Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Why do we have Goats?

When we bought Opportunity Farm it came with good fences and a flock of Wiltshire Horn sheep. The four paddocks were large, three had a dam and all had camps or remnant vegetation for shade and shelter. If we had stuck to sheep there would have been very little infrastructure needed. So why did we get goats?

Goats challenge fences. If there is a small gap or a hollow under the fence, a goat will explore the other side. For goats, the grass is always greener. They climb, they push and they ignore a little scratch from barbed wire if they can get fresh greens. They respect electric fencing but will keep testing to check it is on.
Goats are mountain creatures who are designed to roam a large area eating a very wide range of greenery - mainly different bushes and leaves. If they have trees in their paddock they will strip them of leaves and devour the bark until they are ring-barked.

It started with a desire for goat's milk and a phone call from a friend with a rejected kid needing someone mad enough to get up three times a night to bottle feed it. It seems that there are a lot of people who know we are suckers for that sort of a deal. We had just gained a poddy lamb so the two of them could grow up together and become pets. Then another 'friend' had an excess kid and the goat herd started. We bought a goat and kid who might have been a 'milker' but it was hard work to retrain her for not much milk. A Boer buck that had sore feet from wet pasture moved in because our goat paddock was drier and he stayed. The does had kids and then they and their kids had kids. Another cast off too good to miss and we have a herd of seventeen goats - three bucks, a wether and thirteen does.
We are supposed to eat the surplus kids but this doesn't happen as fast as the kids arrive. By the time they are dispatched they are more mature than preferred so the meat needs slow cooking!

Meantime the initial paddock became electrified - first solar then mains - with wire and outriggers and clamps and porcelain connectors. New skills and a new language to learn. A goat shed was constructed with a hay store, milking stand and a 'jug'. Three other paddocks were subdivided off and the electric infrastructure put in. Isolated trees were fenced out or in. It's a lot of work and expense for a few roasts.
Still the goat expansion increased until one mob needed to use one of the large paddocks. It worked well for a while but eventually the single strands of barb and wire were tested and the goats were getting out. Time to encircle it - and the stand of trees in the middle - with hinge joint. Three 200m rolls of wire at $260 a pop and plenty of tie wire and staples. It's a big job but once it is complete the goats will stay in and the boundary will be secure for a long time.

Today's completed fenceline - only 100m to go!
So why do we have goats and have all this hassle and expense? I reckon it is because goats have personality, intelligence and a zest for life that sheep just don't have. It may also be because we are suckers for a reject but one day.... one day we might get a decent milking goat, eat the excess kids when they are tasty and have a farm secured with goat-proof fences. Until then I'll keep on fencing. I think the goats are here to stay.

One of our herds with Cedric, the Boer buck, on the right.

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