Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Great Goat Adventure

My friend, Melanie invited us over to her farm one weekend to see her goat kids that had been born a few weeks earlier.  If you have ever held a tiny goat kid and fed it a bottle of warm milk, you will understand how quickly and completely we became hooked!  They are about the most darling creatures on earth.  So, not surprisingly, shortly after that visit we decided that goats were the next critter we wanted to add to the farm.  We joined a local 4-H club and signed up for a dairy goat project, but knowing nothing about raising goats, I decided we would need to recruit a “goat mentor”.   I knew just who to call to ask to be our project leader!  And as it turned out, Melanie had grown up showing dairy goats in 4-H and was delighted to join our newest adventure.

The first thing we had to decide was what kind of goats we wanted.  After doing some research, we came to the conclusion that Mini Nubians were the ideal breed for us.  A cross between Nubians and Nigerian Dwarfs, this newly emerging breed donned the long, floppy ears of the Nubian with the smaller size of the Nigerian in an efficient little dairy goat perfect for small children and small properties.  Problem was, there didn’t seem to be any Mini Nubians in Colorado!  After much searching on the internet and talking with the 4-H goat folks, I finally found a small Nubian doe near Durango, CO who was being bred to a Nigerian Dwarf.  Although Durango was a long drive from our farm, it was still in the state, so I agreed to purchase the doe and sent in my deposit.

Now the waiting began. It was September when we agreed to purchase the doe, Skittles, but she had to be bred before we could go and get her.  Goats go into heat about every three weeks, so once she was bred the first time, we had to wait three weeks or so to see if she had “settled”.  When she went into heat again, they tried breeding her once more and then we had to wait another 3 weeks.  When the news came that she had gone back into heat yet again 3 weeks later, we started getting concerned.  It was decided that they would try a different buck, but in the meantime, we started looking around to see if we could find a back-up doe in case this one just couldn’t get pregnant.  We found a few other options but all were full Nubians which was not our first choice so we kept our fingers crossed.  Fortunately, the third time seemed to be the charm and by late December we were told Skittles had finally settled and we could come get her any time after the first of the year.

So, on January 2nd, my mom and I along with daughters Megan and Molly headed down to Durango to fetch up our goats (we had decided to also purchase a young Nigerian Dwarf wether – castrated male – as a companion for Skittles).  It took us about 9 hours to get there with a few stops along the way, but the drive was beautiful on a clear, cloudless Colorado winter day.  We stayed in a hotel in Durango that night and when we got up the next morning to head out to the ranch where the goats were living, it started snowing lightly and we thought we'd better hit the road as soon as possible.  Well, we got the goats just fine but it wasn't quite soon enough for as we headed up Wolf Creek Pass about 30 minutes past Pagosa Springs, it started snowing harder and harder and about 7 miles from the summit, my little mini van just couldn't do it and we had to turn around.  We drove all the way back to Pagosa Springs, bought snow chains (wished I'd done that sooner!?!), and then headed back up the mountain after being told by a local tow truck driver that we should try to make it over the pass right then or we might be stuck there for several days (with two goats in dog crates in our mini van - no thanks!?).  This time we were successful and made it over the pass with no problem.  It was dry on the other side and after removing the snow chains we made pretty good time until we hit another snow storm south of Denver.  It was slow going but we all finally made it home to Briar Gate Farm 12 hours later.  The goats were amazingly good travelers and aside from an adorable "bleat" every now and then, they slept most of the way.

When we got home around 10:00 pm and opened the crates in the back of the mini van, Skittles stumbled out and seemed to have forgotten how to use her legs after being folded up lying down for the past 12 hours.  She hobbled around on her knees for a few minutes before she finally remembered how to stand up, and we got a pretty good laugh out of that.  The goats settled in well to their new surroundings and we began the fun of getting to know them and how to take care of them while we waited and waited for the next 5 months to pass before our goat kids finally arrived.  But that’s another story that you’ll just have to wait for!

Life Lesson:  Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

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