Friday, 16 December 2011

The Goats of Christmas Yet to Come

Summer is here and the grass is rampant. As the local farmers reap the harvest, we're vainly waiting for the goat girls to keep the growth down in the paddocks. In some places they are only just visible above the waving seed heads which, as they cure, are proving to be a tasty morsel for a discerning goat. Combine this with veggie scraps and you have nearly everything a goat could ask for. We even bought the goats a mineral lick for Christmas. This was an immediate hit with the girls giving it the rough end of their tongues for all they were worth. However, like many Christmas presents that amuse for a short time and then are cast aside, the initial response to the lick has not been repeated and it now sits as another rmonument to our infatuatiion with those of the horned species. However, through weather or animal attentions, the lick is taking on rather distorted dimensions and may well pass for a piece of modern paddock scuplture in the future.

Hopefully the new year will open a new chapter in our goat relations as we are planning to breed the girls and build a family. This could be a complicated proceedure because at the moment we have no billy and will have to seek out the expertise of neighbours as to the courting rituals that need to be observed if one is to raise a successful herd of goats. In the meantime the girls are getting sleek and fat, ever more curious and adventurous. We are getting quite attached to our horned friends, though like children, they can be quite demanding and mischievious, especially when they know treats are available.
Toffee tests soundness of walls

Lyn has been spending much of her free time building the goat shelter and as its walls rise higher it is being subjected to stability tests and quality control as one girl after another gathers her limbs and takes a spring, landing atop the wall with four footed precision and then proceeding to strut its circumference, dislodging any loose stones as if to reject imperfect workmanship. Whilst one goat performs this disarmingly clever distraction, another quietly sidles up behind the wall builder and does her best to nuzzle her way into pockets that might be hiding a pellet or two.

We have also discovered the hidden aspects of animal husbandry in the small but persistent attentions that animals need. Though there is little we can do to save the girls from the attention of leeches which often manifest on bloody forelimbs or rumps, it seems that the safe life of living in a paddock has other ramifications for domesticated animals. Goats have very active keratin producers and thus grow toenails at an alarming rate. In the wild this poses no problems as they are constantly clambering on rocks and other hard surfaces that serve to wear down nails and keep them at servicable lengths. In a paddock however, the soft footing allows these nails to grow long and luxuriant. This would be all very well if you didn't have to walk on said nails which have a nasty tendancy to curl under the hoof and not only cause discomfort but make footing more difficult.
Sugar works on her own nails

Sugar was aflicted with a slight lameness and being the new fretting parents that we are this concerned us and led us to seek more experienced assistance. Thus we were introduced to the hoof peticure, a practice so the text books tell us, that should occur about twice a year. Unlike the pampered lunacy of the human beauty treatment, a goat peticure involves a cross between wrestling and sheet metalwork as a giant pair of shears is used to clip of lumps of tough offending toenail whilst someone holds the subject goat in a less than dignified position on its rump. Apparently, you can train your goats to stand for this treatment, much like a horse allowing itself to be subjected to shoeing, but our helpful expert suggested that we shouldn't encourage such vanities in the girls or they would forever be expecting to be pampered.
This advice taken, we have observed that, far from being jealous of the attention given to Sugar, the others were all very happy to forgo such an invasive procedure. Sugar herself is now a little shy about being suubjected to more than basic attentions.

And so the goats settle in; a curiosity for visitors and a conversation topic for we as small animal husbanders; and breeding season comes closer.