Monthly Archives: April 2015

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.

Sweetie

Sweetie is new to us.  Most of our Mini Nubian goats are related to each other, so Sweetie brought us some “new blood.”  She’s wonderawful.  We love her, but she isn’t one of ours, so she has some annoying habits we’re asking her to break.

And she is fascinated by how things work here.  Sometimes, she’s terribly annoyed with us.  She tried to break into the milk room almost daily, and she thinks it’s terribly unfair we don’t let her in.  But she also looks a bit amazed when she joins the gaggle of goats swirling around us for pets at the end of the day.

And she is truly fascinated with baby goat bonding.  With the cold weather, I tuck each baby goat into my “mobile portable baby goat heater”, which is to say, I tuck them into my jacket.  It warms them up and gets them used to hugs.  (I do not think goats understand the concept of clothes.  Sweetie can see me put Spirit into my jacket, and she’ll turn around and scream “I lost my baby!” like she has no concept that Spirit is in my jacket.  She doesn’t even look for Spirit near me, even though that’s the last place she saw her.  It’s like she thinks I teleported Spirit when I picked her up.)

Now, I’m tucking new babies into my jacket.  And Sweetie comes over every single time, to look in my jacket. “What do you have there?”

This morning, I sat in Meg’s stall, next to Sweetie’s stall, and warmed up one of Meg’s kids.  Sweetie came over and poked her head through the stall divider.  I sat there awhile, hugging the baby and petting Sweetie.

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.