A Detour from the Goat Diaries

I Have a Goat Herd
The goats are here!  They arrived mid-day yesterday.  We were a long way from being done building their “Goat Palace”.  We still had four panels to put up on the roof, the interior fencing to finish and three gates to build.  So the goats went into a stall.  I was originally thinking we would put them into the arena, but the consensus was they might be too hard to catch in such a large space.
They traveled in the back of her covered pick-up truck.  It was a very different arrival from the one I described in the Goat Diaries.  When E and P arrived back in July, they were huddled together against the back of the cab.  The Sister had to climb into the truck to bring them out.  Not today.  When she opened up the back of the pick-up, the goats crowded forward to greet us.

There were five goats in all.  That was a surprise for Marla.  Sister Mary Elizabeth had asked me if I could manage a third yearling.  I thought Marla would enjoy having a training project of her own.  As a thank you for all the help she’s given me building the goat palace, I said yes, by all means bring him along as well.  We have plenty of room for them all in the goat palace.  (I’m not sure about time!  I’m glad I got a jump start on the clicker introductions with E and P.)

The little one Marla will be working with is Sir Galahad.  He’s snowy white with the softest, most luxurious fur and such a very sweet face.  He is leased by a child who loves him, so he will be going back in the spring to be part of the summer 4-H program.  He is very friendly.  That puts us way ahead in the training.  He stayed right by the tail gate, enjoying a head scratch from both of us.  It is so interesting always the differences between individuals.  Initially, E and P froze when I pet them.  They stayed under my hand, but it was a long time before they showed any outward signs of enjoyment.  Galahad was clearly well versed in the pleasures of having your head scratched.  His response was very reinforcing and very cat like.  All the places cats most like to be rubbed and scratched seem to be what goats like best as well.

The two ladies are black goats.  They have blankets on to keep their fur clean so I haven’t seen them “undressed” to see how much brown they have in their coats.  Both ladies came right up to the tailgate.  They were very interested in the hay stretcher pellets I offered them.  Again, there’s a difference.  E and P wouldn’t take anything from me until the pretzels and peanuts arrived.  These ladies weren’t at all fussy about what I was offering them.

Thanzi (I hope I have the spelling right) was introduced first.  She’s a grand champion which means she produces top class cashmere.  I am looking forward to feeling her coat!  She was also described as an alpha in the herd.  She is very bold.  She’s not worried at all by the world at large.  But she does pull like a freight train so she can be difficult to handle.  She weighs about 120 pounds so when she wants to drag you on the end of a lead, she can.

Trixie (her barn name – I don’t yet have the spelling of her formal name) is a spotted goat.  Apparently, spotted goats are not favored by the cashmere producers.  It makes it harder to sort their fiber, but the Sister feels that it is important to maintain the spotted genetics in her herd, so she is very much looking forward to seeing the babies Trixie produces.  She’ll be easy to tell apart from Thanzi because she has a large white spot on her forehead.  I like having goats that are so easy to tell apart.  Trixie is a very different personality from Thanzi.  She’s much more nervous.  While we were talking, she started to shake. The shaking gradually stopped, but she was still clearly feeling very nervous.

And then there were the two boys, E and P, back again.  They were stuck behind the two ladies.  If they had been by themselves, I don’t know if they would have come forward, or not. Thanzi had very strategically placed herself so they would have had to be very brave indeed to push past her.

I got a stall ready for them. I love the versatility of the barn.  Normally, Fengur and Robin use two stalls as pass-throughs, but I could close off one, move the hay bag into the barn aisle and create a space for the goats without imposing at all on the horses.

So we were ready.  Since Galahad and the ladies were up by the tail gate, it was easy to put leads on them.  We opened the tail gate.  Galahad was the first down, lured easily by the offer of hay stretcher pellets.  The ladies jumped down following the same invitation for treats.  We left E and P in the pick up and pointed the goats in the direction of the barn.  They do indeed pull!

We got them safely into their stall, then went back for E and P.  They were more wary.  I held out my hand, and clicked when they looked at me.  They came forward to get a treat, and I was able to attach leads to their collars.  They jumped down, as well, following my hand held out as a target.  They did a fair bit of pulling down the barn aisle, so they will need a refresher course in leading.  In training you never erase old learnings.  They will always know how to pull.  Hopefully, they will also remember how to walk beside me with slack in the lead.

We gave the goats more hay, watched them for a few minutes and then went back to our construction project.  We finished the roof!  Hurray!  And just in time, too, because it rained last night, and today we have high wind warnings.  Our roof will get it’s first test.

We made progress on the interior fencing.  We have a couple more gates to build, and some other details to finish, but the end is in sight.  What pleases me the most is how we have been able to use up so much of the left overs from the original barn construction.  It is very satisfying to be able to put to good use all these miscellaneous things that have been so very much in the way.  It gives the goat palace a very “home made” look, but hopefully people will just think that it adds to it’s charm.

At the end of the evening, after all the barn chores were done, I sat with the goats.  I set my chair just inside the door.  The two ladies stayed away.  P watched from a distance as well.  But Galahad came right over and tried to raid my pockets.  He knew I had treats in them, and he was determined to get to them!  While he was busy trying to figure out how to get to my well protected pockets, E stood in front of me and enjoyed a head scratch.  There was zero mugging from him.  I distracted Galahad as best I could by scratching his head.  He finally gave up trying to get to my pockets and enjoyed the attention instead.

I left to pass out the mashes to the horses.  When I looked in on them a few minutes later, the three boys were all in a huddle in one corner of the stall and the ladies were standing apart from one another eating hay.  I checked them again just before lights out.  E and P were curled up together all in a heap.  Galahad was already asleep off by himself, and the ladies were lying down apart from one another.  When I looked in on them just after 5 this morning, they were all in the same spots.

It’s now getting light enough to do barn chores so time to post this and get on with the construction.