A Baby Goat Makes Many Things Better

Wren on February 24th, 2016

Levi means "attached."

I’m often taken aback when someone asks me why I have goats. My usual response is to ask why they don’t. This doesn’t get them any closer to understanding the attraction, but do they ask parents why they have children? Children are lots of work, they’re loud and messy, they destroy things, disobey, they eat their weight in stuff that does them little good, they scoff at your authority. Yep. Goats are children and children are goats. Now do you see why it’s a silly question? When you love your children, every challenge and trauma is worth it. You’re in it for the long haul, and even though you have moments of questioning your place in this universe, you wouldn’t trade your kids, human or caprine, for anything.

And so, in these tough times, I am an expectant mother again. I have put a deposit down on a little buckling, Levi, who will come to his forever home in about a month. He will be companion to Ponder, my young doe who has been an only goat all winter.

Levi (front) and his twin sister

This is not the greatest time to add another hungry mouth to our household, which makes it a great time for some baby goat therapy! As we grow our eco-friendly cleaning business, my partner C.T. and I are stressed about money to the point of bleeding out of our hair follicles. The business is growing wonderfully, but not fast enough for our parade of bills. Knowing that we needed to get a companion for Ponder (goats are herd animals and don’t thrive in isolation) I scoured my DVD collection and sold a bagfull to the local thrift store. I put some of my collectibles on Craigslist and started to fundraise to pay bills and to fund a baby goat.

Orphaned, Levi gets milk from other mothers in his herd.

The baby goat therapy began when we visited a herd where some newly weaned bucklings were available for adoption. C.T. had recently had minor surgery and we were visiting these goats on our way to a follow up doctor’s appointment. The available bucklings were nice but I fell in love with twin bottle babies, a male and female, whose mother had died a week after birth. The male was available for adoption after weaning. So a week later I returned and put down a deposit. He is half Pygmy and half Nigerian Dwarf, with interesting Nigerian coloring. Since the gray agouti coloring on the front half of his body makes it look like he’s wearing a denim jacket, I decided to name him Levi.

I am also waiting for a medical procedure so I arranged that the breeder would continue to bottle feed Levi with his twin sister until after my recovery, in a month or so. In the meantime, the baby goat therapy continues as the breeder sends us camera phone pictures of our little Levi.

Ponder was our bottle baby, guarded by a devoted Tonka.

But aren’t we crazy to spend money on yet another animal when we’re behind? Yes. And…Our existing herd members, solo goat Ponder and two Livestock Guard Dogs Dana and Tonka, are restless and acting out because there are no other goats. Their diminished quality of life is stressing them and adding to our stress. It’s always an option to decide not to have the herd anymore, to rehome everyone. But goats are children, as are dogs, for that matter. So today is not the day for that choice. Therefore, baby goat.

The actual purchase of a goat is not much. They range from free to $50 to $500. Since Levi was bought with traded DVD’s, well, that’s kind of free. Goats can cost a few dollars a month in feed and hay. They eat much less than a horse or a cow, being smaller. But like a horse or cow, a goat can also eat the nature all around your property, and that can lessen feed costs. When I lived in Maryland, I only fed my goats when snow was on the ground. Otherwise, they ate the woods where we lived.

Just a few more weeks of playing alone...

Vet bills can run high. But like most livestock owners, we have a shelf of medical texts and have learned to do much medical care ourselves. We also have a certain medical credit card (I won’t give them free advertising here) and in emergencies we can charge a vet bill and have a year or more to pay, interest free.

So now I’m planning how to introduce a tiny goat to our very large animals. I’ll have a nursery pen inside the larger pen, letting everyone smell and explore each other through a fence. Then one animal at a time will visit with Levi in the nursery–Ponder, Dana, Tonka and Cricket our inside dog. During the first few nights, I might have Levi in a play pen inside the house. He’s quite a McNugget for the local predators, and I want to be secure in his relationship with all herd members before I leave him out at night.

His breeder keeps Levi and his sister in a small pen with some pregnant does. So he’s already getting used to be hazed and butted by larger goats. But They’re all dwarf breeds. Ponder is larger and very keen on hierarchy. When we had her with other goats before, she was the smallest and was bullied mercilessly. She’s ready to dominate someone! Hence the slow introductions…

I know all the animals are going to be excited about a new herd member. And C.T. and I will get to enjoy a bouncing, dancing baby goat. Despite the nominal cost and financial risk, everyone’s lives will be better.

—WT

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