Well, dear reader, we have hit a milestone here on the farm that I had hoped we would never see. Currently, we have more than forty goats in our barn. That is a lot of goats. Between the brush crew coming back from the neighboring farm, last year’s babies, and young females we have kept to replace anyone who makes milk, we have an overabundance of bodies in the barn. The Bibbed Wonder had “A Come To Jesus Meeting” with me the other day and explained our predicament.
Our chance of parasitic infection has skyrocketed with that many goats in the barn and the pasture field. We pride ourselves on clean, dry, parasite-free goats, barns, and pasture fields. No farm is parasite free. However, with our rotation between fields and switching out the pigs with the goats, we have been fortunate that we have been able to keep our parasite load low. The fact is the pastures get eaten down closely and quickly with this many goats. The pastures don’t have as much recovery time, and the goats eat closer to the earth, which houses the parasites. We had one scare with our Lilly-goat and meningeal worm. I fear for our herd’s health and safety with these numbers.
We also risk unexpected pregnancies and close line breeding with this large herd. We don’t have the room to separate the males from the females with this many goats. For responsible breeding, we need to downsize our herd.
Last but not least, more than forty goats are a lot of animals to maintain. Every one of those individuals needs medical attention and maintenance such as shots and worming. Also, each of those individuals has four feet. Those four feet need to be trimmed every six weeks or so. It simply isn’t practical or responsible to keep a herd this size when we are only milking a few. We have two deep freezes filled with milk for making soap. It only takes the milk of three of our girls to produce enough fresh milk to maintain our moisturizer inventory. We are creating unnecessary work for ourselves with such high numbers.
This predicament has created a situation where very tough choices have to be made. The Bibbed Wonder has decided it is best to take the excess goats to the auction. I hate auctions. I detest the atmosphere. I despise the motivation many people have for bringing animals to auction. I dislike the whole idea. On the other hand, Eric feels we are stuck between a rock and a hard place, and the auction is our only viable option.
Allow me to explain my opinion of auctions. I feel like most people take their sick, incapacitated animals to auction to try to recoup some of the money they have invested in the animal’s care. My dad took me to a livestock auction when I was a kid, and I was traumatized. I saw poor sickly calves shocked with cattle prods to get them on their feet. I saw Amish boys tormenting a cow with a cattle prod just for cruel entertainment. My dad confronted the boys, took the cattle prod, and threatened them with the same treatment if they didn’t leave the poor cow alone. I saw animals that needed quiet, care, love, comfort, and attention forced into a crowded, chaotic, unkind ring and sold for meat. It broke my heart and scarred me to this day. I vowed I would never send one of my animals to an auction if I could help it.
Eric has explained to me that the goats we are sending to the auction are healthy and stand a good chance of finding a home. I say a home, not a good home. I don’t have a lot of faith that there are people there like me who want pets to love and nurture. Eric says that animal rights groups are active at these auctions, and animals are not abused for entertainment. I also know my husband paints a very rosy picture for me to quell my fears and subdue my outrage. I know my goats are healthy now at my farm, but they will be subjected to heaven’s knows what at an auction barn. What if my healthy goats get sick? What if they don’t have attentive owners to care for them if they get sick? What if they end up with a bad owner who takes sub-standard care of them and lives a life of misery? I hate our predicament. Sigh.
I also know it is unfair of me to ask my husband to take care of all these goats because of my childhood trauma. Most of the work falls upon his shoulders. I feel like I have more bad days than good, especially with all the upheaval in the weather patterns. My hands don’t work well enough to help trim hooves. Sigh. Sometimes I feel useless. If I were more helpful, my goats wouldn’t have to go to the auction. Unfortunately, I think I have to concede to The Bibbed Wonder’s decisions in this scenario. There is a lot at stake if we aren’t able to lower our numbers, especially with a new round of babies coming due this week.
Eric has told me that anything that doesn’t make milk, aka weathered boys, has to go. He would also like to send two ill-tempered meat goats to the auction. I have convinced him to keep my two “useless boys,” Wacko and Yacko. Yacko is the original smiling goat and one of my first babies. Wacko is his brother and best friend. They have to stay together. We have several unfriendly females who aren’t good moms that we agree should not remain. We also have one or two that haven’t gotten pregnant for years and who aren’t friendly that should find a new home. If we could whittle away at our numbers to be in the teens, I feel that would be good for the herd, good for the farm, and good for the land. Being a farmer is hard, and I am uncomfortable making these choices. I feel I am not cut out to do this aspect of farming.
I know these choices have to be made. I also know these tough choices are for the greater good. However, it doesn’t ease my conscience or rid me of guilt. Eric has pointed out that we are running a farm, not a refuge, numerous times. His favorite quip is to ask me if I see a red cross on his arm. That is one of his less charming qualities. However, I know I must now look at things from a business perspective. With the rising cost of feed, the sheer manpower hours it takes to maintain such a large herd, and the unhealthy environment a large herd is creating on our farm, the responsible thing to do is cut the ones who aren’t producing. I just wish it weren’t lives we were dealing with and affecting.
That is my woeful tale of the farmer’s wife. I’m sorry I don’t have anything funny to share. Sadly, sometimes life just isn’t funny. This is a very real situation and part of our business. I feel I share the good with you, and I need to be honest and share the not-so-good. On this sunny Wednesday, stay safe, be smart, come to terms with your tough choices, and keep washing your hands.