Saturday, February 14, 2015

Sorting out the Goats 2

Our sheep can be sorted using the yards. They also rather docile, herd together and seem to have limited imaginations. One sheep starts to move and they all go.
Goats are very different. They are stubborn, willful and curious. They are perpetual opportunists, especially those that have had lots of contact with humans.
Our task was to catch all of last spring's kids and put collars on them, move one mother to a different paddock separating her from her kid and to bring back one kid that had escaped from weaning by getting through two electric fences to its mother. The final move was to move a kid away from the buck paddock so that she was not mated too young.
All these movements have to be completed before the days get too short as a reduction in daylight triggers goats to mate. For does the window of opportunity is short. They may be in heat for as little as 12 hours or as much as 48 hours. Bucks are primed all autumn which is why the word 'horny' came into common usage.
Goats were the second animal domesticated (after dogs) and humans have lived with goats for many thousands of years. Due to the fact that bucks allow other bucks to mate with does in their herd while rams are protective of their conquests, goats have developed a reputation and link with lewdness and devilry while sheep are the honourable ones and a more worthy sacrifice to the gods.
So if the does and bucks are not in the right place the bucks will have their 'wicked' way with any female in the paddock. We do not want this year's kids to be mated both because they are too young and because we do not wish to cull excess goats that are pregnant.
All are animals are hand fed - though for the sheep and goats this is rarely in summer. However if we arrive at their gate with a bucket they will usually come running. Once they are distracted by food the goats can usually be caught by the collar and a lead attached. This is harder when the goat has no collar and has never been touched by a human.
Goats are pretty quick when they are alarmed so you may only get one chance to grab. I try to get one arm around the neck and then the other around the back legs. If they are small enough to be able to lift them up them they will often go limp and quiet. When just grabbed by the neck they will buck, twist, pull back sharply and cry out loudly. Pinning them to the ground or into a gate may be best way to subdue them.
Once caught and a lead put on they can be dragged through a gate. Leading most of our goats is a two person affair - one to pull on the lead and the other to go behind the goat to encourage it to keep moving. Many will follow a feed bucket kept tantalizingly on front of its snout and other will keep walking if you stand directly behind it and invade its personal space.
Some goats however will just stop, dig in its heels and require serious dragging by the neck. The goat will let out strangled cries but nothing will convince it to put one foot in front of the other in the direction that you want it to go.
In this case the only solution we have found is for the second person to grab the tail and twist. The discomfort is sufficient to encourage forward motion. It can take a while but the job gets done.
Once we had swapped the goats and kids about we still had the problem of the 'Houdini' kid. She needed some solitary confinement in the goat shed until she goes cold turkey and kicks her milk habit. The other kids seemed to accept their change in parental care stoically after a day of feeble bleating but this kid has attitude. Several times we are drawn up to the shed to check on her as the cries have become so desperate and strangled that we worry she has harmed herself. But no, she is just persistent and determined - just like her mother, who was our first poddy.

Once she has settled down then we are right for the season - we hope. With goats you just can't be sure.

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