Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Of matrons and good manners

The old does and young bucks now live together peacefully.

We ended last year with three late-born buck kids that didn't fit in with any other group of goats. Being summer-born, they were a little too small to sell as breeding stock last fall but a little too good to cull yet. They were too big to put with the doelings and too little to put with the January-born bucks. So I put them into a small pasture near the barn.

In December as we started moving some of the pregnant does closer to the barn so we could keep an eye on them and provide a little extra feed, I started running out of pastures. I couldn't put the older, bigger, meaner does in the same pasture with the pregnant yearling does — the young does would have gotten beat up on a regular basis. 

I finally decided to put  the older does into the small pasture with the three bucklings. The does were starting to bag up, so I knew they were already bred. And if a buckling got butted in the side once in a awhile he might get bruised up but no risk of losing a kid like a young doe might experience.

The first day I put the big does into the buckling pasture, the boys thought all their dreams had come true. They charged the does, sniffed them and tried to mount the biggest one. Big mistake. In less than a minute, three bruised and battered bad boys were shaking their heads and wondering what the heck had hit them.

Those young guys were persistent, though, and it took a good two days before they figured out these gals did not want to date — they didn't even want to have casual conversation. A couple months later, the boys have totally changed. The old matrons have taught them a thing or two about good manners. The boys don't chase or sniff or try to mount the ladies, and they all eat peacefully at the same trough. And if the girls happen to get into a bad mood, the boys step back and let the matrons have their share of feed too. They are content to come back later and pick the spilled feed off the ground.

Boys will be boys sometimes, but a firm matron can work wonders with the rowdiest "teenagers"

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