You’ve got to be kidding: pt.2
Before I signed off last Monday (see You’ve got to be kidding! part one), I said I’d let you know how things were progressing with the newborns. So here goes.
Chappie and his goat wether mate have permanent lodgings in a corner of the cattle yards, surrounded by four paddocks they graze in rotation. So Mohammed has to go to the mountain, or in our case, the doe has to go to the buck.
It’s all stops and starts, tugs and jerks on the lead, getting a doe down there – they’re not trained to walk on a lead. Grabbing one is the easy bit because they’re used to coming up to their shed for feed: June clips the lead to the dog collar round the chosen one’s neck.
Get rid of a picture in your head of an animal with big horns on a swept back curve sticking out of an iron-hard skull, ready to butt you in the bum the moment you turn your back.
True, goats do have one of the hardest skulls on the planet: I never attempt to put a .22 bullet through the front of the skull. My humane kill of a wether goat destined to provide meat for our table is to shoot it in the back of the head – and its total collapse from dying instantly is my cue to swiftly cut its throat to bleed it out.
While I’m on the topic of hard skulls, I remember Andrew, the farmer we bought our ten acre block off thirty years ago, saying that a grumpy old ram had charged straight at his lower leg as he sat straddled on his farm quad bike. There was barely time to swing the bike around – luckily the ram’s skull connected with the bull bar and not his leg: it bent the bar into a profile worthy of a ‘U’ shaped valley.
Our similarly hard-skulled goats have their horns killed off when the kids are three or four days old: I cauterize the ring of horn growth cells at the base of the horn buds. I described the process to you in a post from this time last year: new-kid-on-the-block.
Five does went on separate mating missions to Chappie’s quarters. Two kidded recently, and two are due in a week’s time. As for Minnie, June milked her through the winter and didn’t take her to the buck until the end of July: her kids (most likely two), will be born late December. It’ll be her fourth time kidding. As for the other does, Gretchen is second time round, while it’s the first time for the other three.
It’s rare for our goats to have more than one first time round, so we were quite surprised when Ivory, and a week later, Delores, had two apiece. Ivory’s are thriving, but of Delores’ twins, a female survived and a boy died. He was a bit of a runt and had a strangely short and blunt face. An animal mother – domesticated, yes, but with survival instincts kicking in – putting all her energies straight off into maximising the chances of survival of the one healthy, well-formed newborn.
All three kids have distinctive British Alpine coats: black and white like Chappie’s. Good news when you want to add strong characteristics of the breed into a herd that already boasts a mix of Anglo-Nubian, Toggenburg, Saanen and British Alpine genes. They’re not lacking in hybrid vigour!
Good news also when June hears the delight in friend Tilaya’s voice on hearing that Ivory’s boy (the other one was a girl), has British Alpine markings and her favourite ear look – drooping Nubian ones. Yes, she’s happy to buy him when he’s weaned some time in January.
Their billy goat, whom they also got from us, went in the freezer a couple of months ago. They’d had him for years and they didn’t want to risk too much more inbreeding. Also, she’d told June over the phone, “He’d never actually gone for me, but I was definitely having to keep more of an eye on him when I was in the paddock. They get like that as they get old – more territorial and aggressive.”
Eating an old buck! “He’d be tough as, with gamey flavour to spare – and not in a good way!” I said to June. “What do they do? Slow cook the meat for hours and have it as a hot curry?”
All the same, I’m impressed. A home kill done by Steve, her husband, who’s an excellent butcher, would have been as humane as it is possible to be when you slaughter an animal. And in my book, you honour the life of the animal when you humanely kill, butcher, and put time, effort and thought into preparing, and serving up the meat dishes at your table.
I re-read this week’s journal entry and see that it’s as much about the death of goats as it is about their birth. That’s life for you!
That’s all on modern-day homesteading at Little Owl Gully till next Monday. Thanks for your company. Bye for now.