We all know animals can't talk, so part of being a responsible owner is to pay attention to your animal's behavior, whether it is a pet cat or a 2,000 lb cow. A change in behavior usually means something, and is often the first best chance to catch an illness before it becomes too late. Even given the wide variety of critters that call Pleasant Valley home, I know each one and most even have a name they will answer to.
Yesterday was cold, wet and miserable when we began to butcher chickens. The indoor/outdoor thermometer is having some issues...I was pretty chilled, but the display of -11 seemed a bit much. It was drizzling and in the lower 40's though. As I was helping prep before the actual butchering got started, I noticed our big male goat, LLP Warlord's Dream, wasn't with the other goats but was laying by the fence, in the corner behind my flowerbed and next to our smokehouse. This rain and wet weather is hard on goat's feet, and they do get sore sometimes, so my first thought was to make sure his feet were examined and medicated if necessary. Later, it had cleared up a bit and he was out grazing by the pond. Towards the end of the afternoon, it was raining as I started evening chores. I noticed he was again laying right up against the smokehouse, all by himself. This wasn't making any sense, as the rest of the goats were all down in the run-in portion of the barn. Goats hate to be wet and act like they're melting if it starts to rain- the entire herd will come to the barn at a run. Then I realized what had been wrong the whole time...he was stuck out in the pasture away from the barn and his herd! Goats are masters of escape and will find a place to squeeze through most fences if there is something they want on the other side. However, Warlord is really laid back and is frequently the only one on the correct side of the fence. So he must have followed the herd through a hole from one pasture to the next, but couldn't find his way back (goats seem incapable of ever going back the same way they went through). And to keep the cows were we want them, the gate to the barnyard was closed. Therefore, the driest place for him to hide from the rain was the overhang of the smokehouse roof. Unfortunately, the few inches of overhang was no where near big enough to keep a 350 lb goat anywhere near dry! Now that the behavior made sense, it was a simple fix to make him happy. I walked out into the pasture calling him. I call him Buddy because his registered name is too long and silly to be calling across the pasture. He looked at me for a bit and then walked over to see what the silly human was doing out in the rain. I kept calling for him and looking over my shoulder every few feet, and he started to follow, although he wasn't happy to be getting wet. As I got near the gate to the barnyard, it was like a light bulb went off...you could see he realized what I was trying to get him to do. By the time I had the gate unlatched, he was waiting right beside me. As I opened it, he happily trotted off to join his herd in the dry warm barn. I was happy too, as I didn't have a sick goat on my hands after all, just an unhappily wet one, which is much easier to fix!