Life Lessons from the Barnyard: Trailering Adventures
When we first started raising dairy goats about ten years ago, we began with Mini Nubians. My thinking was that I loved the long floppy ears of the Nubians but wanted a smaller goat that my young children could handle more easily, so the Mini Nubian seemed like a good fit. We did a brief search of goats in our area and found a registered American Nubian that was on the small side and was owned by a gal who planned to breed her to a Nigerian Dwarf. Perfect, we thought! We can get this bred doe and start our own little herd of minis. So that’s just what we did.
That worked just fine for our first season of 4-H but then my daughter discovered open ADGA shows and she was hooked. Unfortunately, we couldn’t show the minis at the open shows so we embarked on a breeding program to improve our little Nubian with bigger show-quality bucks and after 2 or 3 generations, we had a fairly show-worthy Nubian herd. And then my daughter left for college!?
But this story isn’t actually about showing. It’s about getting to the shows.
Now that my daughter is off at college, I’ve begun letting some of the younger 4-H kids show our goats. A couple months ago, I took a few of the kids to a big show in our region called the Weld County Goat Extravaganza. This show includes dairy, market and pygmy goats in one long, goat-filled weekend. It’s early in the season so there’s a double-ring buck show as well. So, this year we ended up taking 15 goats, 5 of which were bucks or bucklings, as well as a mix of milking does, yearlings and babies. Luckily my stock trailer has two sections so we were able to give the big bucks their own compartment. Then we put the littlest babies in large dog crates which we stacked and tied to the side of the trailer so they wouldn’t tip over. And the rest of the space was filled in with the does. It was crowded, but it worked.
We had a great weekend with many successes and learning opportunities for the kids. We put in several very long days and by the end were quite ready to re-load the goats and head back home. It was a carefully orchestrated dance to get all 15 goats back in the trailer at the end of the show, involving many leashes, handlers, carts and a carefully laid out plan of the order that everyone would be loaded. All went well and after saying goodbye to all of our friends, we headed back onto the road for the hour-long drive home.
Luckily, I went to the bathroom just before we left.
I say this because about 20 minutes into the drive I noticed someone flashing their lights at me in my side mirror. I got concerned that something might be wrong with the trailer and so I pulled over as quickly as I could and got out to inspect. Much to my dismay, I saw that one of the trailer tires was completely in shreds! There were two tires on each side so we hadn’t even felt the first one blow, but obviously we weren’t going to make it home with things in this condition. And sadly, my spare tire was flat – something I knew had happened several months earlier but hadn’t managed to find the time to deal with before this show. As I stood at the side of the road contemplating my options, my friend and her kids who had been at the goat show with us pulled up behind our trailer in their car. Together we surveyed the situation and agreed that the first order of business would be to get a second trailer out to our location so that we could transfer the goats and get them home. She agreed to go on ahead, get her own truck and trailer and come back to get us.
Like I said, luckily I’d gone to the bathroom before we’d left. It was gonna be awhile.
About ten minutes into our wait I realized that we were not going to be able to unload and reload 15 goats on the side of the highway – just too dangerous. I figured that since we hadn’t felt the tire blow and we’d just been humming along oblivious that anything was wrong, we probably could limp along to the next exit and find a safer place to unload everyone. So, with flashers on and a quick prayer, we slowly began to make our way along the shoulder to the next exit. There we spotted a side street with a big field and headed toward it to park and finish out our wait. Just as we turned the corner onto the side street, I felt the other tire on that side go flat, and realized we were very lucky to have made it off the highway!
At this point, it was pretty warm outside and I worried that all the goats being so crowded into the trailer may be getting hot. So, my 4-H helper, Sadie, and I decided we would put leashes on all the does and babies and get them out while we waited. We figured the big bucks would be ok once we got a little air into the trailer. We were quite a spectacle there at the side of the road, but the goats cooperated farily well and we were able to give them some fresh air while we waited for our relief trailer.
Eventually our back up arrived and we safely reloaded all the goats, unhooked the trailer and left it at the side of the road to be dealt with later, and I followed the relief trailer back to the farm with no further incidents.
Back home the goats were oblivious to the worry and angst the whole ordeal had caused me, but my own inconvenience was far from over. My husband and I had to go back out to the abandoned trailer the next day, remove the two flats and the spare, take them to the closest tire shop and have new tires put on the rims, go back to the trailer and put the new ones on, and then take the trailer back to the tire shop to have the rest of the old tires replaced.
All ended well but I learned more than a few life lessons:
- Replace tires sooner rather than later
- Have enough leashes for the number of animals in your trailer
- Always go to the bathroom before any length of drive