Category Archives: Our goats

Today was nuts

I have the kidding area setup so I can separate mammas with their babies at night, but open it up so the babies can mingle in there during the day.  When the mammas start wanting to go out to pasture with their friends, I send them out, and, if they want their babies to stay behind, the kidding area serves as a daycare.

It sounded good on paper.

The mammas don’t want their babies playing with each other.  They’re all being super-protective mammas.  I kept the mammas in the barn with their kids, and kicked everyone out when we had a sunny day.  That did not loosen anyone up.

It does not help that the kids can’t tell Meg and Kit (the red mammas) apart from a distance.  The mammas can’t tell Spirit and Bear (the black babies), or Meg’s boys and Kit’s girl (all red), apart at a distance.  Sweetie is fairly lovely about mistaken identity.  Meg and Kit think the kids are doing it on purpose, and they think the kids need to be put in their place.  “I am NOT your mamma!”

For the last week, I have been alternately ignoring or responding to various mamma’s plaintive wails.

This afternoon, I responded.  There was quite a LOT of screaming.

I found alpacas circling the wagons around goats.  Meg standing by the barn, complaining, but not more than usual, one kid by her side.  Kit racing down the hill to the herd, screaming, with occasional glimpses of a kid bobbing along at her side.  Sweetie bawling her lungs out, racing up the hill.  I knew it was wrong when Abbey raced into the middle of it.  Abbey may be a problem child sometimes, but she takes care of her herd before she head-butts them.

From a distance, all I could tell was that it was a really good-looking kid.  So I thought Kit was taking Spirit down to Sweetie.  “Aw, that’s sweet” ran through my mind.  When I got into the middle of it, Sweetie was already back up the hill, but the kid was so confused, he had run to the gate nearest the house.  Yep, he.  It was Meg’s boy.  Sweetie was panicked, trying to get through the scary-alpacas to the wayward kid.  The alpacas were trying to surround him for protection.  He was trying to escape the scary-alpacas.  By the time I got to him, he was so freaked out he ran from me.

My best guess?  He just followed a red goat.  Since she was the wrong red goat, she ran away from him.  “Don’t drink my milk, kid!”  But he kept coming, so she kept running, and, next thing you know, she’s really far away from her own kids.  “MAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!”  Since she doesn’t care who’s kid he is, she doesn’t know which mamma to deposit him with.  Since she’s a new mamma, she’s over her head just keeping track of her kids and her hormones, so she had no clue where Meg was.  She just ran to the herd.  And maybe some part of her knew that taking another goat’s kid OUTSIDE, without his mamma, was a bad thing to do.    “MAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!”  And then Sweetie thought what I thought – “A kid that good-looking has to be mine!”

Poor kid.  When a baby goat is scared, we get down low and talk calmly to it.  Chasing a scared goat just upsets them.  So I was able to snatch him up, give him a hug, and take him back to mom.  I put him with his mom, and he and the other kid went running in circles, hiding behind things, acting nuts.  I scooped them up and took them back into the barn – with a pack of angry mammas behind me, screaming like banshees.  It turns out, the kid that had been standing with Meg was Kit’s kid!  When I put them down, I didn’t even have to look to see which one had the big adventure; I could feel his heart pounding in his chest.

So I took ALL their kids away from them after a quick sort-out and a suckle of “nature’s valium” (mamma’s milk).  I sent the mammas outside to cool off, while I hugged baby goats.  Which, it turns out, is what the mammas wanted.  They wanted some “me” time away from their kids, but they wanted me to babysit so they wouldn’t worry while they were out kicking up their heels.

I got 4 out of 5 babies piled together in one hut for a nap, and let Spirit climb on me just outside.  Spirit loves her “me” time, too.  Seems she’s been feeling a little vulnerable, and I’m her “safety zone.”  Spirit tucks into her own baby hut to escape the melee – even though there’s no melee in her bonding stall.  As I spent extra time with the babies today, trying to bond them together, I realized that Spirit needs her safety zone.  She would play a tiny bit with the other (smaller, younger) babies, then run back to me.  She mostly just played with me, while the other babies mingled.

So, tonight, when everyone went back to their stalls, I went into Sweetie’s stall and sat with Spirit for a bit,  I sat on a plastic chair and let Spirit flitter around me.  She ducked under the chair and nibbled hay.  So I put her to bed.  And she ran back out of her hut and begged for more play time.  I sat down on the barn floor and gave her a little more huggies, and gave her mom some huggies, too.  It was the quietest the barn has been in days.  All the babies tired out, napping, except Spirit.  All the mamma’s content that their babies were where they were supposed to be.  Sweetie still feeling a little confused at her new home, but happy to get pets while her baby sat in my lap next to her.

Abbey v. Sweetie

Abbey loves me.  Not in a good way.  In a co-dependent way or something.  It’s okay, I love Abbey, even though she’s a little crazy (does that make me co-goat-dependent?).

To wit: We milked Abbey through winter.  Just Abbey.  Other goats were pregnant, so they made babies instead of milk.  Abbey did not feel unjustly singled out for extended work.  She felt vindicated – Abbey was the only goat worthy of milking.  She always knew she was special, and now we knew it too.

But Sweetie makes too much milk for her baby.  We HAVE to milk Sweetie because she makes so much milk that her udder gets big and full, and her teats get so stuffed with milk that baby Spirit can’t fit the teat in her mouth.  So we started milking Sweetie.

Abbey stands outside and stares daggers at Sweetie.

Why are we milking Sweetie?

Why are we fussing over Sweetie?

Abbey can make milk.

Abbey’s milk is better than Sweetie’s milk.  Right?

Meanwhile, Abbey tripped up our Abbey-breeding-plan, and I have to do a pregnancy test on her.  I really thought she spurned the buck, but now I’m not sure.  If she’s pregnant, I don’t want to milk her in case the kids need her to focus her metabolic energy on them.

So I’m milking Abbey a lot less, to help her stop making milk.  (She makes a lot, so she needs an adjustment period before we stop milking altogether.)

I’m not JUST milking Sweetie, I’m abandoning Abbey.  (Abbey was bottle-raised.  She isn’t a goat so much as a puppy-dog who thinks she’s a person.)

Abbey stares daggers at Sweetie.

Well, our milking routine is all jumbled now.  I didn’t plan to milk Sweetie so soon.  I didn’t plan to stop milking Abbey just yet.

I came out to milk Sweetie today, and she was in the pasture with the goats.  A good bit away.  So I called her.  Our neighbors already think we’re nuts.  Traffic was picking up, so it was getting noisy.  I whistled for Sweetie like I’d whistle for a dog.  “Whoo-ooo-woo.  Sweetie!”

Sweetie maahed back at me.  “Sweetie!”  And Abbey came running.  Like a dog.  “You need something?  Here I am!”  I hugged Abbey and waited for Sweetie to come in.  I milked Sweetie.  Abbey wandered off after staring daggers at Sweetie.

I went back out and called Abbey.  Abbey – as unfriendly as she can be towards goats – was waiting at the bottom of the hill for Sweetie.  Nobody likes to walk to pasture alone, so Abbey waited to walk with Sweetie.  “Abbey!”  Abbey looked at me with annoyance.  “Abbey, do you want to get milked”?

Abbey holds a grudge.  But not for long.  She’s a puppy.  So she stood at the bottom of the hill and made a big deal of ignoring me.  “Abbey, come get milked.”

She turned her head away.  Letting me know I had done her wrong.

“Come on Abbey.”

And she trotted up the hill.  I told her I’d meet her in the barn.  I don’t have to wait and walk her in.  I know she’ll come in.  When she got to the gate, I let her in, she hopped up onto the milk stand, and we got to work.  I milked enough to let the pressure off her udder, and let her finish eating what she wanted.  Then I sent her on her way.  She went out the back of the barn, and I took the milk out the front of the barn.

“Meeeehhh.”  Abbey called to me from the gate.  I looked back, and she was alone.  Phil was home by then, and the milk bucket is heavy, so he carries it for me when he can.  “Phil, can you take it in?  I’ll be in in a minute.”

Sweetie wasn’t waiting for Abbey.  Abbey was alone, no goats in sight.  “Sweetie!”  Silence.  It was raining and muddy and I was too tired to climb down the hill.  I took Abbey in the barn and gave her some alfalfa hay.  If it was Sweetie left behind, I would have had to walk her down the hill.  But Abbey is okay without her goats, as long as her people love her.

I love them both.  But Abbey will be there for me, even if it means being left behind.  And Abbey will stare daggers at Sweetie, but she’ll still stand alone at the bottom of the hill, waiting for Sweetie.  Goats are complicated.  Abbey scares Sweetie, and she’ll shake her head menacingly at Sweetie at the bottom of the hill, but she’s THERE.  Standing alone.  Making sure Sweetie doesn’t have to be alone.  When Sweetie comes in from the pasture, alone, desperate to be with her sleeping baby, Abbey idles up the hill.  Sweetie comes into the barn, joins her baby, realizes baby is still sleeping.  Sweetie maaahs with anxiety.  She wants to be with her herd.  She wants to be with her baby.  The herd is in the pasture.  The baby is sleeping in the barn.  A high status goat would have the herd with her, no matter where she is, but Sweetie isn’t high status, so her maternal instinct drives her up the hill alone.  We turn around, and Abbey is quietly munching hay as if she just wanted to come in from pasture.  Eh.  Abbey could be out bugging the other goats.  I joke that Abbey has Goatsberger’s syndrome.  She cares, but she doesn’t get along well.  She’ll never be friends with Sweetie.  But, in some ways, Abbey is the best friend Sweetie will ever have.

All my goats are crazy

Pregnancy is kind of neat in goats.  Nothing much happens in the first 4 months.  The last month is when all the magic happens.  The babies don’t grow much at all until the last month.  Moms don’t even need much nutrition until the last month.  The first 4 months are just hype.  You know there’s babies in there – but they’re just seeds, waiting for springtime.  That fifth month, watch out!

Meg has been huge for several weeks.  Even though the babies just, really, started to grow last week.  She has also been hungry.  Really hungry.  Like, I am careful not to trip in the goat stall, because I just know she’d be all like, “Dinner is late.  Let’s eat Tracy!”  Seriously.  I check her weight all the time (in self-defense).  She’s a good weight.  But she acts like she could eat a horse.  “FEED ME!!!”  She’s gone nuts.

She sleeps under the hay feeder, so she can eat without getting up.  I open the barn in the morning, and all the normal goats leap up and run to me.  Meg lays there under the hay, waiting for me to actually serve breakfast before she wastes energy on rising to her feet.  Eventually, she gets up.  She eats.  All she can eat.  And then she goes outside, lays down, and grunts.  She is sooo barely pregnant.  If she is grunting with martyrdom now – oh, she’s going to be a drama queen as those kids grow.

I noticed this afternoon that she was covered in hay pieces.  All over her back.  I went to brush them off, and she got up and walked away in a bit of a huff.  And laid down, twisted her head around, and ate the hay off her back.  “I was SAVING that!”


She’s a lovey goat.  Not anymore.  Now she hates me.  I try to get close to run a simple test (swipe a thingy under her while she pees) and she runs away like I’m the devil.  She used to love me.  I’m not allowed within 10 feet of her.  Unless she wants something, like a nice head scratch.  But she’ll let me know when I’m allowed near her.

Ice is our least-friendly goat.  But I told her today that she’d better have a white baby, so we can name it Caspar the Friendly Goat.  All of a sudden, Ice likes me.  Lately, she comes up to me, flashing her Baby Blues, acting like “Hey, old buddy old pal!”  Today, she was lolling around lazily – so hard she rolled over onto her back like a turtle.  This is how friendly she is: Goats should not lay on their backs.  I know this.  I walked over to her, perfectly capable of rolling her over, but I didn’t want to upset her by, you know, touching her.  So I asked her, “Ice, is this the position you WANT to be in?”

I guess not.  She rolled over again.  She was being so weird, I stopped what I was doing and followed her at a respectful distance.  She laid down.  I sat 10′ away.  She got up, turned around, faced me, laid back down.  And flashed the Baby Blues at me.

She came to the milk room yesterday, while I was milking Abbey.  I looked up, and Ice was leaning through the gate, big blue eyes wide and hopeful.  Can I come in?  I scowled at her.  “You can come in if you want to be milked.”  All day today, she was looking at her udder, like “damn you, udder, make milk!”

Well, quite frankly, that worried me.  So I brought her onto the milk stand for a look-see.  She seems fine and normal.  I gave her the icky mineral supplement, just in case.  That should be good for at least a week of Ice hating me again.  She let me lead her out of the milk room like the polite, friendly goat that SHE HAS NEVER BEEN.  And she came back a little while later and flashed the baby blues at me again.  “No way.”  She collapsed in a heap just outside the gate.  I WILL give in to the blue eyes.  She just knows it.

Sweetie – I swear, she might not even be pregnant  Well, she decided, if Meg is going to grunt her way through pregnancy, so is Sweetie.  She grunts without conviction.  But she puts up a good show.  “Uh.”  …. “Uh.”


And, today, Mini joined in.  She’s hardly even pregnant.  “Uh. …. Uh.” 7 weeks to go, and she’s going to out-drama-queen them all.

Butters has become my little rock of sanity.  While all the girls go crazy, Butters remains a pleasant, lazy little butterball of love.  I sit down in the barn, and he runs up and pushes and shoves and squeezes and contorts until he’s in my lap.  Same as always.  I love Butters.

And then Maggie – in heat – runs up and head-butts him.  “My human!”  And runs away.  I scold her.  She comes back.  Touches the back of my head.  Tried to climb in my lap.  Runs away.  Lisa sneaks in while Maggie has me distracted.  Touches my back.  Runs away.  “Hi!  Gotta run!”

At one point while I was trying to figure out what grave disease might make Ice friendly, I sat down (a respectful distance from Ice) to observe her, and felt things on my back.  4 young goats were surrounding me from behind, touching me lightly, while Butters slipped into my lap.  Bart began nibbling the back of my shirt.  I looked down at Butters, and he nibbled my nose.  My last sane goat, and he’s still a nibbly-nibblet.  Still my baby lap-goat.  I won’t say he’s my favorite, but I sure do enjoy him.  Butters and Maggie are my best buddies.  I love them all, even when certain goats are acting a little harder to love.  And I appreciate the ones who act so easy to love, too.


I think my goats are spoiling me

I have been frustrated that Mocha isn’t cooperative the last couple days.  I call her, and she doesn’t come to me.  I go to get her, and she runs away.  I’m exasperated with her.

And it hit me tonight – I did Preventive Maintenance Service (PMS) on her over the weekend.  Toenail clipping, udder trimming, nutritional supplements – the works.  And some farms have mentioned to me that a goat I was going to see on their farm was acting up after shots or hoof trimming.  They say it casually, like it’s the most normal thing in the world.  Some little part of my brain accepts this without question.  Without thinking about it.

Duh.  Mocha’s being squirrelly because of the PMS.  Our goats don’t usually do that.  I mean, yeah, Fudge is crazy.  I expect her to be weird.  But that’s her personality.  Mocha has a sweet personality.  She loves attention and affection.  And suddenly she doesn’t.

I realized this, standing in the middle of the barn, and looked down at three other goats who also had PMS this weekend, leaning in for pets, being their normal lovey selves.  Even Fudge wasn’t crazier than normal.  Sweetie hardly knows us, but she loves getting petted, even after the weekend of maintenance work.

As I closed up for the night, Maggie tried to sneak through the milk gate, one last try to get back in, even after completely flipping out about hoof trimming over the weekend.

Ice is our worst goat.  She’s FINALLY coming around a little.  She looks completely confused.  She looks at me with big hopeful eyes, like maybe I’ll give her a cookie and a pet.  I trimmed her hooves over the weekend, plenty of drama, but not as bad as Maggie.  When I sent her back to the barn, she paused on the milk stand, picked up each foot, one at a time, put them down, and then looked at them.  Phil thought she looked happy with her “new shoes.”  A look of wonder.  “Huh.  So, humans, although slow and dangerous behind the wheel, can serve a useful purpose!”

I don’t know why some goats get over maintenance so quickly, and others take it as a personal affront.  Maggie really flipped out, but she’s still trying to get back in for more milk stand time.  When a goat gets all, “don’t touch me!” I squat down nearby and call them over.  They know I can’t chase very well if I’m squatted down.  They usually come over and let me make up with them.  Mocha did come over, but she didn’t enjoy it very much.  So I’ll just let her get over it.  The other goats are happy to take Mocha’s turn at getting petted.

Mistaken identity

We name our goats.  I want them to know who I’m yelling at when they misbehave.  The ones who didn’t have names when we bought them, well, they had to learn their names.  So we’d walk through the barnyard, petting each goat as we passed, saying her name.

And they spoiled me.  I call them by name, and they come.  Usually.  The other night, Phil called Meg, and she looked up, but stood where she was.  “Meg.”  She looked thoughtful.  “Meg!”  Nothing.  “Meg, come here!”  She was thinking about it.  She understood that he wanted her to come to him, she just wasn’t sure if SHE wanted to.  After a little thought, she decided, what the heck, she’d humor the human.

That’s what it means to call a goat by name.  It’s not like a dog, where they’re all slobbery-goo-goo to please you.  Most of the time, they come when we call.  Sometimes, they’ve staked out a nice spot at the hay feeder and don’t want to give it up.  A lot of times, they’re lazy.  “But you’re all the way over there!  Can’t you come here?”

But when we call them to the milk stand, we get pretty good response.  Actually, I have to guard the door, because 5 other goats try to slip through.

The other day, I trimmed Maggie’s hooves (it’s like cutting their toenails), and she flipped out.  Hoof trimming is kind of weird for them, but it’s not bad, it’s not painful, it’s simply a strange experience for a goat.  But Maggie flipped out.  Screaming and thrashing and acting like I was killing her.  So I stopped and sent her on her way.  I thought I had ruined her.  I had given her such a terrible experience on the milk stand, I would NEVER get her onto the milk stand voluntarily again.

Naw.  By evening chores, she was trying to sneak through while I held the door for Abbey.  There is some magical pull to the milk stand.  Even if they have the same food in the barn, they want to come to the milk stand.  I think it’s kind of like backstage for goats.  It’s the place the special goats get to hang out.  And I play right into that belief.  I fawn over the goats on my milk stand.  “Oh, you’re such a Milking Queen!”  “I love you!”  Or the goat will do some totally minimal thing, but, hey, she’s a goat and they don’t HAVE to do anything for me, so I thank her profusely.  I hug them and pet them and try to make things pleasant.  And the other goats watch and think “Someday, when I grow up, I’m going to be a star, too.”

But Meg has – an identity disorder, or maybe just a milk stand addiction.  Every time I call a goat to the milk stand, if she doesn’t come, Meg runs to the gate.  “I’m here!”  “But, Meg, I wasn’t calling you.”  And she stares at me like “I’m not Meg, I’m Hannah, and I’m here, so let me in.”  Meg is an imposter.  She needs to live on one of those farms that doesn’t name their goats.  That would be a luxury lifestyle for her.  Getting 3 turns because no one recognizes her.  But here, she just always hears “You’re NOT Cinnamon!”  And she replies by leaning on the gate so I can’t open it to go get Cinnamon.

It’s not just the milk stand, either.  If we’re out on a pasture walk, and I call another goat, if she doesn’t trot right over, Meg does.  Or Meg will “Mah” in reply when I call someone.  It’s like she needs as much attention as 3 goats, but she’s not going to fawn over me like the sycophant goats do.  Let Sweetie and Abbey and Butters and Maggie follow me around like puppy dogs.  Meg has a better plan.

And then Meg kind of got her wish.  Kit grew up with almost the same coloring as Meg.  Phil is always yelling at Meg “Kit, cut that out!” or telling Kit “Good girl, Meg!”  And I’ll whisper to Phil “that’s actually Kit.”  He looks confused for a moment, and then he brightens and repeats his memory technique “Oh, right, Meg has the white spot on the left, and Kit has it on the right.”  They don’t look that much alike, aside from coloring, but they both always have their heads stuffed in a feeder, so we identify them by white spots or hair length.  But poor Meg.  Kit almost never gets a backstage pass.  And Kit caught on – if I’m playing doorman, she stands by the door, ready to sidle through the velvet rope with a mild sneer at the common goats left outside.  I open the gate, and Kit looks up, hopeful and excited.  “Cinnamon!  Cinnamon!”  And Kit looks crestfallen, while Meg strides up to the gate like an A-lister.  “I’m here!”