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We love our buck goats ... butt ...

If we would have known then what we know now, we might not have brought home two Nubian brothers. Maybe we might have, it all depends on whether or not Latte, when grown, would knock me down. As with most stories, it would help if I start at the beginning.

Richard and I are retired and are living on the side of a mountain in Upper Tract, West Virginia, which is a little south of Petersburg. It's not exactly a homestead--the house used to be a lodge. We do have electricity, a well, backup propane heaters and a wood stove. In addition to a productive garden and an orchard that is starting to be bountiful, we started raising free-range chickens about three years ago. Since we are over a mile off the main road and a river borders one side of the property, the idea of having goats came quite naturally. We read books and articles, talked to people who have goats and visualized a small herd that roamed the fields and woods and came home in the evening for their grain. This blissful fantasy, when compared to reality, proved to be wrong.

Selling them for profit or eating chevon didn't appeal to us, but we did think that we would like to try our hand at making homemade goat cheese, so we bought Sioux, a black and white, half Nubian, half Cashmere doe who was about four months old. We were also planning on buying Mocha, a brown and white three-month-old purebred Nubian. When we went to pick them up the owner offered to "toss in" Latte, Mocha's brother. Latte was tan and better behaved than Mocha, so we took him up on his offer and brought all three goats home.

At 12 weeks, Latte and Mocha were still nursing so I bottle-fed them for about 10 days, creating a nice bond, but Sioux was (and still is) a little standoffish. To our amazement, they didn't seem to have any inclination to run off from the temporary home we made them out of our old greenhouse. It was March and as the weather warmed and the leaves came out, they enjoyed the locust trees, the ornamental plum tree and, of course, the forsythia bushes in front of the house. We didn't mind. On schedule, Richard learned to give them their required immunization shots. That was something no one told us about. If you have goats, you need to know how to give them shots. Another lesson for us to learn.

I started taking them for daily walks around the property, to get them used to the area when they went out on their own. They never did. They lay on the front porch; they climbed on top the Jeep; they favored my greenhouse rather than the larger shed we prepared for them. We didn't mind. They were growing and were so much fun that first summer. The yard was busy with chickens, goats, cats and dogs, all one happy family.

Even past the first year, the bucks let me pet them. Matter of fact, they loved to have their ears and between their horns rubbed. Did I mention that we didn't de-horn them? They thought of us as part of their family. Being the curious one, Latte had to check out everything we were doing. If Richard was working on any of the equipment, Latte had to have his face in it, gently pushing and acting curious. We thought it was precious. Although he was the larger of the two, Mocha settled into the role as "second in command." His horns went straight back, whereas Latte's curled forward. When I sat outside, Mocha would lie at my feet and want his head rubbed. During walks he would be the one next to me, letting me keep a hand on his back.

Winter arrived, along with ice and snow and the goats having to be fed hay and extra grain. I read in a book that too much grain was bad for goats but I didn't realize how bad until I found Mocha with his head in the chickens' cracked corn barrel. This gluttonously feasting happened twice. We eventually found a better storage place. By then Sioux was pregnant and expecting in March, which, according to the other goat people, was a bad time for a new kid.

We noticed Mocha walking on his front knees in February. We checked his hooves and realized that they needed trimming. Until then we, as new owners, had read about but didn't have first-hand knowledge of hoof maintenance. The people we had spoken to before buying the goats said nothing of having to keep their hooves trimmed. So the vet was called. He said because our pasture was "soft," meaning that it wasn't rocky like a lot of areas around here, the goats didn't have the normal wearing down of their hooves. He also said that Mocha had "foundered" from eating the cracked corn. That was bad news, because he also said that Mocha had joint damage. He gave us medication to administer and taught us how to trim his hooves, but he really offered no hope for him. We were heart-broken.

Later that same month, during one of the coldest weekends, Sioux went into labor. Books tell you that most deliveries are easy. The goat does all the work, but Sioux went under the table in the greenhouse to have her kid. Thank goodness Richard, who is trained as an EMT, was there to help. I stayed with her until I could tell the contractions were hard, and then ran for him. He had to hold her up and help pull the kid out. The new buck was black and white just like her and once both of them were on their feet and he was nursing, she was in charge. She wouldn't hold still for us to milk her. We had heard that Sioux's own mother had been like that so we didn't push the issue.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

With a lot of "forcing him to his feet therapy," it was summer before Mocha was totally off his knees. I say totally, but it was more like 95 percent. If he got a rock in a hoof or if I had recently trimmed them, he would go down on his front knees. The vet said that he would always be stiff-legged.

All three original goats were now full grown. It was then that Latte and Mocha began to challenge one another. It was also at that time that Latte started to use his horns more ag gressively toward us. Someone told me that they hated water splashed on their face, so I began to carry around a plastic squirt bottle filled with water After using it a few times, both Mocha and Latte seemed to be a little more manageable.

We let them roam wherever they wished, anywhere but the chicken pen. They would rub their horns on the edges of the doorframes and fence posts and about anywhere else. They would poop all over the yard, keeping me busy raking it up. During our daily walks, Latte would be loveable, walking at my side, letting me rest my hand on his back, then without warning, he would twist his head around and catch me with his horns. I guess it was playing to him, but I was knocked on my butt several times and my doctor was questioning all the bruises I had on my arms. Mocha would shove at me, but not as forceful. As the months passed, Latte became more and more like the schoolyard bully, pushing and shoving just for attention.

In April we bought Angel, a reddish-brown yearling, part Boer and part Nubian. A shy doe, she soon fit in with the rest of the herd and by the middle of May, both she and Sioux were in heat. We thought that maybe she would be more agreeable in the milking department.

Although we had been told that a buck would get aggressive when the does are in heat, I really found that out the day I tried to fence in the girls and Latte came after me, full force. Gratefully, I could outrun him, at least far enough to get inside the house. Another lesson learned the hard way. He was successful in impregnating both females. They were due in October, so I breathed a sigh of relief. No more "heat," and the accompanying bad behavior from Latte for five months.

During the following months, I saw true affection between all the goats in how they nuzzled each other and how they would curl up together. How, if a stranger came around, the bucks would surround the does as to protect them. As you can see in the picture (page 77), Latte grew to be a beautiful and strong buck. On one hand, I enjoyed having him, on the other, I was becoming more apprehensive of his threatening "buck" behavior. Mocha and the younger black and white buck, whom we named Obama, would butt horns, would chase each other around the yard but it was without the aggression that Latte would show. Latte wanted to be the one in charge, even where we were concerned.

In mid-October, Sioux had twin does, who looked the image of Latte. She had them alone and was cleaning them up by the time we found out. Angel was a different story. For a whole week we watched her have symptoms of labor, but nothing happened.

Later, after talking to a more experience goat keeper, I learned that does can stop their labor. She must have been doing that. Since we had isolated both does, I watched Angel pace for a whole day. Then I began to massage her sides and the bottom of her belly. This calmed her down and within an hour she began to deliver. But the kid was large and one of her front legs was folded down into the birth canal. Again, Richard had to help. Afterwards, she was apparently in pain and traumatized, so she would lick the baby excessively and try to paw at her. Since the temperature was going to be down in the 20s that night, Richard got a big comforter and held the kid against him, while I would prepare the bottle every two hours. By morning Angel was more willing to accept her and I began putting the baby to her teats. By the end of the day, Angel was letting her nurse and the crisis had abated.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

We wanted does. Truthfully, we had been praying for does and had agreed that any bucks would be sold. The little doe of Angel's looked like Latte too. We named the twins Cinnamon and Nutmeg and Angel's daughter was Sugar. As a proud father, Latte strutted around the outside of the fence constantly making sounds like Chewbacca, the character in Star Wars. So proud was he that he did everything he could to get into the fenced-in area with the girls. And everyone has heard that you can't fence a goat in, well, the same is true of fencing one out. But every time he got in, he would try to mate with the does. We called the vet, thinking they couldn't be in heat this soon after giving birth. The vet said that their hormones were high and that was the problem.

So we put up a higher fence. That didn't work. We put up three layers of fencing (he would tear the wires with his horns) and this seemed to work for a while but everyday he would tear more and more wire off. At this point, he was also unapproachable. This goat, who used to put his head on my lap, who nuzzled my neck when I sat in the swing, who I knew loved me, was pawing the ground and making goat noises all night long. He was miserable and so were we. I'll add that some bucks, if they got through the fence too, would also try to mate with the does, but we could usually rope them and get them out. But not Latte. Only by pure trickery could we get him out. The does would run out of the pen to get away from him and he would follow, then I would hold the gate open and they would run back in and I would shut it before he got through. And since I was then trapped in the fenced-in area, we had to unhook some of the back fencing that was out of sight from the bucks so that I could sneak out. Mocha is apparently the smart one because he figured it out and got in one night without Latte. The whole situation was stressful to deal with and we couldn't focus on trying to milk Angel.

That's when Richard and I decided what needed to be done. The kids were growing and we couldn't keep them fenced in forever. Our decision was to have the bucks neutered, but not Latte. It would have been a shame to have him neutered. He is a beautiful buck, a proven stud. So we sold him to a man who had lost his buck and who had 15 does ready to go into heat. Buck heaven, as Richard called it. The man must have had experience in handling goats, for he approached Latte with a rope, threw it around his neck, then his sidekick got Latte gently by the tail and they led him into their carrier.

The three girls are now 3-1/2 months old and have the run of the property. Mocha and Obama seem to have completely recovered from their surgery and everyone is one big happy herd-again. We have what we wanted at the beginning, a small herd of goats to roam the fields and to be our pets. So what if still we have to buy our goat cheese?

BY DIANNA SIMMS

UPPER TRACT, WEST VIRGINIA
COPYRIGHT 2009 Countryside Publications Ltd.
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Title Annotation:The goat barn
Author:Simms, Dianna
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2009
Words:2347
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