Archive for the ‘Goats’ Category

Goat Fence: Project Complete!

Tuesday, May 15th, 2007

The electric fencing around the top goat paddock is finally hooked up and working. Daphne and Lulu are learning what it means to live with a real fence! This project was completed none too soon, as Daphne had been escaping and had already totally trashed a young loquat tree in the orchard area. I was getting very sick of having to put her back in the goat paddock all the time!

The goats used to stick their necks through the fence as a matter of course, but have quickly learned that this is not a good idea. They do not like electric fences!

Kevin has been testing his ingenuity with the goat fence project. My Dad came over and helped tighten the existing wires of the fence, and roll out the new wires. Kevin devised some home-made insulators made out of old plastic irrigation tubing to stop the electric wires shorting out against the fence posts. These seem to be working very well, and have saved us a lot of money compared to buying ready-made insulators.

Satisfaction is 5000 volts running through your goat fence

It won’t win any beauty contests, but the goats are contained

Note from Kevin: If you do this, make your insulators longer than I did and strain your wire well.

The goats have been especially playful lately, despite not liking their new fence. Daphne loves to jump up onto the goat house in the top paddock. She capers around up there looking very pleased with herself. Lulu can’t (or won’t) jump up onto the goat house, but waits until Daphne gets down to start jumping at her and bunting. The two of them have mock goat fights, and tear around the paddock like mad creatures, doing twists and leaps and fancy stunts.

Daphne surveys the realm from the roof of the goat house; Lulu is jealous

We are glad we don’t have to put the wooden A-frame collars on the goats any more when they are in the top paddock. (They haven’t needed to wear them for a while in the lower paddock.) They are surely more comfortable without them, and it was a hassle for us to be taking them on and off all the time! We feed the goats on extra tree clippings (especially any privet that we clear out around the place), and weeds, prunings, and over-grown vegetables from the garden to supplement the forage in their paddocks. With these extra offerings, we hope they don’t suffer too much for having to stay in their paddock. Certainly, this arrangement is going to be much better for the little fruit trees we are hoping to plant.

Goat Update

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

As a change from walking the goats along the road, we have started taking them up the hill through the cow paddock to the top of the Farmlet. The advantage of being away from the road is that we can let the goats off their leashes. They really love having the freedom to run about and play, and graze where they like. They are very good about staying with their human herd, and so far we haven’t had any trouble with goats wandering off to parts of the Farmlet where we don’t want them to go (such as the area of native trees near the stream). In fact, the goats are so keen to stay together that we sometimes feel in danger of falling over them, or ending up with their front hooves in the backs of our gumboots. We enjoy watching them prancing about on a fallen log, or doing stunt-leaps down the hill. Humans and goats like to stop at the top of the hill for a while to enjoy the view — or to enjoy a bit more grazing. The goats are excellent company.

Work on the fence around the uphill goat paddock is almost complete. We hope it will be finished before we move the goats back into that paddock in about a week’s time. (We move the goats every 21 days. This is meant to help break the life-cycle of any parasites they might have. I dose them with apple cider vinegar and/or aloe vera and/or tansy a few days before we move them, so that they should have expelled any parasites before moving to the clean paddock.)

Everyone follow Mummy

Another perfect evening on the Farmlet

Stunt goats

Goat Pedicure

Tuesday, February 6th, 2007

The time is coming again to trim the hooves of our dear little goats. This task needs to be performed every four to six weeks if their hooves are to remain healthy and free from foot scald (precursor to foot rot). As I prepare to trim the goat hooves again, I find myself thinking back to our first hoof-trimming experience.

Becky inspects Daphne’s hooves

One sticky summer afternoon, I set off for the goat paddock with a sharp pair of secateurs, calling Kevin to follow. My plan was that Kevin should pet and cuddle a goat. This would allow me to lift up its hooves for trimming in the manner suggested by goat-care experts. This sounds fine in theory, but the goats wouldn’t keep still for us.

Kevin had a better plan. “I’ll grab its back legs, and lift them up so you can trim the hooves,” he suggested. I thought this sounded great, but the goats didn’t like it. They let out deafening bleats, and kicked so much that I didn’t dare try to trim the hooves at all. Kevin was running for cover. What could we do?

Later in the afternoon — at about the time when the goats usually settle down to chew their cud — I went back to the goat paddock. Daphne and Lulu rushed over to the gate. Soon enough, they started cud-chewing, and milling around me wanting love and cuddles. I hoped they would sit down with me in the cool shade of a big tree, so that I could execute my cunning pedicure plan. . . but no. Daphne and Lulu wanted to chew their cud in the nice toasty-warm goat house. Not to be deterred, I crouched down, and duck-walked after them into the goat house. It was stinking hot in there. Also, the “nice soft hay” I’d spread in there a few days before turned out to be a rather scratchy place to rest, if you ask me. I guess you have to be a goat to pick a spot like that for an afternoon siesta. We all sat down to chew our cud.

Goat house

Once the goats were lying down and very much relaxed into dopey cud-chewing mode, it was easy to crawl around next to them and trim their little hooves. Actually, this exercise took quite a while, and I ended up covered in hay, and smelling like a goat. Still, it was a friendly experience for all — especially compared to our previous attempts.
I intend to use this goat hoof-trimming method in the future, and highly recommend it to other goat keepers if:

a) You are not in a big hurry with a herd of 50 goats to tend
b) You are on very friendly terms with your goats, such that they think you are another goat and will let you join them to chew cud and take a siesta

Later in the evening, when we went to put the goats away for the night, I gave them a foot bath of warm water with some tea-tree oil in it. (Kevin says our goats are very spoilt!) This preparation is supposed to help prevent foot rot and similar problems. I’ve also heard that you can use a foot bath of stock iodine, or else make a paste out of petroleum jelly and copper sulphate. The paste is pushed up into the crack in the hoof. The paste preparation is especially recommended for damp conditions.

This month, I plan to use the siesta pedicure method of hoof-trimming again. I’m intending to exercise a bit more patience this time, though: I’ll wait until they lie down in a nice (human-friendly) spot outside the goat house, thereby avoiding unnecessary heat and scratchiness.

Incidentally, I shouldn’t really have said that I smelt like a goat after my stint in the goat house. I more likely smelled like an over-heated human — which is much worse than smelling like a goat. Our goats are young does, and are not vile-smelling like billy goats in the mating season. Actually, they smell clean and rather nice.

Naughty Goat Collars

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

Our two little goats are growing up. They forage like champions for all kinds of food — weeds, grasses, leaves and twigs off trees. They are as friendly and affectionate as ever, and we feel gratified to see them getting bigger and stronger every day. They have also learned how to get through the fence and out of their goat paddock.

We have plans to improve the fencing on the goat paddocks, but this job will have to wait until we have completed a number of other projects. In the mean time, we need the goats to stay in their paddock — especially since we have just planted a couple of tender young kiwifruit vines outside the goat paddocks.

Our solution to this problem is a device we call the “naughty goat collar.” “Naughty goat collar” is actually as misnomer. The goats are not being naughty by getting out of their paddock. Their goatly nature dictates that they should go through fences whenever possible, and one of our fences was hardly slowing them down at all. Goats will be goats.

Sporting their new A-frame collars, Daphne and Lulu follow Mummy.

Kevin constructed the “naughty goat collars” out of pieces of wood, a few bolts and some wingnuts. They look like mediaeval torture devices, and we felt rather cruel the first time we put them on the goats. For their part, the goats looked rather pleased when we first put the collars on them. Perhaps they though it was a stylish new fashion accessory for the summer season. They were less pleased when they found they could no longer get through the fence.

Daphne reaches for some privet as Lulu admires her sister’s climbing skills

The “naughty goat collars” are serving their purpose. The goats have not escaped again since they started wearing them. We are also pleased to note that the collars do not seem to restrict their movement too much. They still run and play like they did before. We take the collars off when we put the goats in their shed at night, and put them on again when they are let out in the morning. We also take them off when we walk the goats or put them on the tether.

The Best Christmas Present… Ever

Monday, January 8th, 2007

Christmas Day presented us with a bit of a challenge. We wanted to spend the day with our family out at the coast. Our young goats, however, have recently learned how to escape from their paddock. They don’t go far. They just want to find us. While the goats are content to stay in their paddock, most of the time, we didn’t want to risk having them get out while we were away.

Rather than tethering them, or locking them up in their shed, we decided to take them out to the coast with us. The goats are growing fast, and I thought that we should secure them in the back of the ute. Becky wouldn’t hear of it! “They’ll be traumatized,” she informed me. So, the goats got to ride up front, mostly on Becky’s lap.

Out at the coast, Bonnie, the family’s fifteen year old Weimaraner came out to greet us.

Faithful Bonster, at the ready

None of us really knew how Bonnie would behave in the presence of the goats. At fifteen, Bonnie is VERY old. She has also suffered some recent health setbacks. With her hunting days long past, we assumed the old girl would check out the goats and quickly lose interest in them.

When we first took the goats out of the ute, we kept a close eye on Bonnie, thinking that maybe she would have a sniff at them and pretty much leave it at that. Indeed, that’s what happened. But, she seemed to want to keep sniffing at them…

I put Bonnie on a leash, just in case.

Bonnie greets Becky and the goatlings

As we all walked to a place where we could tether the goats, Bonnie was pulling hard at the leash, with her head low. This was starting to feel less and less like a friendly interest in the goats… Once Becky got the goats tethered near some tasty shrubs that needed pruning, I thought I’d give Bonster one more chance and let her get near the goats.

Bonnie looked around at us. She was quivering, and whimpering slightly.

She must have thought that these tasty, little goats were the best Christmas gifts that a faithful, old Weimaraner could ever get; rewards from the family for being such a splendid beast and accomplished hunter. She took one more sniff at Daphne, opened her jowels and aimed high for Daphne’s hind, right roast!

Luckily, I never fully relaxed the tension on the leash. Her bared fangs missed the young, succulent goat leg by about six inches.

“Well,” I chuckled, “I think we have our answer to that question.”

I’d had a couple of Black Labs when I was a kid, so I had a pretty good idea about hunting dog instincts. Even though Bonnie was very old, her breeding and instincts were intact. Becky’s dad, Bruce, led Bonster away.

We tied her up, well away from the goats. She was very disappointed. She had this look that seemed to be saying, “Why don’t I get to hunt down those goats? They would be very tasty! Let’s go find those goats. Hmm? Hmm? Come on. Let’s go find them!” Her tail/stump was flicking back and forth wildly.

Of course, none of us could be mad at Bonster for doing what hundreds of years of breeding had hard wired her to do. I knelt down near her and gave her copious pets and praise for being such a good dog.