(Stachys, at about 3 weeks)
Today Stachys and Hemp enter the monastary. They are the youngest of the boys and at 8 weeks plus, it is time for them to leave their Moms. Stachys is just about 8 weeks, and at that point, could conceivably start breeding his sisters and his Mom (he’s *huge* too – I need a current picture – he was a singleton and has gotten all of Mom’s rich milk, plus Jessie’s, ummm…circular physique). Hemp doesn’t have that problem – he was wethered last week, but he’ll be going home soon with a new family, along with Basil (who with brother Goldenrod moved up with the bucks two weeks ago when he passed the critical age shift). So Hemp and Basil need a little time to bond.
We hadn’t planned to keep Stachys, but he turned out to be such a stunning goat – more than we ever expected when we were first focused on his innate cuteness (if one were to make a stuffed toy based on a nigerian dwarf, he would be it). He’s large, powerfully built, with great genetic and a solid body type that if we ever raise for meat production, would really improve the breed. He’s gorgeous, and so we’re going to keep both Stachys and Basil until next year, and see how they grow out and fit with our breeding plan. This brings us to a total of four bucks in the gentleman’s club, besides Tekky, our infertile doe who hangs with the bucks.
We’re keeping two (although we will eventually winnow down to one) of Frodo’s sons because Frodo is on the older side for a buck goat – the bodily stress of going into rut means that the boys live at most 7-9 years, and Frodo is six now. His genetics are astonishing – his mother Goddess is first in the nation among Nigerians in all three milk production categories: total milk production, protein and butterfat, and one of his daughters is in the top ten in each category. He’s also a gentle, charming, easy to handle buck – and temperament is an inheritable trait. We don’t want to lose Frodo’s wonderful genetics prematurely, so just in case, we need his sons. But we also have every intention of keeping Frodo happy and healthy for a while.
We have two barns on the property, both quite small. The one nearer the house is a converted garage, with separate areas for poultry, kidding, and goats. At the top of the hill that leads up to our big field, there’s a stable, built by previous owners for their horses. It is here that the gentlemen live, with fenced pastures that move regularly.
The reason the boys live up the hill is, well, male goats don’t smell that great. During most of the year, it is a mild, musky ripeness, not unpleasant, but instantly recognizable (as Eric once said of Asher, after picking him up “Oh, you’ve been hugging Frodo!”) But come late summer and autumn, well, it gets pretty intense. The boys also increase their attractiveness to goat maidens by peeing on themselves, which doesn’t help. One generally doesn’t want a buck goat right next door.
Now at this stage, our gentleman’s club is rife mostly with the young and the pubescent. Only Frodo is fully sexually mature, but his ummm..essence is sufficient to infuse the entire community with a ripe goaty scent.
(Frodo having a snack with Tekky)
Our other buck is Cadfael, who we acquired this summer. Cadfael’s lines aren’t quite as impressive as Frodo’s, but his Mom’s udder is spectacular, and his Dad comes also from amazing milk lines. He’s smaller than Frodo, which is good, also. Frodo’s daughters will meet Cadfael for the first time in February.
(Cadfael peeking out from behind Tekky – he’s bigger now too!)
Add in Goldenrod (the kids picked the name and we loved it for a buck!), who is Bast’s son – Bast’s Dad is Frodo’s nephew, so he’s a tight linebreeding on Frodo, and we’ve high hopes for him as well:
Tekky doesn’t seem to get pregnant – she’s been in with a buck now constantly since March and no signs of babies, so we’ve assigned her permanent wether status and she seems happy up there with her buddies. She’s Selene’s daughter, and Selene produces the most charming, personable goats in the world – she’s everyone’s best friend. We needed a “wether” up there anyway – that way, when some of the boys are out doing their job, we have someone in with the others.
It is a surprisingly happy family up there, although all the boys, let’s just say would be much happier left to run with the does. Frodo is particularly anxious to get on with the important business of making more goat babies, but since we don’t want any babies before May, he’s got to wait. We periodically let the boys out to browse a bit, and during those periods, the younger bucks go off and eat, leaving Frodo standing outside the fence that contains the girls, expressing his ardent passion for them in his inimicable, smelly way. We’re pretty sure he’d starve to death if we’d let him stay there.
Half the reason we let them out is to browse, but the other half is because I love watching the joy with which the boys (and Tekky) run down the hillside. Frodo is older and slower, but the dancing and leaping that the boys do when they are free to roam and rejoin (even through a fence) the rest of the herd is fun to watch.
For all the scented disadvantages of the bucks, they are charming creatures in their own way, and after our experiences with drive-thru goat breeding (largely unsuccessful) it became absolutely evident that we needed to start our own gentlemen’s club. And emerging from this process is the very beginnings of our plans for how to create low input, multi-purpose goats suitable to backyards.
My hope is to obtain some angora goats in the spring, and for next year, begin also breeding nigora, which is a fiber/milk goat that has yet to be fully standardized, but which has a lot of potential.
For this year, Frodo’s stuck in the Gentlemen’s club until called out in December to revisit the senior does – Bast, Jessie, Arava, Maia, Mina and Selene. Cadfael will get his turn come February with the girls born this summer: Meadowsweet, Calendula, Poppy, Licorice and Marshmallow. Goldenrod and Stachys will be left to grow some more and show their stuff.
I like to mention to people that we’re running a Gentlemen’s Club on the property – small scale agriculture needs some sexing up. I do try not to mention the smell, though.