Wednesday was a very sad day for me, and one that has been on my mind since. During evening chores, Dan discovered our buck goat, LLP Warlords Dream, (or Buddy) had died unexpectedly. There was no sign of illness that morning, so it came as a complete and total shock. Not only was this a registered, pedigreed breeding animal which we had invested money into for a solid foundation to our breeding program, he was my friend. It was a huge loss emotionally for me...he was a massive animal with the largest horns I'd ever seen on a goat, but was incredibly gentle, asking only for a cookie or a scratch behind the ear. He was gentle with his babies. He made funny faces with his lips, begging for a cookie, when he popped his face over the door into the main part of the barn.
I'll miss him very much.
We got into goats before we opened the farm back up as a business. At first, they were a natural way to keep the pasture from being overgrown with shrubs and thorns. Any goat was ok, our first purchase was a pair of pygmy crosses, we didn't care about the breed. Then we learned more about the Boer goat, a meat breed that is becoming increasingly popular and profitable, so we bought the best Boer stock we could afford, and have watched quite a few delightful kids arrive here at the farm. We had the expectation that goats would be low maintenance, as the crossbred goats that Tom & Betty purchased years ago ran about the farm and thrived on nothing more than a bit of hay thrown out in the winter. As the herd grew, more maintenance became necessary, vaccines, wormer, and sometimes other medication, like an antibiotic, for a sick goat. As I do some real soul searching, I can see a pattern...it was always the Boers who needed the most attention...the mongrels from the auction, the pygmies we first bought, are thriving, and have been thriving with less care. Boers are not native to our area, the breed originated in South Africa. Although they are raised quite successfully in our area, perhaps there is something about the microclimate of our farm that is especially hard on them. I don't know. I do know that we need to look at the farm animals as a business, not just Emily's petting zoo of snack friends. The financial cost to keeping these goats healthy is not profitable. The emotional loss is hard too. Besides heartache over a death, there is a toll whan an animal isn't well or a young one fails to thrive. You worry. You look through the veterinary manuals and fear that your entire herd is soon to be affected with some horrid, incurable disease. So through my tears, I mentioned to Dan that maybe we should get out of the goat business. He quietly agreed, and suggested that perhaps we'll get more sheep, who are the low maintenanece, profitable animal I hoped for with the goats. (They aren't, for the most part, so full of personality though.) We also agreed that this was not a decision to make lightly or emotionally, so it is something to work through in the coming weeks and months. I would feel so guilty if, by keeping them here, illness befell some of my healthy, wonderful, personable Boer does. It will be a very sad day for me if they leave as well. We also can't afford the upkeep on 20+ goats either, if we're not breeding them. We'll definately hold on to some of our goats regardless, and we are still hoping for a healthy crop of kids in March or April sired by our buck.
Before we did chores Wednesday evening and discovered our loss, I was pleased to find a poster I had ordered for the stand had come in the mail. It was for the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, a group I'm passionate about who advocates for the preservation of endangered farm animals, especially those native to the U.S. Boers are the hot thing in goats right now, so they are not on the ALBC's list of endangered breeds. However, the Tennessee Myotonic goat is, and is more commonly known as the "fainting goat". They are also regarded as a meat goat, but have the unusual quality of tensing up and falling over (fainting, sort of) when startled. When I came back inside, in tears, I may have snuffled out some comment about getting out of the goat business, but I also completed that thought with "...or we could try fainting goats..."