Saturday, May 19, 2012

Saturday Market Story for May 19, 2012

There is an expression in goat keeping that says “If a fence won’t hold water, it won’t hold a goat.”  It is one of those truisms that we live by.  We are often amazed at where our goats end up in spite of our best attempts at fencing. 

Vincent Van Goat is one of our worst offenders when it comes to wandering the farm.  Vincent came to us from Split Creek Dairy as the offspring of a Nigerian Dwarf father and a LaMancha mother.  The children worked at the dairy to earn him.  He was still being bottle fed when we brought him home so he spent a lot of time following us around.  One of the most interesting characteristics of the LaMancha is the tiny or almost absent outer ears.  It was that characteristic that made it so easy to name him.  Vincent is a beautiful white fellow with gray markings.  He has white speckles across his gray nose. He is one of our largest goats, weighing nearly a hundred fifteen pounds.  He is a big fellow but inherited his mother’s tiny ears so that is why we named him as we did.  He is also one of our oldest goats at easily over ten years old but you would never know it based on his behavior.

Vincent feels a need to be in the middle of everything going on here.  He was wethered (neutered) as a young kid but still thinks he is quite the buck.  He feels a need to supervise all the other goats here and easily travels from pasture to pasture to do that.  He leaps a fence like a deer, clearing it with ease.  He loves to rub his head all over anyone who will stand still for a moment as a way of marking them as one of his special possessions.  He is a big fellow and loves to rub at the worst of times like when I am bent over trying to trim another goat’s hooves.  More than once Vincent has put me on the ground. 

There is much written about goats and proper diet but Vincent has never read any of it.  His favorite treat is dry dog food.  When we feed the livestock guardian dogs we pull them into smaller paddocks or into stalls in the stable so that they can eat in peace.  We can take their food from them, reach into their dishes or otherwise interfere with their dinner but they do not tolerate that from other animals. Food protectiveness is a good quality in these dogs but we’ve had a few nipped and bloody ears on goats who tried to put their faces in the dog dishes.  The enormous dogs give a gentle snap as a warning.  We don’t want to squelch their instinct but also don’t want injuries to the livestock so we separate the dogs from their flocks or herds at mealtime.   Vincent is the only creature here who can find his way into any of the places that we put the dogs for a peaceful meal.  One of his favorite dogs to share dinner with is Regina, our oldest Anatolian Shepherd.  Vincent will jump the fence around the paddock where we feed her.  He will dance around as she begins to eat until he sees an opportunity to stick his head in and jostle her bowl.  He usually manages to shake a good handful of dog food out onto the ground.  I feed the dogs a combination of dry dog food mixed with scrambled eggs.  We have such an abundance of eggs that I cook a few dozen up for them daily.  I can appreciate that Vincent would enjoy dry dog food as it is made of grain but I am always surprised to see him bolt down the scrambled eggs.  Vincent and all of the dogs seem to have an understanding as he travels around gleaning a mouthful here and there with barely more than a warning growl from the dogs.

Vincent not only jumps fences but is quite the climber.  If we bring home a trailer full of hay he will be the first to make it to the very top.  He often perches on top of a round bale, lazily surveying the pastures and other goats underneath him.  He will nap up on an empty trailer. He also loves to stand on trailers, the tractor or in the bed of the truck to reach the highest tree branches.  He especially loves standing in the bed of the truck when it is parked near the big pear tree at the end of summer when the lowest fruit has already fallen or been eaten off.  Vincent can always stretch up to find just one more juicy pear.  He is also content with the leaves once the fruit is gone. 

There is one time each week when Vincent does get locked up.  When Al unloads feed he has to lock Vincent in a stall.  Vincent seems to know when Al pulls in with a truck load of fifty pound sacks of chicken feed, all stock and dog food.  He will leap all the fences from the barnyard to the front yard and begin sizing up the truck while it is in the driveway.  Unless Vincent is locked up he will jump up on the stack of feed bags and begin to tear them open.  He will grab big mouthfuls between ripping bags in an attempt to sample everything on the truck.  On the rare occasion that Al manages to drive the truck all the way back to the stable to unload, Vincent will trot along next to the truck and leap up as Al slows down next to the end door to the stable.  Al and Vincent will then have a brief wrestling match until Vincent is shoved into a stall so that Al can unload in quiet.

Vincent’s latest interest is to join the donkeys in the front pasture.  They don’t have anything in their pasture that Vincent couldn’t find anywhere else on the farm but he seems to enjoy leaping the split rail fencing, daring the donkeys to chase him and then launching himself out again.  He is a spry old man but more and more I realize that he is an old man.  I catch him napping more often than I used to.  I’ve also started to notice that he likes to spend more of each day sitting and staring off into space.  I took a series of pictures of some of our older animals just the other day.  There is a dignified look that comes with age.  Our very first goat, Jacob, began to spend his days sitting at the very top of the pasture and staring off into space in the final year of his life.  He reminded me of an old man ruminating over his life with barely the energy to do anything but dream.  As of now Vincent has lots of energy.  He looks like an old goat when he rests, though, so I dread the day that he really starts to act like one.  As annoying as he can be, he is a special part of everything we do outside.  And it makes almost no difference what type of fencing we’ve used – nothing seems to get in Vincent’s way.

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