Dead Thirsty: Pt. 2
Last week I told you that we were away for a couple of days and came home to find a dead thirsty Delores marooned with her week-old kids in a paddock that didn’t have a water trough: Dead Thirsty: Pt. 1. Also, I mentioned that our billy goat’s mate, the wether Sonny Jim, had dropped dead. No, not of thirst – he had a trough full of water. In fact, we don’t know what was wrong with him – he seemed healthy enough. But now we were confronted with the urgent need to find another companion for Chappie the billy goat.
We didn’t want to get Gretchen and Pam in kid for several weeks, and anyway, putting one of them in with the buck would be a temporary solution at best. And Minnie and Delores had very young kids at foot. Add to that the fact that June was milking all four does. As for the boys, we only had the one – Delores’ wether kid and it’d be at least 3 months before we would be prepared to wean him.
I got to thinking that we should get another billy goat – he could earn his keep above and beyond doing a wether’s duty of keeping Chappie company. “What about getting a young buck?”
June’s response to my question took me by surprise. She thought my idea had merit, which was by no means an assured outcome. Not only that, instead of getting another British Alpine, she came up with the idea of getting a Toggenburg.
As it turned out, the temptation for June centred on getting one from Barbara, who lives on the outskirts of the nearby town of Geraldine, which would also mean we wouldn’t have to venture far. We’d put one of her Toggenburgs over a couple of our does seven years ago and been very pleased with the progeny. All four of June’s milking does have a mix of British Alpine and Toggenburg genes, and the wethers produced from that initial mating were meatier than those from the Alpine.
Over the phone, Barbara sounded as keen to show us a couple of her young bucks as we were to see them. A mere day after coming home to find Sonny Jim dead, the prospects of finding a ballsy companion for Chappy were looking good.
Her set-up, after all that time, was still just as we remembered. As you turn in from the road, an expansive turning area makes for straightforward manouevering of a car and a trailer with its stock crate. And the billies there to greet us just like last time: half a dozen mature bucks pressed up against a six-foot-high deer fence as we got out of the car. They’d only be getting out of there – on Barbara’s say so – to service a doe or go to a livestock show. Seven years ago, Barbara had brought a buck on a leash out to the two does we had waiting by the trailer.
I have conflicting first impressions of being up close to a Toggenburg billy goat in his prime. Although impressed by how solid and imposing he looked, I wasn’t so taken by the shaggy brown hair or how hillbilly blokeish his face looked. The good keen South Island ‘Southern Goat’ look of the Toggenburg buck as opposed to the Auckland ‘Metro Goat’ look of the British Alpine, with his fine, short hair and the kempt appearance of his sleek lines.
As you might have noted, I discounted the stink comparison because during the breeding season all the breeds have the same billy goat reek. Give yourself a body spray of musk scent every day for a month, run a couple of marathons in there somewhere and don’t bother to wash and you’ll be getting the picture. The picture won’t disgust you, but the stale stench will, especially as a buck in rut will lace his irresistible musky maleness by spraying urine all over himself.
We found Barbara in a paddock just the other side of the house and garden. Two young kids had latched on to rubber teats attached to bottles that Barbara grasped firmly as the kids tugged and sucked at the teats, guzzling down 1 litre of milk apiece. The mother had died. Life on the farm. And death. A death the reason we were there.
Kids satiated, she took us into an adjoining paddock and we waited while her dog rounded up three young bucks and a wether. The only one to show any interest in us was a 5-month-old buck, coming over to sniff us while the rest remained in a huddle at the far side of the pen.
“A black Toggenburg – happens sometimes. Wouldn’t ask as much for him – he’s pure bred but I wouldn’t take him to shows or breed from him because he’s black.”
We’re suckers for animals that seem to choose us, and we like the look of black goats with white markings. Recently weaned and some months away from fully mature hairiness, to the untrained eye you could pass him off as British Alpine.
June didn’t give him a name straight-off, but she’s now settled on Billy Toggenburg, Billy T for short. Tell that to Kiwis and they’ll be reminded of the late, great Maaori comedian, Billy T. James. Guess you could say June gets more bang for her buck that way.