Friday, January 23, 2009

Goat Sects

Renata came running up to the fence, bleating, with her one stubby finger-like horn bent the wrong way. She's a skinny girl, brown, relatively cute, and out of place at the lower barn. She had been put in a sick pen for some reason, and when an ailing old goat took hospice in one of the sick pens, Renata was displaced to the main part of the lower barn. Being small, she was automatically placed lowest in the pecking order and bullied away from the feeders, even maliciously headbutted in the ribs when she was just hanging around. She took to hiding on the outside of the wall of the enclosure. The past couple days when I went to feed them, she ran up to me and pressed her body against my leg and bleated. When I went to leave, she tried to come with me. I felt bad for her, forced to live in an unfamiliar place with testy, exclusive barn-mates.

Today I tossed a couple flakes of alfalfa (the good stuff) into the pasture space, just to get some of the goats out of the hay'n'shit they live in, and she ran over to the fence and gave me very pathetic eyes, about as pathetic as a goat can look. Since she's from the milking group, I brought her onto the wooden milking stand, put her head in the headlock, and gave her a scoop of grain (the really good stuff), which she began to devour. I sat down behind to milk her, gave one squeeze, and noticed a drop of blood on the ground by her legs. It wasn't from her teats. Apparently she had been pregnant and aborted, probably because of the tormenting and lack of food.

I let her finish the grain and put her back in a sick pen with a fellow milker, Hillary. Renata started headbutting Hillary away from the food.

Getting to know another species is pretty strange. To the extent that they're dumb animals, I'm a source of food and water, and they follow the grain bucket around like a hungry school of fish. I communicate with them through that, in a way. The milkers know what to do when I wake them up at 5 in the morning, and don't give me trouble any more when I "tsch, tsch" them down the muddy path to the dairy.

It's another thing to have animals that realize that you are a source of protection, or some sort of deity. One milker, Jardin, likes to rub her face on my leg when I'm leading goats up the ramp to be milked. The little cutie we call Rebecca's Kid comes up to me and tries to nibble my fingers, accepts my petting and the strange noises I make at her. I take these things as a sign of affection or tribute. And Renata, who sees humans and realizes that we're the ones to tell when something's wrong with her, except we don't know how to interpret pathetic eyes. It's almost impossible to tell when a doe is pregnant until a couple days beforehand, which is why breeding is pretty regulated (you don't want random goats dropping kids without warning).

A couple does have died in the last month; one of old age, the other of some illness that resembled the flu. Two now have aborted. I suppose those are standard statistics among 200 goats. However, there are a dozen or so does who are due for their first kids pretty soon, so the cycle will continue. Perhaps I'll get to name one. Names I would choose for a goat would include:

Albert Einstein, H.W. Longfellow, Rammstein, Her Majesty, Dinah Mo Humm, and Leonora

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