A Buck In The Pen Is Worth Two In The Bush

| 2/18/2013 2:20:49 AM

Tags: goats, buck, doe, breeding, fencing, beginning farmer, , Jennifer Nyberg,

 Sultan Makes Some Calculations 

When you run a smallholding–especially a really small smallholding like Horse Drawn Farms– every animal needs to pay its way. In our case, our five-goat herd is hardly enough to justify the added expense and management of a buck. Bucks are big. Bucks eat a lot. And bucks are messy, smelly, single-minded fellows. Luckily, the farm is located only an hour away from an excellent goat breeder who offered us her fine Toggenburg buck for service. This is common enough with many farm animals–a way for a farmer with a big enough herd to justify their own stud animal by having him further earn his keep. And so Saltan came to stay.

As this was to be our young Easter’s first breeding, we would need to keep a close eye to make sure it was a fait accompli. The sudden arrival of a big stinky man in her midst would make any young doe nervous, and indeed, she hid behind her mother as Saltan’s head suddenly popped out of the canopy window of my truck and he wildly maaaa-ed in her direction. I wondered if I would need to put a lead on his neck chain to lead him to the does–but the rope burn on my hands from his leaping down and galloping over to their fence answered THAT question.  The main goat pen has held our dairy goats in just fine since we constructed it in 2011. Since our farm is leased, we opted for easily moved hog panels, combined with a top rail for a total height of perhaps 1.5 meters.   Although the girls often spend a pleasurable hour or two gnawing at the top boards, we’ve never found a goat where she shouldn’t be.   So I was pretty confident that the Saltan would live quite comfortably in the pen with the two does I wanted pregnant.  The other goats, I’d keep well out of reach, in the back building.  I let him loose, watched the antics of the two girls greeting this large stranger for a few minutes, then went into the house.

Who The Heck Is That Guy 

I figure it took Saltan about three minutes to discover that neither of these does were in heat, another minute to notice the fresh browse some meters away, and one further minute to assess the location of lowest board, because when I popped my head out of the door five minutes later, he wasn’t in there anymore.    He was munching away on the driveway blackberry bushes, looking quite at home.   “Ah,” I thought. “Hungry.” I fetched a large flake of some alfalfa grass hay, threw it in the goat feeder and quietly led Saltan back into the pen.  Elizabeth and Easter snorted at him all over again, as evidently the five first minutes had not been adequate for getting to know their suitor.   This time,  Sultan gave a perfunctory sniff at the hay, ignored the two girls altogether, then sauntered straight back over to the fence and leapt over.  It took all the effort of stepping across a speed bump.  I put him in again. He jumped out again.   In again.  Out  again.  In again, out again, and this time Easter carefully observed his escape point and tested the waters with a half-hearted little leap of her own.  I knew then that trying to keep him in this pen was going to be a disaster.

The next stop was the sheep barn.  (The sheep also have an outdoor paddock with shelter, and would do just fine living outside twenty-four hours a day.)  So in went the trio, curiously sniffing around at the sheepy smells.   The sheep barn door is slightly higher than my head.  “No way could any goat jump out of there,” I said to my husband.  But he looked doubtfully at Saltan’s long legs. “Let’s put up a little something extra, just in case,”  he said.   And when I returned with the evening goat rations, he had nailed up a long aluminum ladder horizontally above the door, spanning the entire upper opening.    “That’s over two meters, no WAY he’s getting out now!” he chortled, and we turned in, with visions of the chocolate brown kids to come.

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