Life Lessons from the Barnyard: The Sweetest Boy
By Kate Johnson
In the world of dairy goats, girls rule and boys drool. What I mean by that is, does are the main workers providing babies and milk and so are the most desirable gender, while the boys have relatively limited usefulness. Of course, a few bucks are needed to help make the babies, but only a few. They don’t make great pets (they’re pretty stinky, have a one-track mind and can be fairly aggressive). Wethers can make good pets and companions, but you really only can keep a few. In the end, most people who raise dairy goats end up selling the boy babies for meat.
Now, I don’t have a problem with this, per se. After all, I’m a meat eater myself. But I have to tell ya, once you’ve bottle-fed a few baby goats and see what darling personalities they have (more like puppies than livestock), it’s pretty hard to imagine them on the dinner table–at least, for me it is. So, each year that we’ve had kids so far, we’ve managed to figure out something else for the boys to do besides being sent to market. And that’s especially true of our first boy, Snickers.
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Snickers was born on May 5, 2009 to our Nubian doe, Skittles. He was the first baby ever born at Briar Gate Farm, which automatically made him special. But he really is special beyond the fact that he was the firstborn. When Snick was 1 day old, it was apparent that he was a cuddler. His sister, Milky Way, was much more rambunctious and rowdy while Snickers was content to sleep and snuggle and get showered with kisses all day long. This personality continued as he grew up and before long it became clear that he was just a big, lovable dope. He has been somewhat accident-prone at times, getting his head stuck in buckets, his legs caught in hay bags, and once he almost strangled himself when he got his collar stuck on a hay rack. But his best feature is that he doesn’t seem to have an aggressive bone in his body–especially toward other goats.
We noticed this fact as our small herd began to expand. Each time we brought a new goat to the farm and introduced it to the herd, the others would butt heads and ram the newcomer in its sides with such animosity that we’d have to separate them for a while until the posturing and bullying settled down. But Snickers never seemed to display this tendency and didn’t act all tough like the others, so he soon became known as the “welcome goat,” keeping the new arrivals company and helping them assimilate into the larger herd. Once we had a young wether that needed minor surgery and had to spend a few nights in our mud room infirmary while he was recovering. Not surprisingly, Snickers was chosen to be his nursemaid while he convalesced.
We’ve also found other ways to keep Snickers “employed.” He has learned to pull a cart and gives rides to kids when they come to visit the farm. My daughters delivered Christmas cookies to our neighbors with Snickers pulling the cart wearing, reindeer antlers on this head (he wasn’t too fond of this detail but complied fairly well). He has been in parades and utility classes and has carried a pack with our lunch in it on mountain hikes. He has even been leased by a local 4-H member who wanted to show a goat at the fair but couldn’t have one of his own.
I imagine if we keep raising dairy goats and get more serious about the milk production end of things we may eventually have to consider the idea of selling a few boys for meat. But for now, Snickers continues to show us that boy goats are useful for a whole lot more than they’re sometimes given credit for.
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