I’m goat-sitting, chicken-feeding, and egg-collecting this weekend. In other words, livestock duty. So far, we’ve only had one minor disaster and all seems to be well 36 hours post-disaster. I’ve milked four times, collected a few handfuls of eggs, and corralled various animals into the correct locations while issuing appropriate feed. There have been some funny moments, though, whether in general annimal duty or managing our potential problem.
Friday night: I can’t get the leads unclipped from the pole to take a goats back to the barn. Why? They’re trying to help. As they try to help I manage to bonk my head on a nosy goat’s horns, get a serious splinter under one fingernail, and have my hair nibbled on. Finally, I just unclip the leads from the collars and make a made dash to the barnyard shaking a container of yummy stuff. Goats gallop after me, although they pause to check if the dog had spilled any dog food.
Saturday morning: The goats, like goats are wont to do, got out. Where did they go? To the feed section, where they battered the feed containers until they got lids off and filled their tummies with an undeterminant amount of grain. (What could be determined: not an enormous amount as a) the containers would only hold five pounds or so; b) they were not empty and had not started out anywhere near full; and c) the chickens helped. Chickens looove goat food almost as much as the dog does.)
With many animals, you’d just sigh and lecture them as you put everything back into order. Goats are prone to killing themselves by overeating though– they can bloat to a degree that they become unable to breathe, and if the fermentation in their rumen promotes the growth of the wrong kind of bacteria, they can become poisoned by the bacteria’s toxins (painful death by microbe poop). If you catch the goat in the act, you can do quite a lot of prevent death. Obviously, no more grain and also no more “green” food. Dry non-alfalfa hay only, and brave souls may drench their goats with baking soda, cooking oil, or antibloat medications. An antitoxin and vaccines available through your vet can help prevent the “poisoning” I mentioned above. [If you have a goat: I am no expert. Call your vet and/or local goat expert for assistance if you have a goat in distress.] Because our goats seemed fine all day, no distress, all I did was walk them around, do a little rumen massage, and keep an eye on them. They already had free access to minerals and baking soda. What I did test: you can burp a goat by placing it on an uphill slope and patting her side. Really. The hardest part is not being overwhelmed by the fumes.
Saturday afternoon: I find myself with two eggs on the wrong side of the gate from the container. The easiest way to get through this gate is to just climb over. (Avoids the goat rush.) I scavange a baking soda container and find it’s the perfect size for transporting two eggs safely over a farm gate. Eggs survive.
Sunday morning: The goats are out, the chickens are out, and I’m futzing about with water for all. The friendly chicken putters after me. The goat sneaks (mind you, she’s pretty ponderous, and about 10 times the size of the chicken) up behind the chicken and takes a great big mouthful of feather and pulls. Chicken does an indignant chicken-yelp and goat saunters off chewing her mouthful of feathers. So that’s why that chicken looks so ragged…
Sunday noon: I go down and rearrange the interior barn gate so the chickens can get to their nests for egg-laying purposes. Uh-oh. Little goat manages to get on the wrong side, but big goat throws all her might toward joining us. I attempt to push, persuade, and bribe the little goat to go out. Nope. But, she’s little. I think, I’ll just carry her. Problem: this is the gate that is easiest to just climb. Not gonna work while carrying a 50 lb goat, even if she’s agreeable about being carried. Finally, I squeeze through the cracked open gate while carrying her. I vow to always have little goats, that I can carry.
Anyway, the eggs are delicious, I had a lovely cup of hot cocoa made with goat milk, and cheese is underway. Not to mention the free entertainment: goat dancing and mock battles are rather enthralling. And I can milk a goat in less than half an hour.