Monday, March 8, 2010
Comings and Goings, and Conventional Wisdom
Charly is at camp ... or at least that is the way I prefer to think about his living on 11 wonderful acres in Orange County rather than here with me. Thanks to the kindhearted young man that is now Charly's keeper, we have stud privileges when the time comes and can even have him back if/when we move to the country ourselves. He is in a good place with five other goats and is awaiting the arrival of two Nigerian Dwarf does that will be his girls. It's quite possible he may not want to come home again.
The gut-wrenching decision to "get rid" of him niggled at us for days, but the reality of the need crystallized when I had a meltdown while trying to milk one morning. My reluctant-to-be-milked doe was challenge enough, but I was fending off amorous attention from him toward anything with double-X chromosomes, including myself. We tied Charly up in the goat yard for almost two weeks, waiting it out, thinking hormones would level off and peace would eventually be restored. But he remained single minded in his pursuit of passion. Additionally, he alternated between love and hate with Little One, whom he perceived as a rival for his herd queen (go figure!) and was determined enough that I was concerned he might hurt her. Tied to a post is no way for a strapping young buck to live, so it was clear what we had to do.
A guide to our decision making has been, "What does it look like in nature?" The more natural, the better. We evaluate each recommendation against this rule of thumb, which has led to go against conventional wisdom at times. Conventional wisdom says bucks should not be kept on an urban homestead and does should be housed apart from bucks in separate pens in the rural setting. Reasons given include unwanted mating as well as the buck "aroma" permeating everything including the does' milk. We beat conventional wisdom for the year that Charly was a buckling, but now that he is mature, we have reluctantly seen why it is conventional and wisdom indeed.
While we're on the subject of accepting and rejecting conventional wisdom ... There is one other recommendation on which we are flip-flopping -- disbudding. We followed conventional wisdom and had Charly disbudded. The procedure itself was horrific. Furthermore, misshapen horns grew anyway and had to be ground off when they began pressing into his head. Only after we opted for disbudding did we learn that goats regulate their temperature through their horns. It may not seem like a big deal, but last summer our disbudded-without-any-horns doe panted in the shade while our disbudded-with-a-horn doe lazed comfortably in the sun. With Bella, the doeling we are keeping, our decision is not to disbud. We may regret that decision if horns interfere with milking or she hurts someone, but this is one piece of conventional wisdom we are eager to put to the test.