Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Getting my goat



This past weekend my friend April and I went to a dairy goat farm near Smithfield, North Carolina. Ever since visiting her farm over Easter and seeing her dairy goats, our family has been interested in having a few of our own - both because goats are interesting animals but also because we try to be self-sufficient and would like to supplement our homegrown eggs and veggies with milk and cheese.

My intention was to start with a little male goat that would eventually be neutered. Many male goats are drowned at birth or sold for meat by dairy operations, and the way we looked at it, bottle raising a baby would not only give one a chance, but give us an idea of what to expect later when our own does had kids. If we decided it wasn't for us, a neutered male goat would still be a good a good pet. Besides, even if we do end up with does, we'll outsource the breeding. Castrated bucks make nice companions; intact ones are very pungent. With the assortment of animal smells already emanating from our place, Goat Musk might be enough to send the neighbors right over the edge.

The farm we visited was very nice, and had lots of Nubian goats. I'd intended to bring home a Nubian and we'd done lots of research, so I felt prepared to ask all the right questions. But I wasn't prepared to find that the farm also had Toggenburgs, a breed I had not researched. I actually thought they were prettier than the Nubians; they looked a bit like deer to me. One of the ladies who was there buying adults had owned Toggs for years and said they were easier to handle. The only downside, she said, was that the breed's milk was a little lower in butterfat. With my first goat being a buck, milk quality wasn't an issue so I asked the owner of the farm to show me what young Toggs she had.

There were several, and while the smallest ones were the cutest, they were already spoken for, She suggested a slightly older one that was running with the Nubians in the kid pen. She turned him out and aside from chewing on my hair, the kid ignored me. I looked back over to the Nubians, which were plentiful but still didn't see anything I liked as much as the Toggenburgs. And even though this one seemed a bit more interested in his surroundings than in me, April reassured me that once I got him home and fed him he'd bond to me in a heartbeat. 

I decided to take him.

Later April came over and said, "You know you just saved a life..."

She explained that the mother of this little Toggenburg was part Alpine - not enough that anyone could even tell - but the fraction was enough to make this particular Toggenburg baby useless in an operation that deals with registered dairy goats. As a "grade" goat, this little guy was destined for slaughter. In fact, the owner told me later that had I not taken him she'd have sold him to the local Mexicans the next day.

I wasn't mad at the owner; she's a farmer and farmers are pragmatic people. Still, I'd wanted our first goat to be one we'd saved. It made me ecstatic to know that I'd kept this little guy from ending up in a chalupa.



So we put him in the back seat of April's truck and brought him home, along with five Maran chicks that I'd been wanting to get for my home flock. They rode in the box beside the goat.



Once we got him home, we realized pretty quickly that life with a goat was going to be a whole lot busier. It's kind of like having another child, only one that eats magazines. We've had to hide every shred of paper, and underestimated how quickly "Toby" would catch on to the feeding routine. As soon as I take the bottles out to mix his formula he runs across the kitchen and tries to climb up on the counter to oversee operations. The children have gotten really good at heading him off at the pass. 

Oh, and yes I know it may seem unusual to keep a goat in the house but it's pretty common to raise bottle-babies indoors. Toby quite likes being inside, and after a good romp in the yard where his favorite "toy" has turned out to be my car, he heads for the door, human kids in hot pursuit. Back inside he crashes in his favorite chair until it's time to either eat or play again.

The other animals find him fascinating. The corgis want to herd him (although he turns the tables on them), the cats want to climb on him and the ponies seemed to think he is a foal.






He's wonderful company for the human kids, too. Today Alex and Lucas and Toby played Mountain Climbers on the hay bale.



If I'd known how much fun dairy goats would be, I'd have gotten one sooner! We're currently in the process of converting the garden shed to a dairy goat shed for a couple of does. I'll be writing lots more about Toby, of course, but he won't stay a baby for long. And hopefully the next "new kids" I'll write about will be ones born here.

30 comments:

Lu' said...

Fantastic. Just fantastic. I enjoyed every minute of it. Well except the part about drowning the baby goats I didn't know that :(
Delighted to no end knowing you saved that adorable creature. I stopped over from Doc and Mt Cat.

Morgan said...

Thank you, Lu! I wasn't aware until recently how many little male goats were culled by goat dairies, and was determined to save one if I could. Toby is returning our kindness tenfold; he delights in life, and I'm glad he got the chance to do that.

Thank you so much for stopping here! I found Doc's blog through Hopper's and was pleased to see that Doc is a fellow Tar Heel!

Hopper said...

this is a great post... i am so envious of your life and your farm... i love animals... and the pictures of that little goat... what a sweet creature... you just want to hug it...

thanks for stopping by to see me on my site... i've got a poetry game starting that i'd really like you to participate in... if you want to that is...

think on the line:

We walk a seven day mile...

see ya around morgan...

Andrea said...

Aww, he's as cute as any puppy! Love when that tail gets going.

I'm envious too. Your property looks so fun...and a hell of a lot of work. But what a great way to raise kids!

Morgan said...

Hopper and Andrea, you wouldn't have been too envious this week when I was slogging through mud to cart hay to the ponies and sliding around in chicken slime. After so much rain I start to cast baleful glances towards the concrete sidewalks of suburbia. Then things dry out and I come to my senses. :-)

Yes, it is enviable. Our place is humble but I feel we have a different kind of wealth living in the country that can't be measured.

Hopper, a poetry game? A Poetry Game? And I get to play???? Woohoo!!!!

Doc said...

Those pictures are absolutely adorable Morgan!

Roland said...

Nice vid and pics.
But now you are starving the Mexicans. ;)

Morgan said...

Thanks, Doc! Goats make good photography subjects.

Thanks to you as well, Roland. Per the Mexicans, they can just run to the border if they want something to eat...Taco Bell, I mean.

JohnR said...

Morgan:

Goat meat is excellent.

Bucks are culled because they are a pain in the ass, they stink, and I have heard stories about some that like to piss on themselves.

Good luck

Bobbb - Citizen of Earth said...

Sweet

I've known a few goats in my day
and the can be... strong minded

But they will flourish around you and be both rewarding and entertaining

For such is the energy of your farm.

And on the bright side - you can blame them for anything that goes wrong...

Thanks for the pics and smiles

Morgan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Morgan said...

JohnR, I'm sure goat meat is as good as beef or anything else, and I don't begrudge anyone eating goat meat, or culling for that matter. I just didn't want this particular goat to get eaten. So there you go.

And why do I have this mental image of you as a curmudgeon lurching through your yard in urine-soaked pajamas screaming because those damn kids threw a frisbee across your fence???

To Bobb, thanks for stopping by. As always you are kind and uplifting, especially when juxtaposed against someone who stops by with the sole purpose of acting like a douchebag (cough, JohnR, cough)

Kinggame said...

Just stumbled across your post while surfing, and, while I'm not very hippie-esque myself, found it wonderfully enjoyable. I'm glad the little guy found a family that will love him. Thank you for sharing your pictures and words.

laughingwolf said...

love it all :)

thimscool said...

Cuteness. Good luck with da musk.

Victoria said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Morgan said...

There will be no musk, Luke. Toby is getting neutered in another month or two. So the musk and other unsavory aspects of billy goats will be absent. He'll be more like a big dog that eats magazines.

Hopper said...

well... sorry you missed the first game... there was a great response... started another one if you'd like to get in on it... cricket

JohnR. said...

What's eating you, Morgan.

I made two declarative statements about goats, both of which are true.

I know a couple of goat ranchers and they both say the same thing about bucks. Tends to work for males of most animals. You don't keep them around unless you are breeding and only the best one stays. The rest are either sold or slaughtered.

If you want to rescue a buck, go for it.

Odd, I don't read anything curmudgeonly in my post.

You seemed unaware of the fate of most bucks, so I was trying to pass on some information from my goat rancher friends, not trying to be a douchebag.

Morgan said...

John R, if you'd read the post you might have picked up on the fact that I am aware of the fate of most bucks. It's right there in the second paragraph. If you missed that, your powers of assumption seem keener than your powers of comprehension.

Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but I just get this sneaking suspicion that you're needling. I posted about my horse and you ask me how I feel about horse slaughter (which I'm completely in favor of). I post on our goat and you write that goat meat is excellent (I have no idea if this is true but don't have a problem with people eating goats. I also made it plain that I don't want to own a buck, which is why Toby is going to be cut.)

Of course, I've needled others so in your defense I should be thicker skinned. So I forgive you for calling you a douchebag. But not a curmudgeon. I still think you're curmudgeony. Curmodgeonish. Whatever....

JohnR said...

Morgan:

Feel free to think whatever you wish about my infrequent postings.

You like horses, so I asked you opinion about the banning of horse slaughterhouses in the US. I was not needling you, I was asking a question.

You answered but gave no indication you were annoyed by it and now it is a problem.

Nothing wrong with my comprehension. I skimmed the post and missed that part.

Morgan said...

In all likelihood it was a misinterpretation on my end, John R. I also screwed up the phrasing in my last comment. I should have put that I ask forgiveness for calling you a douchebag. Clearly you are not one and I overreacted.

thimscool said...

Poor little fella. I guess it's for the best. He does seem kind of dog-like...

I know that goats supposedly eat anything and everything... but are they really omnivores? Do they eat meat?

Morgan said...

I've never heard that they're omnivores, Luke. They're ruminants, which makes them herbivores. They will eat a lot of stuff other herbivores won't eat, which is why people like to keep them around to clear brush.

They are kind of ironic creatures in a way. For instance, just a few can clear a couple of acres of scrubby growth in a short time and yet they are very sensitive and can die from overeating grain or are easily poisoned by certain plants. And while they hate to get wet and refuse to eat soiled hay, they'll piss on their own faces in rut. Well, just the bucks do that but still it doesn't make a lot of sense.

If I get a chance this afternoon I'll make a video of Alex taking Toby through his obstacle course. It's a riot.

They day has been beautiful for outdoor activities like that..

Jana said...

Around here goats sold to mexicans become menudo or taco's - sure smells good, but I won't eat anything from those roach coaches. There's a goat farm up the road from us- and yep, tis pungent with the intact male there. I tried goat cheese one time and ewwww it wasn't all that wonderful, I was told later on that sometimes if the cheese is made during rutting season it's really strong - so there you go - information!!

Morgan said...

Jana, the problem with "goaty" tasting cheese comes from producers who keep bucks close to the does. Milk absorbs odors, so a buck kept in close proximity to the does will cause that problem.

We buy a lot of goat cheese from a dairy that vends at the farmer's market with us. They keep their bucks in a pen far from the does, so the cheese - which is sold in a variety of different flavors - is very, very good.

We don't have a lot of acreage, which is exactly why we won't be keeping a buck with our home dairy herd. Toby will be a castrated male, and when we breed the girls it will be via a conjugal visit to my friend's farm.

thimscool said...

Did you ever write a story about a conjugal visit?

Victoria said...

You mean for real? No, I've never done an inmate conjugal sex story, but that's certainly a thought. Could be a exhibitionist angle there if the guards were a foot. Voyueristic, too. Hmmm...

thimscool said...

He's in for grand larceny. She knows where the money is stashed. They have to wait three more years before he gets sprung and they go somewhere tropical. She's keeping the faith, but feeling impatient. The warden thinks they'll talk about the stash during their limited time together.

Morgan said...

That's hot.
Makes me want to commit larceny. ;-)