Monday, September 22, 2014

Bucks Beware!

I was born and raised in a city. Not a metropolitan city like New York. My city wasn't sprawling or congested. It was just a bunch of housing developments carved out of farmland. And the city slowly grew until it reached the borders of other cities. My city grew out, not up. 

In each of my family's houses, my parents made sure we had a garden and fruit trees growing. I enjoyed working in the garden, for the most part. My problem with gardening as a child was my health. I had severe asthma and allergies. Being outside digging around with dirt and blossoms and grass could easily trigger an attack that would put me in bed for weeks. So I was typically relegated to inside tasks while the rest of my family was pulling weeds.

As an adult, with my asthma and allergies under much better control, Hubby and I have had a garden at each house we've lived in and as many fruit trees as we could fit in the yard. But we've always lived in the city. Our biggest property was a fifth of an acre, with our house sitting on a 1/3 to 1/2 of that land. And we managed the yard nicely and dreamed of living on a bigger parcel.

And now we are living the dream.

We started two years ago with three acres. Now we own FIVE! We purchased the two acre parcel that butts up next to ours. 

We are doing lots of things with the land. We are growing in our skills as homesteaders, trying to live off the land and be self-sufficient.

This post is to document one of the Skills that I have recently acquired.

Through a mutual friend, we have met an expert on the care, keeping, and judging of goats. She and our mutual friend, who we discovered is also quite proficient in the care and keeping of goats, graciously came to my house to help me improve the care of our five goats. Those two sweet gals were not thrilled with what she found when they came to visit...

Most of the advice I've been getting from other people regarding the care of goats is WRONG! The good thing, they told me, is that I have Nubian goats and Nubians are hardy creatures. The gist of the conversation basically down to: "Sarah, if you had any other breed you would have killed them off months ago. Fortunately, you have Nubians."

I felt really bad about that, but they were kind and reassuring with me. I've since put a lot of what they told me into practice and am working on incorporating the rest of it over the next couple of months. 

Then we talked about the quality of my goats. I know that two of my does are absolute mutts (I don't know the correct goat term for this, so am using the dog term) so I wasn't concerned about them. And I knew that our milking doe had some problems, after all--she came to us with mastitis and we'd battled that for months. So I knew she wasn't the best quality.

What surprised me was her assessment of my bucks. Fred, the bigger buck, has more meat goat traits than dairy. His bone structure is also off. But the big surprise was that they said Fred is super aggressive! 

All of the behaviors that I had translated as Fred being a shy goat are actually signs of aggression. Yowsers!! We watched Fred and George, the younger and smaller goat, for about half an hour, with the expert gal pointing out all of the aggressive behaviors and the bad body structure. Choosing a buck to breed with your does is a HUGE decision. You need to be sure that the buck has good diary characteristics or you can end up with a doe who is not a good milker. Of course, the gals said this in Goat Terminology. They also pointed out the wonderful qualities in George. That goat truly is a sweet goat. He likes people, he likes my children. And his body structure is dairy and healthier long term.

And so we had a decision to make: Sale Fred to someone else for either meat or the breeding of meat. OR Weather Fred.

After talking to Hubby, we decided to Weather Fred.

And that, dear friends, is the new skill that I have acquired: I know how to Weather a buck/buckling. 

The gal did the actual banding while I held Fred still. That goat has GROWN since we got him in March. I straddled Fred at the shoulders and held on to his collar. He is a tall buck! Luckily, I have long legs. The gal was behind him with a banding tool. I have to tell you, although Fred is not yet full grown...his testicles are the size of a full grown buck. They were huge. It took some effort and finagling for the gal to get the band around his testicles. Fred was not happy with her messing with his boy bits. He tried jump and "buck" about, but I held that big goat firmly in place. I am super impressed with myself and my buff thigh muscles. Haha! 

Anyways, that was a few weeks ago. Fred's testicles have shrunk and now look like a hairy pancake. Seriously. That is what they look like.

We're going to add a second band this week to finish the weathering process. They'll continue to wither and eventually fall off.

And so...

Bucks Beware! 

I know how to Weather!  ;)