Friday, April 27, 2007

Learning From Goats

These first few months with goats have been enlightening. In my family, goat prejudice ran rampant, and the acquisition of two dwarf goats brought raised eyebrows and comments. Lately, the addition of a milking Alpine and a yearling Nubian doe have cemented my relationship with goats and the mystification of my non-goat friends.

Here's a few things we've learned:

1. Goats prove that multi-tasking causes diminished results.
When we got the new milking Alpine, Orange, we set up our milking station under a car port for protection from rain. However, dear Orange was so busy watching our variety pack of dogs, taking in the new surroundings, and wondering who was coming up the driveway that eating her grain ration and producing milk became low items on her priority list.
Cleaning out a small building to be the new milk house enabled Orange to focus on what was important. Her view from the milking stand is now a nice plywood wall and a small view of the pasture out the window. Milking became less stressful with fewer distractions, and she is able to eat in peace, let her milk down, and give us a full bucket.

2. Goats understand physics.
We built a new goat milking stand for Orange with a slightly longer length than the books called for, but she refused to hop up on it at milking time. We struggled for three days, trying bribes of crackers and dried fruit, wrestling her front legs up and then boosting the back, and generally feeling like something was seriously wrong. She showed us clearly yesterday. A long goat moves much more gracefully into a long space if you approach it from the *end* instead of from the short dimension. She must have thought we were incredibly dim witted as we encouraged her to jump that long body up from the side of the milking stand where her nose would rapidly approach the side wall of the milk house, instead of simply walking to the end and hopping up with room to step forward to the grain pan.

3. Goats know to call for help in a crisis.
This evening, just as we were sitting down to supper, a chorus of goaty bleats arose from the goat yard. I could hear the two month old mini-doeling, as well as the two new goats, and a muffled dwarf-mom's voice.
The new milk house used to be a chicken house with a *very* small chicken sized door near the foundation for the hens to come and go during the day. We hadn't latched this little door, as it was (to us humans) obviously too small for our goats to get through. However, for a determined dwarf goat, it looked like an opportunity. The dwarf momma had squeezed her bulk through that little door, and she was now inside, calling for her doeling...or for rescue. The doeling was hopping around and hollering, fully aware of where mom went, but unsure of how to get there herself. The two new full size goats were standing outside calling for help because they knew a crisis was in full force, and help was required from the humans.

Goats....don't you just love them? :)

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