The Retirees

We’re using two large pastures this winter.  The one we call the “barn pasture” is about 22 acres and  it has over 60 goats in it (and one horse).  The other one, which we call the “main pasture” is about 7.5 acres and it has only 5 goats in it.  Why the difference?

The 5 inhabitants of the main pasture are goats we’ve retired from kidding. We moved them to the main pasture to prevent them from being bred.  In a normal farm operation those animals would be culled from the herd and sold, rather than allowed to have a perfectly fine pasture all to themselves.  But we’re just letting them live out their lives, because that’s what we do.

Juliette in the foreground, Kelly beyond.

Juliette in the foreground, Kelly beyond.

Juliette is a big, healthy goat.  She appears to be great breeding stock.  But she kidded four times and had trouble every time.  Of her seven kids only one survived and we had to bottle feed him.  The last time she kidded she ended up with a dangerously swollen milk bag.  On top of all that, she was skittish and nervous when we came near her kids.  So we retired her.

Kelly made great kids and two of her offspring are still in the herd. But she developed udder problems with her last kids and we had to bottle feed them both.  We didn’t think she’d ever be able to nurse kids again, so she went to the front pasture.

Iris, standing on a bale of hay.  Because she's a goat and that's what they do.

Iris, standing on a bale of hay. Because she’s a goat and that’s what they do.

Iris is the only goat in the retirees pasture who has never had a kid. We retired her with her mother Maggie. Maggie wasn’t able to nurse her so we bottle-fed Iris. She seemed underdeveloped and we thought it best not to breed her. She matured slowly but has turned out to be a beautiful goat. But given her history, we’re going to keep her in with the retired Mamas.

Sara

Sara

Poor Sara had a ruptured milk bag after her last delivery. It healed well (and we bottle-fed the kids), but her career as a mother was definitely over. She was once something of a bully, but with these grizzled veterans she’s at the bottom of the totem pole.

Maggie (far left)

Maggie (far left)

Finally there is Maggie. She rules this crowd. She’s the mother of our billy goat Johnny, so she’s the grande dame of our herd. She’s also an ungrateful grump. Cherie saved her life, nursing her back to health from what seemed an impossible situation. While most of our goats are affectionate and friendly, Maggie’s attitude toward humans wavers between indifference and contempt. We love the cranky old girl.

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26 comments on “The Retirees

  1. puts (supplementing income) goat raising in Kenya into perspective. Thanks!

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  2. Bill, you are a kind hearted man. Business plans would tell you to cull out the hay burners. They are just a drain on your profit margin. Yet you put them out to pasture to live out a life of retirement. It wouldn’t make any sense to keep them to most business men. I pray that God blesses you for your display of kindness to His creation. Grumpy old Maggie doesn’t realize that she is one lucky goat.

    Have a great day on the homestead.

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    • Bill says:

      Thanks Dave. We have plenty of room and these girls have earned their keep. We try to be sensible about things, but for now at least we’re keeping them around.

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  3. A few months back the Washington DC news featured a story about goats brought in to clean up a local cemetery. It turns out they were from a farm near where I live, which, according to its website, began as a hobby livestock farm with a few goats and now has about 100 goats that are used for sustainable land management projects. Since they seem to be like-minded folks, I’m including the link to their site in case it’s of interest: http://www.eco-goats.com/about-ecogoats.shtml.

    (I have no commercial interest or personal connection. Just sharing.)

    Also, these pictures made me smile, especially Iris standing on the haystack, letting the mystery be.

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  4. Lynda says:

    Love goats! You are so kind to them, Bill! 😀

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  5. EllaDee says:

    You give a little, you get a little… and the measure of real pleasures doesn’t have a currency 🙂

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  6. Aw love your retired goats they are so cheeky..and lucky. They look well pampered and loved. Do you make cheese? And do the working goats go for meat? Not many people eat it here in the UK but last time I went to Spain we had it for breakfast one day! This was before I became very challenged and aware of the whole meat thing – mostly vegetarian these days.

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    • Bill says:

      We raise Boers, which are meat goats. So far we’ve only sold them live. Even though goat meat is very popular worldwide, it isn’t commonly eaten around here.
      I totally understand the vegetarianism. My wife and daughter are vegetarians. I call myself a “farmitarian.” I only meat of animals from this farm.

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  7. This warms my heart more than I can explain or say …

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  8. I love the fact that you let your retirees live out their lives in another pasture! This is the type of farming that I fully support. We do the same thing with our chickens and let the old girls live out their lives even if they don’t give us many eggs any longer. And I’ve come to love them and call them each by name so getting rid of them is simply out of the question. They give me something so much more important than eggs anyway.

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  9. El Guapo says:

    That looks like a pretty good life.
    Good for you on letting them live it!

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    • Bill says:

      They’re also eating better than the other goats these days. Whereas the main herd is having to get by on hay, these 5 still have plenty of forage available.

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  10. shoreacres says:

    I think it’s absolutely wonderful that you let your elderly or otherwise less productive goats live out their days in dignity and peace, with all of their needs met.

    Now, if we could just convince people it would be good to do that for elderly humans, too. Maybe the stories of those who treat their animals well could have usefulness and significance outside the farming communities.

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  11. I wrestle daily with the concept of culling. I totally understand it from a business perspective and being the one that manages the finances, I see very clearly how much we spend on feed for our layers and we don’t even come close to turning a profit on the eggs (at least not in our current set-up). Now that our first hens are slowing down production, it just doesn’t seem right to cull them. I interact with them daily and enjoy their company. On the other hand, we have plans to raise broilers, pigs and sheep for meat, and they will obviously be slaughtered. How does one justify the death of one animal vs. another? The life and death thing is a difficult issue for me.

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    • Bob Braxton says:

      I was once a child – laborer – in one chicken house of 3,000 broilers, later a second chicken barn added for 5,000 capacity. In one (roughly) nine-weeks “brood” there was a check obviously physically disabled. Therefore this one was easily identifiable to a child (myself) who sympathized and thought nothing of the fact that this chicken was eating some of the feed (hundreds of pounds a day for the whole barn). Sam Siler represented the feed company. On a visit one day he grabbed this bird’s neck and gave a swift and violent twist – the body (bloody) flew. I could recall this event when visiting the execution place of Mary Queen of Scots in U.K. in my adulthood (probably around age 50) two decades ago.

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      • Bill says:

        That kind of thing won’t happen here. I’ve killed lots of chickens, but it is always done with the kind of gravity and respect that it deserves. In my opinion at least.

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    • Bill says:

      Yes, it’s very difficult. At the same time we try to be as compassionate and humane as we can, we’re raising animals intended to be slaughtered and eaten. And we’re trying to run an economically sustainable farm. It’s one of the tensions of this life. We’re having an extremely cold winter and burning through hay much faster than expected. We’ve overtaxed the pasture and wondering whether we’re doing the herd any favors by holding back so much pasture this way.

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