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  • Writer's pictureTina

Weaponized Warfare

Updated: 6 days ago

Jessica, aka Lil Mouse or Horns, and soon-to-be Maleficent getting first dibs on the prime brush

There has been a power shift in the barn—a coup d'etat, if you will. For years, my first five girls held the power in the herd. They were intelligent, gentle, patient ladies who ruled with finesse and fairness. Red was the herd matriarch; Boo was second in command. When these girls ruled, there was peace in the herd. Red is an ear-biter. Misbehaving youngsters who forgot their place in the hierarchy and incurred squabbles were handled with some pushing, a little headbutting, an ear bite, and a guttural warning bawl. No one was ever seriously injured or hit with real aggression. Yes, Red could lose her temper; one could tell when she was out of patience, but she did not reign with an iron hoof by any means.

We have watched the barn's power change over the last several months. Red and Lily did not participate in breeding season this year. My girl, Red, is too old, and her oldest daughter, Lily, has some mild neurological issues. My girls have earned a gentle retirement. However, with their gentle retirement, their status in the herd has fallen. We have watched as our only goat with horns, Jessica, aka Lil' Mouse or Horns, has literally beaten and battled her way to the head of the herd.

Jessica, whom I call Lil Mouse because of her mousey brown/grey color, is the only goat from the year we did not disbud our kids. Everyone here hates disbudding day. My bib, overall-wearing wonder buns, is the guy upon whom the disbudding responsibilities fall. It is a highly unpleasant activity, and it is at the top of days we hate. The Bibbed Wonder used to ask me to help him with the process, but after a few years, he just gave up. I am not good at doing things that inflict pain upon any creature. Eric decided we were not removing horns three years ago and left everyone with horns intact. This is definitely up there with some of our worst ideas. Sigh.

Lil Mouse was held, cuddled, and played with just like every one of our babies. Her babyhood was filled with cuddles and kisses. At around three months of age, the kids go through a rebellious stage. They begin to detach from their mamas and no longer want to be held and cuddled by their stewards. Lil Mouse embraced her independence with a ferocity rarely seen. She was crazy. We could not get within five feet of her unless we had food. She was always the last to be caught when we were moving the herd from one pasture to the other, and catching her was like trying to outwit an escape artist. There was always a lot of colorful language when dealing with her. The term "bat shit crazy" was epitomized by Lil Mouse. Simply stated, this goat was an asshole.

As with most does, they settle down and grow up once they have had little ones. Lil Mouse became one of the friendliest goats in the herd once she became a mom. However, as she matures, so does her desire to climb in status. Once she realized she had something nobody else had, she became unstoppable and greedy with power. We first noticed her pushing around Lil' Black. Lil' Black is the least competitive goat of the five original girls. Then she worked her way through the ranks focusing her energy and horns on Mama Boo and then Lily. Lily put up the most fight. These girls would go at it with a fierceness I was not used to seeing in my herd. Lily has a deep guttural belly bawl that sounds like pure anger. Whenever we heard this cry, we knew Lily was on the warpath.

Lil Mouse became more and more aggressive toward Lily. I witnessed her knocking my Lily goat to the ground when she was having a neurological episode. The Bibbed Wonder and I declared Lil Mouse is indeed an asshole. She then focused on Boo and, finally, Big Red. Eric was certain I would declare Lil Mouse had to go when she knocked about my arthritic girl, Red. Red is not weak, but she is intelligent. She knew the wisest thing to do would be to concede to the horned tyrant. And with that, we went to the barn one day to find Horn's first in line for food and her turn on the milk stand. Horns now leads the herd to the field, and at feeding time, nobody eats until Horns is finished and has been removed from the feeding section of the barn.

My older girls fear her and give her a very wide berth. I am in a conundrum. Part of me wants to see her go because she is such a jerk to the goats. However, she is also very sweet to us, easy to milk, a good mom, and intelligent. I like her except for her horns and her attitude. The other day, I was helping Eric with the feeding. The girls make a mad rush for the gate, with Horns in the lead, of course. As I stood trying to hold back the caprine hoard with my whole body, Horns lowered her head, pressed her horns into me, and caught me right in the groin with her left horn. I yelped in surprise and pain. The Bibbed Wonder yelled, "Let them in, let them in!" I moved back, holding my "area" and yowling in pain and outrage. One has not experienced pain until one has taken a goat horn to the crotch. I was aghast that she used her horns against me. She did not hit me but definitely used those weapons to her advantage.

Last week, The Bibbed Wonder had to disbud little Iris, aka Baby Boo. I kissed her on her gentle little head and said woefully, "Oh, I hate today!" The Bibbed Wonder replied, "It is better it happen now so that when she is older, she doesn't get her head stuck or act like an asshole." He's right. However, disbudding day will remain our least favorite day. I took my Heavy-B for a walk before the process started. When I returned from my walk, Iris was curled up in the sunshine, seemingly no worse for the wear. (On a side note, Iris was our baby with Ricketts. Her little legs are almost perfect after a dose of selenium and vitamin E and three days of cod liver oil twice a day. We are thrilled.) No matter that we hate disbudding our babies, it is best for everyone in the long run. Not disbudding them is a mistake we will not make again.

For now, Jessica, who may have her name changed to Maleficent, is the herd leader. We have separated our geriatric girls, Eric calls them "The Grannies" and our very small girls from the bucks. Red and Lily are safely away from Horns and her tyrannical reign. We have a decision to make about whether Horns will keep her happy home. Aside from her weapons of mass destruction, she is a delightful little goat. Since she is on top, I have not seen as much hitting. However, we are well aware she could wield her weapons at any given time, and she could do serious damage. It is a problem, indeed.

On this beautiful summer-like day, stay safe, be smart, do what is hard for the good of the group, don't get hit in the crotch with a goat's horn, understand that being a jerk is not the best way to take power, and keep washing your hands.

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