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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Meet Jarlsburg: Our New Big Man on Campus

I mentioned back in late September that we were contemplating purchasing a new buck for our small goat herd.  It has proven to be more challenging than I would have thought for there seems to be a shortage of registered, pedigreed, Nigerian Dwarf bucks that are reasonably priced right now.  After months of searching online and through word of mouth, my husband found this guy several states away.  His registered name is really El Diablo, but as a tradition, we name our goats after cheeses, so we have renamed him Jarlsburg.

Jarlsburg will be quite popular with our girls since we haven't had a buck here in over a year.  Right now, however, he is having to prove himself worthy of their attention, and he goes to great lengths to do so.  The more silly and foolish he appears to us humans, the more attractive and appealing he seems to be to the other goats.  He is disliked immensely, however, by our one ram who has enjoyed being the only male amongst our goats and sheep during that same time period.  We've had to separate the species so the two boys don't hurt each other in attempts to win over all the does and ewes here.  Anyone who thinks that all sheep are docile have not observed a ram who is unwilling to give up his position as the alpha male in a flock/herd.

Sometimes I question if it is really worth the hassle to bring in a male goat because there are definitely trials that come with doing so.  Billy goats can be very strong smelling, and if he so much as rubs against your clothing, you will smell like him all day.  They also seem to be masters at overcoming boundaries and find the most ingenious ways to leave their stalls and pastures.  They can be obnoxious and relentless in their pursuit of does during breeding season.  Finally, they can be quite aggressive toward other males (including humans at times) in order to establish and maintain their position as "top dog."  So why would we drive hours just to bring one of these guys home to our farm?

This is the main reason we bought goats five years ago.  Goat's milk is so creamy, rich, and nutritious, and if chilled immediately after milking, it has no goaty taste.  We have also successfully made yogurt, ice cream, whipped butter, and dabbled in farmer's cheese with our goats' milk.  There is satisfaction in being able to provide your own food for your family.  Knowing that these animals are raised out in the fields with fresh air, grass and hay not sprayed with any chemicals, and no antibiotics injected into them means that their milk is safe and healthy for our children.

We also cannot resist these adorable babies when they're born in the spring.  Our does give birth to one to four kids per year.  Twins seem to be the norm and are only two to four pounds at birth.  They are just so incredibly cute, frisky, and fun to watch and to hold.  This is definitely a high point at the end of winter here on our farm.  We have certainly missed having goat kids this year, and the sale of some of them once they're weaned is also an added perk.

Sometimes an especially small kid ends up in the house with us temporarily.  It is so hard to see a weak and tiny baby be left in the cold barn away from its mother, but it happens at times, usually if it is part of a large litter.  My husband and children take pity on it and bring it into the farmhouse.  We set it up in a bin next to the coalstove to keep warm and feed it milk with a bulb syringe.  I try not to do this because once a kid is inside, the rest of the herd tends to reject it, including the mother.  Then we're stuck with "bottle" feeding it until it's two or three months old.  Even then, when it is re-introduced to the other goats, it tends to be pushed around and not accepted its entire life.  Taking care of one around the clock is a learning experience for the children, however, and it can be fun to see it interact with other household pets.  Our cat Ollie actually used to sleep with this baby and kept it warm.

With any luck, we'll have new goat kids and fresh milk on our farm in May or June.  But first, Jarlsburg must establish his presence and impress the five does who reside here and convince them that he is worthy of their time.  I am fairly certain he'll win them over by Christmas.

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