And then there were 5 (goats)
If you follow us on Instagram, you’ll know that we recently downsized our goat herd.
In 18 months of owning goats, we went from four does (not a deer in this case, but a female goat) to sixteen goats including two billy goats. It was fun because we regularly had baby goats, and kids are the happiest, funniest, most adorable things that never fail to make your day.
Unfortunately, it was also chaos.
Goats are sneaky: This is not an overstatement or a drill
Amidst the 16 goats, we had a few mischievous leaders – I mostly give credit to Meli and her shemale off-spring Kanela – who always knew where they weren’t supposed to go or eat, how to use all their weight to really scratch their itches on fences in a way that warped them out of shape, and even how to jump over fences that were supposedly goat-proof (which is never 100% a thing, in case you were wondering).
We also had one space cadet of a goat who was adorable and often behaved like a dog, following us around and loving to be scratched. She was little, sneaky, and got by numerous defences. Carmen had no bell on her collar (my mistake), so she managed to munch on things growing in the off-limits greenhouse as well as to squeeze into the vegetable garden solo, leaving goat prints, poop, and bite marks behind.
As a result, my vegetable garden got raided and destroyed a few times, and fruit trees got stripped of their bark (not completely, but enough that Francois had to use a black paste to mend them).
Then, the goats started wandering off the property. I believe this was a mistake at first, a side effect of all the incredible clearing Francois has been doing. Unfortunately, they went for a walk and found our neighbour’s (unfenced) land.
They started going there all the time, so we started constantly being on the lookout for the goats. Anytime we didn’t know where they were, we’d split up or one of us would run up, and we almost always found them right where they weren’t supposed to be – or on their way there.
Our brains became goat-obsessed. It took so much energy, that that’s when Francois finally convinced me it was unsustainable and we had to downsize.
Downsizing & its aftermath
We sold a few goats to friends in the nearby village, but the majority went to a couple we know from medieval fairs (they have a stand where they sell all sorts of deliciousness including pata negra kebabs – but that’s a whole other story). They had been looking for female goats to start making cheese, so it was a win-win. One billy goat went back to our friends’ at Vinha da Manta, as they wanted kids.
In other words, we said goodbye to Meli and her triplets (not named yet, though I referred to them as The Caramel Oreos), Kanela, Avela, Ninja, Frodo, Baguette, Carmen, and Pan.
We kept two of the original four goats, Croissant and Mathilde, Mathilde’s twins Hip & Hop, and Margaux.
Yep, now we just have five goats. And it’s AMAZING.
Croissant has always been very relaxed, approachable, and the definition of chill.
Mathilde oozes reasonable-ness, and she’s a great mama to the adorable (doe) twins Hip & Hop.
Margaux is smart, always watching what’s going on, and the most amazing goat mama I’ve ever seen.
Most importantly, none of them are jumpers, scratchers, or mischievous ninja seedling devourers.
The five of them free-range and pretty much take care of themselves. We let them out in the morning and bring them in towards the end of the day, but they stick around and often take themselves in before it’s time. It’s true that Cleo has been helping, as she has gotten over her mild jealousy of the attention the goats used to get, and is now a pretty effective and useful goat-herder!
It’s such a relief not to have to worry about the goats! Life-changing.
That said, it’s not perfect.
The Goat Leadership Crisis
Up until The Downsizing, anytime we opened the goat pen, the goats pretty much rushed out. They didn’t mill about the opening either, as if they were on a mission to explore, eat, clear, and get their steps in.
Ever since we’re back down to five goats, there seems to be a leadership crisis happening.
When I open the stable door in the morning, nothing happens. Anywhere from three to ten minutes later (an eternity in goat time), a nose will peek out, and one goat will come out. Once all of them are out, they just stand there, often a bit spread out, and often facing different directions.
They haven’t voted in a new leader yet!
Margaux is bossy, and will literally lock horns with anyone in her way. She’s never been a herd leader though, she just wants her space respected. Croissant used to be a quiet leader, but for that she needs quiet followers. Mathilde usually follows, but seems more concerned with not losing track of Hip & Hop that who to follow.
It has no major impact on our goats’ well-being, but it makes it harder to herd them in a given direction, and amuses me to no end.
Maybe Hip or Hop will rise to the challenge. Or maybe the adult does will set up a triumvirate. Either way, I trust them again, and that’s the best feeling in the world.