According to several experienced goat-y friends we have around here, we have experienced more unplanned and unwelcomed goat-related adventures in the last couple months, than most of them have experienced in all their caprine-raising years.
So, this week, we experienced some crazy adventures with the neighbor’s bull (read here and here for details). What I didn’t mention was that the same day as Part 2 happened, one of the neighbor’s does came into heat (the same neighbor who owned the bull). Now this is a big problem for us. Ever since our Alpine buck, Stallion, learned to jump his fence a month or so ago, I have taken precautions to prevent him from doing so again. I re-configured his hotwire, did some “training” (if that’s what you want to call it), and worked with the neighbor to keep him under control. One of the problems was that the neighbor had bartered with us a while back to breed her does in exchange for storing our hay in their barn. It seemed like a good deal at the time. After the first doe was bred, however, Stallion realized they existed over there, and they realized he was over here. That wasn’t necessarily a good thing. Nonetheless, we always made it work. We would either keep the cycling doe with Stallion for the whole day (until he calmed down and got off his testoterone “high”), or they would lock the doe in their barn to keep her from crying out to him. It worked for the most part. The sad part, however, was that, due to his antics, S had decided that we should sell Stallion. Someone bought him almost right away, but were planning to pick him up on Christmas eve.
Well, Friday mid-morning, I was outside working in my pasture, and heard one of their does screaming. I walked over to the fence to check on things. Her doe was looking for Stallion, flagging her tail, and obviously in standing heat. I knew it was a doe they had really been hoping to breed, so I called the neighbor, figuring either they needed to lock her up or bring her over, lest she or Stallion jump the fence and get together on their own terms. The neighbor chose to bring her over right away. We put her with Stallion, where she spent the day. Both goats were happy, and the neighborhood was once again at peace without her screaming.
Then Part 2 of the Bull Saga happened. Finally, around 9 pm, we wrapped up with the bull and began closing things down for the night. We verified, that, as expected, the doe’s standing heat was long gone, and her and Stallion were both calm and acting typical. Nonetheless, as an additional precaution, we had learned to always take Stallion out first, put him with our does (who are all pregnant), so he can go into their shed and eat–allowing a good distraction while the visiting doe is led away. Again, it has been working so far. So, S and the neighbor went through the routine, got Stallion settled with our girls, and then the neighbor led her doe quietly home. No sooner did they get home, Stallion came running out of the shed, and lept right over the does’ gate, half-destroying it in the process. S caught up to him in our front yard, when he couldn’t find the doe. S returned him to his hot-wired pen (which he hadn’t attempted to escape from since I re-configured the wiring), and monitored….for all of about 5 seconds, at which time, he lept cleanly over the electric wire, totally clearing his fence with the agility of a reknowned acrobat.
It was late, we were tired. We called the neighbor, and asked for her doe back. I went and got her, and she spent the night with Stallion. The next morning, we tried again. Same thing. Despite the fact the doe had been thoroughly bred about 18 hours prior, and had absolutely no interest in Stallion whatsoever, he refused to allow us to take her away. The doe had to return home, so we had no choice but to temporarily tie Stallion to a tree in his pen so he couldn’t jump.
There was still hope, though. I can’t recall if I told you I had lined up my second Alpine doe almost 2 months ago? Well, earlier in the week, we had scheduled to pick her up on Saturday. It was Saturday. We hoped that by bringing this new girl in, we could just put her in with Stallion, and effectively calm him down. So, I left S to monitor Stallion, since he was tied to the tree, and I left to go pick up our new doe. As an experienced show goat and milker who was quite pregnant, the 5-year old doe was a bit shy around me, but once we got her away from the other goats, she just ran around the barn, cleaning up crumbs, eating of my hand, letting me pet her, and otherwise acting like you would expect such a goat to act. We loaded her right up and I drove home.
We never got to see if our plan would work. When I arrived home, as I have always done in the past, I very carefully opened the back door of the van just a bit so I could slip my arm in and clip a leash on. I felt a powerful bump against the door, and when I peeked under, there was no goat! For about a split second, I was stumped. What happened to the goat I just paid good money for?! Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw her bolting…amazingly fast for such a pregnant girl….away from our house and deep into the woods! OH BOY! I almost cried right there. I yelled at the kids to go get S to help me, and I took off, trying to circle around her and direct her back toward our goats. Unfortunately, with her black coloring and the forest shadows, I quickly lost track of her. I looked for her tracks in the snow, and discovered for the first time that deer are obviously frequent visitors around our place! There were fresh tracks everywhere! I searched for over an hour, praying fervently almost the whole time. After a while, I knew I had to check in with the family and get some juice to keep my blood sugar stable, so I ran back to the house. The kids told me someone had called. I checked the message, and it was another neighbor about 2/10 of a mile away through the woods, claiming a goat was peeking in her window.
As it turned out, just like those pesky, wild wethers a few weeks back, S found the doe and she took a peculiar interest in him. OF ALL PEOPLE!
Now don’t get me wrong. I love that animals like my husband so much. But, he has almost nothing to do with their day to day care. Other than his occasional filling in, I am the one that trudges out in the snow twice a day (usually more) to feed, I mix and measure their grain, I sit in the stall and just love on them, I stay up at night when there is something worrisome, I ensure they are warm in frigid weather, I deliver their babies, I milk them, and yet every nutcase of a goat we have gotten takes right to HIM, while I have to earn their trust! What is up with that?!
Anyway, after a minute, the exhausted doe walked right up to him and let him grab her collar. He led her home. She was already stressed out and nervous, and we had seen her jump some pretty good sized logs in her quest for freedom, so we didn’t want to take for granted that she might try to jump the fence. We put a leash on her, put her in Stallion’s pen (where he was still tied, but it was the most secure pen we had), and then just allowed her to explore the pen at her leisure. After about 15 minutes, she seemed quite a bit calmer, would eat of my hand, and allow me to touch her. We decided against releasing Stallion since we feared he might stress her into jumping the fence. Instead, we decided to put our 2 smallest, youngest, and therefore least intimidating does (Bell and Faith) with her to keep her company and give her someone to bond with. We kept her on leash for about another 15 minutes, until they all seemed comfortable with each other. Then, we said a prayer and released her. She seemed OK. After another 30 minutes, we slowly left the pen. She seemed fine. We praised God for letting us catch her, and for seemingly allowing everything to turn out OK.
We still had Stallion to deal with. Whether from the week’s events, S and I being physically exhausted, or just being tired of goat antics, I don’t know. Maybe it was a combination of everything. Whatever the case, we knew we couldn’t leave Stallion tied to that tree forever, but he was still acting like an testosterone-driven idiot. So, we decided to call the buyers and offer to let them pick him up that day. Thankfully, they agreed, and within a couple hours, they arrived to pick him up.
I untied my stinky, ole’, sweetheart of a buck from his tree, offered him a drink of water, and led him toward the truck. Being the experienced, driveway-breeder, buck-in-rut that he is, he saw a truck in the driveway and instantly got excited! He just knew there was a doe waitin’ for him somewhere! He half drug me to the truck, searched high and low, and acted a bit confused that he couldn’t find her. You can imagine his surprise when S and I lifted him into the goat cage in the back of the truck and slammed the door shut. He looked at me with the most pitiful look. I almost cried. Nutty and pesky as he was, I loved my buck. I loved the way he cried so pitifully everytime he saw me, and how he usually wanted nothing but a little loving.
The buyer and I settled our business transaction, and then she drove away with my beautiful buck–taking my big plans for my foundation sire with her. It was so bittersweet. I was relieved to have one less mouth to feed, and to know I likely wouldn’t have to worry about any more broken gates or fencing, or playing musical pens to keep him happy. At the same time, I would LOVE to be able to purchase him back and take him to the farm with us when we go (we have first option should they choose to sell).
So that was our Saturday. Now, I am just hoping that Faith doesn’t come back into heat this week. She was thoroughly bred 3 weeks ago, so this will be the first chance to see if she took. We made arrangements to use Stallion as part of the sale, but still. They live some distance away, so it would take a lot to get Faith over there.
I am still so surprised at all the mis-adventures we have had lately. We research, we plan, and we prepare as best we can. I totally understand now why folks say that goats , and bucks in particular can be the hardest animals to contain. The great thing is that Stallion more than paid for himself by breeding all my does and all the breeding services he gave for barter or cash payment while we had him. With the kid sales we hope to get from him, he will have even paid for the new Alpine, who, praise God, we still have! More on her later. Despite the loss of Stallion, though, I have to remind myself that this whole “mini-farm” experience has been our big experiment for learning the ropes of farming. So far, we have learned some great lessons, that are sure to last in our memories for years to come. These lessons are driving us to build a much better farm at Red Gate than we might have otherwise, as we can now envision the “what-if’s” that we couldn’t before. I know there are still many lessons to be learned, but I’m hoping with Stallion’s leaving, that we will get a break from the biggest lessons for a while.