Thursday, 30 August 2012

Sorting out the sheep from the goats

Meet "Goat" -

She is my new, as yet unnamed, goatling. She's one of two goatlings I bought yesterday; the other bought sight unseen. Both are Anglo-Nubians. They're going straight off to stud, and will be in kid by the end of September, I hope.

I chose Anglo-Nubians because their milk has the highest butterfat content, perfect for cheese, yogurt, and adding those elusive fat calories to one's diet. However, Anglo-Nubians aren't the easiest breed for a beginner. I've heard the terms "willful", "vocal", and "serious challenge to fencing" applied to them. The seller showed me her middle finger which was missing its top knuckle, the result of a goat she was leading around the ring, panicking at a country show. It took out two bystanders as well. Oh, and that destructive goat? It was our new goatling's mother.

I hope to god that rampaging behaviour isn't hereditary, or at least skips a generation until I can learn more about goat training. 

So I was awake in the middle of the night wondering if I've made a sensible decision to add goats to our mixed enterprise. The self-doubting voice in my head, which is quite loud, was yelling at me that I'm an idiot and, frankly, one hamster away from being on an episode of Confessions: Animal Hoarding. The farmer-in-training voice, which is much quieter, reminded me that I have been researching this for more than a year, that I can commit the time to this endeavour, that I've outlined a business plan and contacted restaurants interested in local produce already. I know it has potential to add to our income. And, if it doesn't work out, I can sell the goats. No one is going to die, no deadly virus released if I fail. Basically no Armageddon will befall the world if I've made a mistake with the goats. 

OK maybe I'll lose the top of my finger, but I'm willing to run that risk.

I have resolved to be positive about the goat endeavour, and my ability to make it succeed. Even though we found out this afternoon that our entire hay crop is likely ruined because of rain, and because the farmer who we contracted to bale it, bailed on us. Our winter hay supply is now whatever we have left from last year. This would be fine if we didn't do anything rash, like buy two milking animals that require daily hay, even when grass is plentiful. I'm still going to be positive; it's the only way I can muster enough creativity to cobble together a solution to the winter fodder problem. 

I read that the Dalai Lama said "Goats are the ultimate source of success in life." I have absolutely no idea what that means, but I know, if I can make goats work for our little farm, I'm going to feel triumphant.


Felix said...

Your goat looks amazing, your plan seems sound, and the only thing that makes me sad reading this post is the news on the hay.

I'm really sorry to hear it's hit you hard.

Poppy Cottage said...

I remember my goat appearing (often) at the B & B kitchen door (having started out in her field!!).

Best of British!! xx

(Ellen has two more colours of wool back, and guess how much I got paid for helping them shear??? 7 Balls of wool!! Now that is what i call a result!!

Hazel said...

2 goats is far more sensible than a hamster! I don't think you'll be on extreme reality TV just yet.
I would be extremely naffed off with that farmer. I know the farmer in the next village to me was saying how far behind he is on his own harvest (freeze bread now, was his advice), but even so...

I am pea-green with envy, anyway. Goats are my dream livestock, preferably Golden Guernseys, but I wouldn't be fussy. I even tried to persuade nearby smallholder friend to go halves on a pair, but he'd obviously paid more attention to John Seymour than me, when he said a good goat is a curried goat. And something along the lines of a goat having 24 hours a day to plot it's escape into your garden/crop field and you only having a few minutes to get them out!

But it'll be fine! And I think if anyone can make it work (and find winter fodder. Make friends with a tree surgeon?) you can. Have fun!

BilboWaggins said...

Sorry to hear about your hay, Jo Public is in for a hell of a shock when they find out that the wet summer has done more than upset their BBQ plans as food prices soar. Farmers struggling here too, horse-owning friends worrying about the cost of winter feed.

Good luck with the goats (she says very enviously), how could you resist something as beautiful as A-Ns? Good luck with fencing too. (And if you still need names, I suppose Willow and Buffy are just way too silly to consider?)

el said...

Ah, Jennifer, goats are a breeze. Dairy breeds in particular are very people-focused...that is, they have fairly large brains and figure out quite quickly that people=food. Their food motivation also tends, alas, to lead to their fence-testing. I have heard it said that if you can blow smoke through it, a goat can get through it, and it is true IF the goat is scared and/or her friends are not where she is. Otherwise, electric fencing works just great.

The earlier you train her (them) to jump on the milkstand to accept grain and brushings (they adore being brushed) the easier it will be in January/Feb. when milking duties begin. They are very much creatures of habit that way.

Beware, though, of the goat-hoarding tendency that we dairy goat owners tend to have: unless you can successfully milk through (and I have, with my first milker on Year 3 now without re-breeding) then you will have kids yearly. It is what has led me to milk 4 goats/day, and yes, I am crazy.

Jennifer Montero said...

Thanks to all of you for the supportive comments - I can count on you to be my enablers! You're always up for a challenge, and the expertise that's out there is amazing.

El - I will be pestering you with goat questions once I actually get them here! I have my plans all set to build my milking stand, and acclimatise the goatling to the process. Any good reference books you would like to suggest regarding goat care?

Bilbo - I like your name suggestions. Buffy the goat really works.

el said...

I have just read your new plan! Good of you to be able to still "keep" them without, you know, keeping them. A great goat mentor is kind of priceless; wish I had had one. We are in the same situation re: hay in that we have had a horrific drought. Ah well.

No book per se but one website that knocks the pants off most others: She is fairly laid-back but knows her stuff, is willing to go the less-chemical route re: wormers and the like.

have fun! Personally, I can't imagine not starting the day with some of my yogurt and honey...makes milking in 20*F weather kind of almost bearable.