We have a fine little herd of goats, which is steadily growing. Just today I put two of our does, Juliette and Marla, in the pasture with our buck Johnny, replacing Maggie and Nellie, who have returned to the main pasture, hopefully to kid in June. But I have worried sometimes that we need to introduce some new genetics to the herd. And I have blundered twice in my attempts to do so.
Most recently I answered a craigslist ad listing two Boer does for sale. Peyton and I went to have a look at them, and without much hesitation I bought them and brought them home. When Cherie saw them, she was horrified. They were both emaciated. I repeated the explanation their teenage owner had given me, that they had just been crowded out at feeding time by the more aggressive goats. Certainly these were the gentlest goats I’d ever seen, and that’s saying a lot considering how spoiled our herd is. And, I assured her that the teenager had assured me that they definitely did not have worms. She wasn’t buying any of that, and insisted that we isolate them from our other goats. Feeling pretty stupid for having brought such animals onto our farm, I said I’d take them to the market. Of course that horrified Cherie even more. “No way,” she said. “We have to get these goats healthy.” Cherie and Will gave them their White Flint names, Sheena and Judy, and for the next two and half months we nursed them back to a reasonable state of health. We regulated their diets, and wormed them aggressively. I’m happy to say that today we took them to the main pasture, and they seem to be on their way to full recovery. Still, buying them certainly wasn’t my finest moment as a farmer.
Judy is registered full blood. But she is not the only blue blood Boer in our herd. Before I bought her, I bought Moon Drop, whose picture is at the top of this post.
I really didn’t set out to buy a registered goat. We don’t show our goats, and my unregistered home-grown buck Johnny continues to produce kids that bring top dollar at the market. But when I went to a nearby farm to buy a doe, all they had for sale was a pure-bred registered five-month old. I didn’t want to spend that much for a goat, but I also didn’t want to go home empty-handed. So a half-hour later Moon Drop arrived at White Flint.
In case any of y’all are wondering how best to introduce a young goat into your herd, let me describe to you how not to do it. I assumed that Moon Drop would just blend right in with the others, no problem. And under normal circumstances that might have happened. I had not, however, considered the Joey factor.
Joey is our huge Great Pyrennes guard dog who lives in the pasture with the goats. He is a furry slobbering gentle giant, but he looks very scary. Moments after I released Moon Drop into the pasture, Joey came bounding over to check out his new ward. Moon Drop had probably never been in a pasture with a dog, and had probably never seen anything like Joey in her life. She caught one glimpse of him running toward her and she leaped across the hot wire and through our board fence, like it wasn’t even there. In a flash, Moon Drop was gone. Well, I thought to myself, that was a pretty expensive goat to only have for about two minutes. Meanwhile Will was pursuing the runaway, who was nowhere to be seen. Luckily for us our neighbors were in their yard when Moon Drop came running up. She saw them, panicked, and ran inside a nearby barn. We cornered her there, then did what I should have done in the first place–put her in a barn stall.
Peyton came up with the perfectly sensible idea of putting one of our young goats into the stall with Moon Drop for a few days. Gypsy got the assignment, and executed it perfectly. After a few days penned up together, they bonded. Then we were able to release them in the barn pasture. Moon Drop didn’t respect the fence, and would just walk right through it. But she’d always return to her new pal. All of our other goats were trained to the fence from day one, and never escape. Over time, Moon Drop began to do as they do.
Eventually we were able to move her in with the other goats. But we still have issues.
As Cherie reminds me frequently, never just add one new goat. Always add at least two. The sociology of goats is fascinating. There is a definite hierarchy, and there is a definite group mentality that isn’t friendly to strangers. Because of this Moon Drop has been bullied and isolated. She has no friends in the herd, Gypsy having ignored her once she was back with her old friends. So Moon Drop stands apart from the others and always seems sad. She hasn’t grown as she should, and I’m sure that fact that she is a social outcast is a factor.
In time this will change. As she kids and her kids are added to the herd, she’ll have allies. I’m sure one day I’ll see her bullying some other goat. But still, I regret that I only bought one of her herd.
Soon Sheena and Judy, healthy and rejuvenated, will go to meet their new beau Johnny. As will Moon Drop.
And by this time next year I won’t feel so bad about the poor way I bungled my goat-buying.