25 June 2008

Goat Updates

Time has been flying here, with the new farm keeping us busy. Fortunately, as the children are getting older they're becoming much more helpful in the garden and with the animals.

Hard to believe that Queen Anne's Lace (QAL) the Goat's kids are now three weeks old. The twin boys are doing very well, and we've recently moved them and QAL back in with the rest of the herd. She's endowed with incredibly large teats, which are a mixed blessing. She's extremely easy to milk, as the things are like sausages --- unlike the tiny little things on some other goats that you can barely get two fingers around. But that convenience comes at a price; the teats are so big around, and hang down so low, newborn kids simply cannot get down low enough to reach them --- or even get one into their mouth without assistance.

Homeschooled Farm Girl to the rescue! Several times a day, she went to the kidding pen and made sure both little kids got latched on and nursed out plenty of milk. Then, after a couple of weeks, I noticed that the kids were figuring it out on their own. HFG continued to double-check the kids, but they're now at the point where they don't need any help.

Meanwhile, I wish we could say the same about Biscuits the Goat Kid. As you recall, he'd been rejected by his mother --- and then developed pneumonia, which occupied us for the better part of a weekend and ran up a vet bill basically equal to what he's worth in meat. He did survive the pneumonia, but we've been paying closer attention to him --- and drawing some unsettling conclusions.

The bottom line is this: Biscuits is S-T-U-P-I-D.

How stupid? He cannot learn how to drink water from a bucket. Oh, we've tried. HFG has tried. You put his face near the water, lift some water up to his lips to demonstrate what's in the bucket...and then he shakes his head and pulls away. You put his mouth down into the water, and he just stands there like a statue. You put more of his mouth into the water, and then he snorts like crazy and shakes his way free so he can breathe. The only way he will drink is out of a bottle with a nipple. As a result, HFG has had to go out a few times a day and give him several bottles full of water. Couldn't we simply let him get really thirsty, so he'd have to learn how to drink? Unfortunately, that's how he got pneumonia. He's so stupid (or his mouth is so malformed), he never figured it out; the pneumonia came, we think, from his getting dehydrated and weakened.

A local farmer who raises dairy goats mentioned that mother goats often reject kids that have some inherent defect. Even if that defect may not be obvious to human eyes, the mother goat just seems to "know" that a particular kid ought to be weeded from the gene pool. The more MYF and I observe Biscuits, the smarter his mother appears. And we're starting to wonder if perhaps Bianca the sheep (AKA "BianKKKa") knew what she was doing in rejecting one of her lambs two years in a row --- the one we saved and bottle-fed last year has yet to really develop fully, has a lousy set of horns, and did not even bear a lamb this year; we're going to cull and butcher that one when we take this year's lambs in.

In the meantime, HFG is clearly getting frustrated with Biscuits, because we've told her she must keep giving him water so we don't lose all that meat. Last night at dinner, out of the blue, sweet and innocent HFG asked, "When are we going to take Biscuits to have his brains bashed in?" As MYF and I reprimanded HFG for the inappropriate language and tone, it was all I could do to keep from doubling over and laughing at these completely unexpected words.

Answer: Soon, Honey. Hopefully real soon.

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