What were we thinking? We didn’t have a scooby do about goats. The nearest I’d ever got to a goat was mucking out a pen for pocket money at the age of 11… and I don’t think I even saw the goat that caused my resulting back ache.
OK, Keep Calm and Stumble On Regardless.
We bought some books, we looked on the internet – wow – goats come in three flavours – Dairy, Fibre and Meat. The most common meat goat, certainly in the UK, is a Boer. Boer goats are predominantly white with brown heads. We were experts!
I went on a one day goat keeping course – it was a dairy herd but the fundamental care is the same – I’d met a goat, and got holes in my T shirt to prove it…goats like eating clothes.
Then the best thing happened, Dave got in touch with a young couple who had a herd of 150 Boer goats who lived just 30 minutes away and they very kindly invited us over to have a look. Meg and Damo have become not only our mentors but great friends – they guided us through the early days, taught us how to vaccinate, tag, band and gave us endless advice on housing, care and feeding.
With the barn restored and elementary training received we were ready to take the leap. Off we went to Puddleduck Valley in Devon with our shiny new livestock trailer to buy our first goats. Owners Phil and Mel were lovely and we came away with two mature Does (Gloria & Tiggy) and Doelings Buttercup, Fern, Speckle, Paris and Barcelona. Phil and Mel also gave us a doeling called Feather for free. Feather was the runt of quads and so tiny that it didn’t look like she would ever grow big enough to breed. Well, although it took her a little longer to mature, she produced a fabulous set of twins (Robyn and Sprout) last Christmas and is expecting twins again this November. Small is Mighty 💪
We were goat owners! You couldn’t keep us out of the barn, we were fascinated and utterly smitten with these beautiful, affectionate, dramatic animals.
First girls ✅ now better get a boy. Bought from Meg and Damo, Emperor is the son of their main man Caesar and it turns out Emperor is not only as prolific but also as sunny natured (not) as his daddy. Emperor was pretty young but ready to work so we decided to introduce him to Gloria and Tiggy.
Now Gloria is a big girl and Emperor not full grown so he couldn’t erm..quite reach the target area should we say? “I can’t believe we are doing this” I said to Dave as we stood either side of Gloria to keep her still whilst Emperor utilised a step as a mounting block. After some frantic activity Emperor slid to the floor with a glazed expression – I swear if we’d had a cigar he would have smoked it. He managed to serve Tiggy all by himself so then it was a case of waiting 90 days before we could have them scanned.
Now, two possibly pregnant Does, was not going to get the business up and running so Dave was dispatched on a second goat sourcing sortie – this time to the depths of Norfolk (where, thanks to the spider’s webs of narrow lanes and vague sat nav, Dave got some much needed trailer manoeuvring practice in). The boy did good and came home with 8 girls – two Anglo Nubian x Boer sisters (Toffee and Caramel), Boers Jade, sister Jemima, Judy, Gemini and a rather wild youngster who we named after a dear friend who we sadly lost to the Big C – Little Jan. In even more exciting news, their owner was pretty sure that all but LJ were expecting, but she hadn’t noted down serving dates… so could only give us the two months that they were running with the buck. Time to get the scan man in!
To me, in terms of excitement, ‘Scan day’ is second only to kidding – are they, aren’t they and if they are how many! After being entertained by our inept attempt to catch our dancing charges, our scan man Steve got down to business. Goats have two teats so it doesn’t take a genius to know that two is the magic number and we (experts) knew that one is good for a first timer.
First up was Toffee (our AN Boer X).. “Do you want the good news or bad news?” asked Steve, “Good news” said I, “Well she is pregnant” said Steve, “So what’s the bad news?” I enquired, “3” said Steve. 😲 Next up was sister Caramel…3…oh good lord! A further three conformed to standard with twins, two of the Norfolk girls were pregnant but too early to confirm numbers (but at least that gave us an idea of when they might be due). Although very early, we had Steve scan Emperor’s ‘girls’ Gloria and Tiggy – bingo – not clear how many but give that boy a cigar!
Another scan the following month showed that the two Norfolk girls were expecting triplets and twin, Tiggy was carrying twins and our herd queen Gloria…and I needed a stiff drink after receiving this news…Quads. 😱
So, sometime between the end of January and end of March we were due 23 kids. Cue mass panic buying of hurdles, heat lamps, cutting up of fleece sleeves for coats and generally mass panicking. We then pretty much moved into Meg and Damo’s farm as they were having their own kids.
The first kid I witnessed being born was at Meg and Damo’s place, I’d never actually seen anything being born. It was the most magical breath-taking experience and I unashamedly blubbed like a big girls blouse.
You guessed it... a montage of the herd (at this point)
Next Instalment: Kids, lots of kids and probably lots of pictures of kids.