We are just wrapping up our first attempt at breeding the dairy goats naturally. We are not using AI (artificial insemination) this season. But I won’t bore you with the specifics of all that. This is a time for stories. Stories that are a daily experience of farming. Stories that might offend some people who haven't lived with animals that are only concerned with eating, mating and sleeping. Yet it's everyday life for us, so relax and enjoy.
In an effort to synchronize the girls’ heat cycles we put them in a paddock near the bucks. The groups were about 2 feet apart. The boys inside their fortified pen and the girls inside the electro-netting.
Immediately, the two boys started going bonkers. Making strange noises and butting the fence repeatedly. Neither tried to jump out or climb the fence. Just a lot of running straight at the fence, trying to plow it down. They know where the gate is, so they focused on that area the most. It also happens to be the weakest part of the fence, so I had to reinforce it twice within the week.
When we noticed a specific doe in heat we would take the rest of the girls away to the milk barn and leave the girl in heat in the pen. She would be wagging her tail, making a strange sound we’d never heard before and have a noticeably moist tail.
Next I would go into the buck pen and let one loose to run in with the girl, meanwhile holding back the other buck until Sweetbreads locked the gate.
Everything went surprisingly smoothly until the last few “dates”. George, the Alpine, had proven himself to be the casanova of the two. He had style and finesse. Upon entering the girl’s pen, George would immediately mount and seal the deal, usually two or three times in the first few minutes. You knew it was a good one because George would end with a big thrust and then fall over backward on the ground! Talk about hilarious.
Then he would go back to the doe and she would pee on his face. To which he would stare up at the sky and snarl his upper lip. At this point it’s impossible not to laugh. This is what he’s been waiting for all year. A doe to pee on his face.
While George was establishing himself as the clear favorite, Gozer, the Nubian, was having less success. On a few occasions we actually put George in after Gozer just to make sure she got bred by someone. Gozer was furious. He would pound on the fence for 5-10 minutes and then retreat to his favorite tree and whine in disgust. Then he would hump George furiously when George returned to the buck’s pen. Gozer needed to reassert himself as the dominant male.
Eventually, Gozer got sick of this treatment and he busted out. I was standing near the pen when it happened and turned quickly and jumped on Gozer. When male goats are in rut they pee and do other things on the themselves. Needless to say, Gozer was not very ‘clean’ when I tackled him. He’s also a 160 pound goat with huge horns. Pound for pound he’s got me beat. But I jumped on him anyway. I wrestled him to the ground. Then I walked him up by his horns and battled him back into the pen.
Phew, I thought, got that experience out of the way. Patch up the fence and watch the gate a little better and that shouldn’t happen again.
Both Bucks Escape
Then we put George into the doe’s paddock when the doe wasn’t really in heat (sometimes it's not so easy to tell). She got spooked by the rampaging young male and jumped the electro-net. Then George jumped the net and chased her across the driveway, through the yard and up to the milk barn where the other girls were waiting.
Oh crap, how do we get this wild buck 100 yards back to his pen?
We ended up coercing George back by slowly carrying the doe in heat back to the buck pen AND holding a bucket of grain in front of his face. When we got to the buck pen we let him in. But Gozer with his huge horns plowed right through us and ran over to the girls’ holding pen. George quickly followed right behind him.
Now BOTH bucks were out. BOTH going crazy and chasing a doe around our yard. Grain was of no use at this point. They were competing for the doe and couldn’t be distracted.
After about 30 minutes of messing around, and the sun on the verge of setting, it boiled down to us needing to get these bucks back in the pen at all cost. So I wrapped my arms around George and picked him up and walked him back to his pen. Goats covered in urine and semen are not fun to carry. Add in a buck furiously swinging his head and kicking his legs and you got yourself a nightmare. But I got him back and dropped him in the pen.
Gozer was more difficult to catch, but he has horns, so once you get him, you got him. I found that walking backwards and leading the buck by the horns works well. You just have to get a hold of the horns, which isn’t so easy.
We finally got Gozer back in with George and the fiasco was over.
Then we realized that in all the turmoil we forgot about Blue, their guard dog. He’s not supposed to get out. The gate was open the whole time.
Vanished. We’ve seen him a few times since then, but he never comes close enough to catch. Hope we’ll get him soon.
And that’s farming for you. A few hours out of the day, just like any other day really.