were pleased to welcome the first kids of the 2018 season (they couldn’t wait for the New Year!) with a pretty brutal cold front rolling in, so it seemed like a great time to share the story of having babies right in a bedroom of our home.

Early in our goat days, we had just moved to a little farm in an obscure town in Texas. Our home was a “fixer upper” with its share of problems, and we were pretty unprepared when we had a nasty cold snap roll in. At the time, I’d severely cut our herd down, leaving us with just two does – Hope and a sweet little doe named Rudy. Hope was due to kid any day, and our temporary goat shelter was far from adequate for newborn kids. I was fraught with worry – we had to find a solution, and quickly.

The next morning ice was hanging from our kitchen faucet and the two does were huddled in their little doghouse, so I made a decision. The back room in our home was only used for storage, so I sent my husband to town to pick up tarps and shavings. I moved out the dusty boxes, and we spread the tarps out on the floor and then covered them with shavings. Hope and Rudy came inside without hesitation and we walked them to the back room and gave them hay and water. They seemed to like their new digs, peering out the window with interest and making little nests in the shavings. I for one was delighted with how easy it was to check on them, and half of me wished I could turn the room into a permanent goat stall – but we all know that keeping goats inside long term is a bad idea!

Hope, a very smart doe, apparently enjoyed it too and decided to hold onto her babies a little longer. She and Rudy sat in the back bedroom in comfort as our pipes all froze in the wretched cold, then cracked and burst. They gleefully drank expensive bottled water from their bucket as we wriggled underneath the house, pulling out old brittle pipes and replacing it with new.

When the sun returned and began to thaw out our frozen little farm, Hope finally went into labor.

Her two little boys came quickly and without issue – Hope was always a very good birther and mother. Cute as buttons, they looked exactly like her first set of kids with me, and it wasn’t long before they were up and bouncing around in the shavings.

A few days later, all the pipes were replaced and delivering water once more, and Hope’s babies were strong enough to go outside for the first time. Hope and Rudy reluctantly left the back room, clip-clopping down the hallway and out the back door, the two bucklings dancing along behind them making little squeaks of happiness.

Those two little boys were like a bright ray of sunshine on our farm, and when they were old enough, they went to an amazing home as pets, and I was able to keep up with them and their adventures for many years – at one point they even came back and stayed for a time while their owner was on vacation.

Hope was an amazing goat and she lives on in my memories of little adventures like this. She taught me so much, and her granddaughter Minx has so much of her personality. I still miss her, but her bloodline will live on as long as I can keep it going – let’s “hope” Minx gives us the next generation this year.

Happy New Year my friends – I hope you’re looking forward to all the new adventures that 2018 will bring as much as I am.

Five Years

The first thing I want to say in this post is that it’s more of a personal blog post, not one about the goats so much themselves, though of course they have their place within. Please feel free to skip it and wait for the next goat story if you like!

It’s been five years since our home burned down just before Christmas in 2012. I felt like I am ready to talk a little bit about the years that followed, and the changes in my life, because they’re pretty big changes. Of course, to understand them properly, I need to talk a little bit about what my life was like before the fire.

Life was really different then. Through a mix of stubbornness and hardwork, my husband and I bought a little “fixer-upper” house on three acres in a tiny town in Texas. The house was way more than we could handle, as we’d find out, but livable, so we scraped along. We had our little goat herd, and a couple ponies, and a variety of poultry. Our dog pack was big, filled with all manner of dogs, all of them as dearly loved as pets can be. Especially the oldest two, who had been with Steven and I since before we were married, and were at our sides through some of the most difficult times we experienced.

At the time the only work I had was what freelance work I could pick up on the Internet. I built websites, wrote code, painted models – whatever I could do to pay for my animal’s feed. I have always been very good at making ends meet and finding solutions where there don’t appear to be any. So we lived well enough honestly, even if our home was not very attractive. I spent a great deal of time on the Internet, just as I do now, but my actual life outside of the computer was very different.

I unfortunately live with a number of health problems that affect my everyday life. For a long time I would ignore issues until they began a major incident, only to repeat the cycle. Depression is a hard horse to ride, and I was no different nor stronger than many like me, who give in and let it run their life. I had no “spark” then. I just lived through each day, only getting up because the animals needed me. I’d sit in my chair and brood over wrong doings from the past, and online I was more confrontational and aggressive in debates. I would blow up at my dear husband for ridiculous reasons, leading to fights that left us both heartbroken and angry. My physical health suffered terribly as well, both from the stress and from preexisting conditions, and I let some of those build up so badly that they can never really be repaired. I just lived with it. There were days the pain from something or other was so bad I would pace back and forth, wishing for death.

I am a stubborn creature, even now I think. So we continued to live. When I met Honey Doe Farm, I remember wishing that I could make a living out of the goats. For now they paid a little bit of their keep with kids, but for the most part they were a money pit I worked hours online to pay for. When the farm owners invited me to come help butcher turkeys, I was delighted. I knew how bad I had become – I knew my life as it was was unhealthy and destructive. A part of me desperately wanted to find a better balance, and new friends that offered work that could help ease some of the burden was a great start. From there I started working more and more with HDF, selling goats for them, coming out to help with chores, and our relationship began to really grow. As I watched the dairy being built, I couldn’t help but try to casually mention a couple times that I “knew someone who would love to work here.”

Steven worked in management at a grocery store 40 minutes away, which meant I was alone most of the time. Our neighborhood wasn’t very good – there were drive-by shootings, stabbings, and unfriendly neighbors everywhere one looked. It was very nerve-wracking to be alone all the time, in what felt like a very open vulnerable area. HDF had been very receptive to the idea of us continuing to work there, but there was another obstacle – being visually impaired, I cannot drive. And honestly in my opinion, someone in charge of so many animals needs to be much closer to be effective in caring properly for them. I floated the idea of moving to the dairy with the farm owners during one of our get togethers, and they jumped at the idea! I was so excited. We began to work on an apartment for us to live in, and at home we packed up in preparation. It was slow going, we didn’t feel the need to rush. Towards the end, we loaded up the goats and moved them to the dairy first, which was tough to do, trust me! Later I would be eternally grateful that we moved them so soon.

The day our home burned to the ground I was at HDF. We were doing copper bolusing and vaccinating the pregnant does. It was a great day! When Steven got off work, he came to pick me up and Francine (one of the farm owners) said I could go home, but I insisted on staying – I wanted to help them finish. You can’t help but wonder how things would have changed if I had gone home on time… but I do my best to never dwell on that. How could I have known?

The neighbors called when we were on our way home. The rest of the ride was spent in terror, and we could see the inferno of our home as we made our way down the bumpy dirt road. I knew right away my dogs were gone. Our cats too, mostly likely. I remembered with horror that one of the ponies had been stalled right up against the house. I’ll never forget standing in my front yard watching the fire dance merrily in the night, destroying everything I’d managed to hold onto through the years. Everything we’d worked for. Everything.

Neighbors we knew well took us home and fed us – and gave us a few drinks – and a place to sleep off the shock. How I cried that night. My babies were gone. Killed in the most horrible manner. Alone, terrified. To this day I cannot think of them for long, nor speak of them. Even now I can’t stop myself from crying, I can feel the iron grip of grief on my chest, and so I will move on.

The ponies survived – the mustang tore the fencing down and took his friends with him. Neighbors caught them and put them in a pasture for safekeeping. Many of our poultry were not so lucky, and those that survived I gave to one of the helpful neighbors. HDF showed up shortly afterward and met us at the ruin of our home. We picked through the remains, taking what we could. Only one thing actually came out of the house itself – a clay turtle my father gave me years ago. We pulled down fencing to take back to the dairy. As we walked around, one of our two cats came over, unharmed but shivering. The other cat was no where to be seen, but my husband would find her in the rubble a week later and brought her to the dairy.

We moved to the dairy that night. Friends showed up with their trailer and the ponies, bless them, loaded up while wearing just bits of string and rope, in pitch darkness no less, onto a strange huge trailer. That night as we sat with the Honey Doe Farm family, the entire world felt surreal.

Little did I know the entire world was rallying behind me online, and oh how they rallied. People were generous in their donations to get us back on our feet, though I felt very strange about the entire thing. To this day, we most certainly still use much of what was donated, and I often think of the person if I know who it was. Many people sent us beautiful cards, and I kept every one and saved them in a box.

The fire caused a year long bout of depression where I felt completely detached from the world. I could not stop thinking of everything that could not be replaced – I still think of some of those items often. I would break down and cry while working if no one was around, and more than once I couldn’t control myself and broke down in front of the farm owners. I can’t even begin to describe how amazing HDF was handling the aftermath of the entire ordeal. They opened their home to our without question. They were taking a huge chance on this budding partnership just as we were, and instead of getting the fairly stable couple we had promised, they ended up with two severely damaged and shell-shocked people. We had some bumps in the road, but in the end I think we all feel very secure and comfortable as a family. I cannot express the appreciation and gratitude I have for them all. For everyone, in fact, who stood up underneath us to lift us up when we were at the lowest point in lives full of low points.

So all of that talking to get to the actual subject I was going for! I hope you can forgive all the rambling.

While the fire will remain as one of most of the awful things that has ever happened, there can be no denying that it played a part in the change in my life, though the dairy itself is the true catalyst. When I came to the dairy, I was quite unhealthy. I went from caring to a handful of goats to over a hundred overnight, and it was like jumping headfirst into ice cold water. Kidding season came before the smell of smoke had even faded from my jacket, and I buried myself in it, using it to block out the endless internal blackhole that swallowed all of my emotions besides grief. More than once I worked myself to exhaustion and then just cried for hours, as quietly as I could so not to upset anyone else in the house. I had no muscle mass whatsoever on my body and I struggled desperately with the hay chore. I slowly began to learn the goats on a personal level, and I began to take over milkings within the dairy.

The changes that came were gradual, as all good things tend to be. Slowly I gained stamina and strength in my work. The farm helped me get to doctors to handle some of my more serious health issues. I began to use medication to control others. I found myself softening as I drove home the thought that happiness was a choice into my head. Often I would stop and look at where I was and remind myself, this is your goal. You achieved it. You are allowed to be happy. Over and over I pushed myself into putting a smile on, into thinking good thoughts. I looked deeper at everything until I saw the beauty in it, no matter what it was. I found new hobbies in photography and video editing.

I found more confidence as the months drifted by and I gained a stronger footing not just on the farm, but in our goat community. People began to ask my advice, which to this day often feels a bit strange, though I am always happy to help. People even stopped at the farm’s gate to ask me a question, and would tell me someone else had recommended me to them; that I would help them and answer questions about their goats. It made me feel happy when someone liked my photos, or told me how I had helped them. And I deserved to feel happy.

So I turned everything around and I did my best to be the person I wanted to be. I certainly was not – and am not! – perfect at it, but every effort makes a difference. As time went by, it became second nature to just… well, be me! Many a person has called me entirely too nice for my own good, and it’s true, perhaps being so patient has led me into troublesome spots, but I will always rather be the person I am now than what I was once.

The goats have changed my life. Before the goats I was filled with darkness I couldn’t defeat. Now their noses brush against my fingers and their breath blows it away like so much chaff in the wind. Though I have been “good” at many things in my life, only with goats has the key fit perfectly in the lock. Dozens of other hobbies have I picked up, enjoyed, grown bored of, and put back down again, but the goats are always there in the morning, and the hunger to know more about them has never even come close to be sated. The feel of a newborn kid squirming in my hands will always fill my heart, which was once cold and painful, with enough warmth to get me through any winter. Only with goats do I stand with confidence denied me through out the rest of my life, and they stand beside me and pull out my pockets, looking for the treat they know is there. Because of the goats, I have done what was impossible before.

No, my life isn’t perfect, and every day I still fight against demons that will always belong to me, but my life is good. Goats gave me freedom. Goats gave me my life back.

Pinky’s Overnight Adventure

Most of you know Pinky, but if not, let me introduce you! Pinky is the last of the toxoplasmosis infected babies. She had a very rough start to life, developing a terrible infection in her eyes and possibly brain as a newborn, needing round the clock care. She not only survived, but is thriving now!

Unfortunately, the viral illness did take most if not all of her sight, but Pinky has never let that stop her. The bigger she gets, the naughtier she gets I think sometimes! Having lived much of her early life inside the house, she is quite certain that the world was made just for her.

As Pinky got older, we started letting her go outside to browse under supervision. She became harness trained in no time, and even visited Tractor Supply to pick out a brand new harness! Everyone fell in love with Pinky hard, and we all are dedicated to her lifelong care, even if keeping track of a blind goat can sometimes be a challenge!

Pinky’s adventure started out innocently enough. She was in the front yard, picking at grass happily like always. As we all know so well, it’s so terribly easy to become distracted and complacent! Pinky has always stuck very close to the house where she is familiar with her surroundings, but one evening, as we became busy with chores and milking, Pinky decided that wandering off into the big pastures and forest just seemed like a great idea!

By the time we noticed, darkness was closing in, and Pinky didn’t respond to our calls. Normally when she becomes lost and confused, she begins to circle and call, helping us to pinpoint her location. We walked out, calling for her, but silence only answered between the crickets chirping in the long grass. Sick with anxiety, we were forced to call off the search before long and returned home, with plans to go back out as soon as there was light enough to see again.

Morning milking was rushed through and as soon as it was finished, we trotted out to look for our little adventurer once more. We had around 25 acres of mixed pasture and forest that she could be on now – I tried not to worry too much about predators; thanks to the Z-Team, most wild hunters give our property a wide berth now. We followed the main goat paths, calling for little Pinky, but as the minutes grew longer with no response, our concern only grew. It would break the entire farm’s heart to lose Pinky.

After some time I stopped and stood for a while just to think. I knew I could go back and fetch Apple the pony and cover more ground, and decided if we didn’t find Pinky soon, that is what I would do. I took a moment to think more like a goat – where would I be if I was a goat? A blind lost goat?

I would go to water, which animals can locate by smell. But Pinky was no where near the main ponds in the pasture, where she had often grazed before under supervision. I retraced paths I know the goats take well, considering the options. Luckily, I spend a great deal of time out with the goat herd and know the property fairly well. I knew there was another pond in a forested area, just an oversized puddle really, shadowed by trees and sheltered in a hollow with fairly steep sides all around. I split off from the others to check that area, calling for Pinky as I went.

She didn’t answer, but I spotted her bright little face peering upwards at me as soon as I reached the edge of the trees. “Pinky!” I shouted, leaping down to the water’s edge to scoop her up (Oof, she’d gotten heavy by that point) and bring her back to the pasture. “I found her!” I called out in relief as Pinky nosed at my cheek, as if to ask what took so long. She was no worse for wear despite her long night all alone in the forest.

I put her down once we joined up with the others and we patted and made a fuss over her, scolding the little goat for making us all worry and search. She was thrilled with the attention and began to beg for treats, searching eagerly for our pockets. Relieved, we were able to laugh now and we took Pinky home to be spoiled a little extra.

Needless to say, Pinky no longer browses without the GPS tag attached to her harness, though her browsing hours are few these days. Now she spends most of her time with the kids, relearning what it’s like to be a goat, and she loves it. It’s amazing to see her boss around the others, and even more astounding to see the other kids adjust their own behavior to suit Pinky’s disability.

No matter what happens, Pinky will be cared for and loved for her entire life, and I can’t help but wonder as I bend over to pet her and she looks up at me with her smug little expression, if she’s thinking about the time she had an exciting overnight adventure all on her own.

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.