This is a hard post to write. It talks about failure, of a sort and just not being prepared for certain kinds of livestock. Thankfully, it has a great ending and a new beginning and that makes it for a good story.
We said goodbye to the goats today. They have a new lovely home, and a JOB! They are going to work as mobile petting zoo companions with a really nice family, with kids and adequate fencing! You see… it all began about 6 weeks ago.
When we offered to take in a pair of goat wethers from our friends up north, we were so excited. After all, I’ve heard stories of their pygmy goats and babies for years and just were excited to have a pair come to our little farm. I thought they would be a great addition to the collection and no bother at all. I learned livestock acquisition rule #1… always ask how big an animal is, especially when you see a few pictures without any standard size gauges in the pictures! (gg) When these boys hopped outta the truck, I was floored! They were bigger than a pony! (In fact, Timmy is taller than Cody!) But, we were determined to give them a great home and they seemed to settle in just fine for the first couple days. Got along with everyone, even the sheep. My friends thought they would be fine.
Well, after the first couple days, they began to get a feel for the place and the first thing they really figured out was that our fencing was totally inadequate. Especially for 150 pound goats. It wasn’t long before they were busting down fences and getting loose. They taught me hard lesson #2. No fence is totally foolproof and safe for livestock. And lesson #3… don’t use the cheap t-posts from TSC. The goats would stand on my fence and just bend those things over at the ground, occasionally snapping them!!! Always use the super iron reinforced posts that cost only 50 or 75 cents more. Man, I wish I had known that in the beginning. I probably bought 50 of the substandard t-posts at a nice $4 each, when for $4.79 I could have had the WAY WAY stronger and better posts!!!
Well, being on a very busy road, I was terrified that they would get out, get hit, or cause a major accident. Not to mention it was slightly embarrassing to have folks knocking at my door all the time…. “Your goats are out”. One time Bryce was standing on the hood of our car!!! Oh my…
Well, then the mischeif began. Being comfortable, they began to find lots of things to get into and test. They got into the garage and found the bird seed containers, emptying them. They were jumping up on the workbenches, knocking stuff over. It was a 3-ring circus.
They put hoof holes in the siding on the house, by their constant search for getting leaves and such.
They broke down the fence in the back so many times, we just could not get it stable and standing for more than a day. (It was back where there is a old barn foundation, and thus inadequately posted. Hard Lesson #4. Don’t put fencing where there is a concrete foundation. You need no less than 10 feet between posts and trees just don’t count.
We tried to keep them contained at night, in the paddock that we had made for the sheepies. It would work for a night, maybe two, but by the second day, they would be loose. No matter what we did, they just kept figuring out how to thwart it. Very talented escape artists for sure. Of course, being only 6 month old farmers, we were easy to bust. We FINALLY got the paddock to the point that it would hold them, and we christened it Goatcatraz! I believe that truly… you need solid stainless steel panels, about 8 feet tall, greased and with an inward tilt of 20 degrees to safely contain large goats! Haha… For awhile, our only way to keep them safe at night was to kick Cody out of the pony barn and baracade them in by moving the giant wire spools in front of the door!
Now, sure, if I had $500 to spend on new fencing, or to try and install electrical fencing, I might have been able to contain them better. But, we tried to test them out at a friends, who had electric fence and they bust that within an hour. They learned very quickly how to work around difficult situations. They learned that simply bristling up their back hair, would allow them to limbo under the lowest strand and off to freedom! Silly boys!
Now, the very hardest and painful lesson was $5. Loosing my sheep. You might have wondered about the lack of sheep pictures and mentions on the blog. It was because I was really heartbroken and deeply embarrassed over this very very hard lesson. It happened the day we brought Cody pony home. What a wonderful and yet awful day. We had brought Cody home and were enjoying his pony-ness in our little farm yard. The sheep were excited over this new hoof pal as were the goats. When I left a few hours after, to go and get my car from Bills, I got a panicked phone call from Jessy. The sheep were out, the goats had pushed down the garden fence and they had gotten out. The goats came back after Jessy yelled at them, but the sheep panicked and ran for the busy road. She ran out there to herd them away from the traffic and did so just by herself! She called our neighbors and they rushed down with a whole carload of help. I hurried home as fast as I could. Maggie locked the goats up in the pony barn. The hunt was on.
Unfortunately, the sheep decided to go down this farmer access road that runs right along the side of our property. Problem is, in their excited state, they hit the woods at the end and disappeared. The searchers stopped, not wanting to keep pushing them, and hopefully giving them a chance to calm down while we gathered more forces. I arrived and we brought the grain bucket and some halters and leads, hoping that we would be able to calm entice them back to the fold. They had called our farming neighbor, Mr. K. and he was ready to help and would keep an eye out for them. The fields were all planted in tall corn and a few in soybeans. Of course, they had to go into the corn fields and that made it so hard to track and find them. We searched for hours. No sign of them. If you knew where I live, the county is broken up into one square mile blocks, roughly. And many of the farmers have huge wooded windblocks in the middle. Right near us there are 3 such woods. And a very busy elevated bed train track that runs diagonally through the block. I was fairly certain that they would avoid the train tracks. The huge ditch and then the double tracks, traffic and just rough scrabble bed, just didn’t point to easy sheep crossing. So that left 3/4 of the square mile for them to ramble.
When it started to get dark and it was apparent that we were making NO headway, we gave up for the night. I came home and made flyers for the morning, we would start to litter my poor neighbors with the news and to keep an eye out. I called the county sheriff that evening and they were super nice and helpful. Posted the news to all their deputies and would stay in touch over the next two weeks. I suppose some might have thought that weird, but in essence, the sheriff is our go to information source around here. I thought, if they wandered onto someone property, they might call them in. Or if, God forbid, they caused an accident, the sheriff would be involved. And it just didn’t hurt to have more eyes aware of them.
In the morning, we circulated tons of flyers. Called the vets in the area and the feed store. Left flyers at the post office. Of course, went out at daylight with the bucket, calling them, walking miles and searching. Nothing. We went to each and every one of our neighbors in the block, talked with them, left flyers, and no one had seen them! It was like they just disappeared. I was so heartbroken. I just felt awful, stupid and upset. Every day, I was out there, walking the property, calling them, out walking the woods, driving around the block over and over. We called the livestock auction to alert them in case someone had found them and were going to turn over a fast buck.
But one of the most helpful and yet sad things, were all the stories of novice livestock handling that came out of it. Everyone seemed to have a story of escaped stock. Or mistakes made early on. The learning curve for large animals is a hefty one for some. All the book learning in the world is nothing compared to experience first hand. Books make it sound so easy, that if you do this and that, everything will fall into place. I never read anything about how to find missing livestock! Nothing. Yet, everyone I talked to had some sort of sad tale about their first livestock disaster. Oh my…
I won’t even retell them, because most are heartbreaking. Just dreadful hard lessons learned at the expense of animals lives.
Well, about a week after they disappeared, Miss Julia and I did find some fairly fresh tracks in the mud, out near a little water hole. It was such a hopeful sign. Mr. K, my big operation farmer neighbor said he would probably flush them from the woods when he started to harvest the corn and beans. He has a bunch of hands and they were all on the lookout. He would let me know, even if they found them dead, he would let me know. He has been super nice and neighborly, not mad or upset. A couple sheep won’t hurt his bottom line for a zillion acres, but still, it was nice that he was understanding. So we waited and hoped that they might be sighted and recovered!
Well, the harvest is done, no sign, no hide nor hair of them. It’s been almost a month now. No one has seen anything of them and to be honest, this place is too small, a flock of black sheep on the loose would have gotten front page news attention. Nothing. Sheriff believes that someone probably found them, started to see the flyers and attention and then either slaughtered them, sold them or moved them to less noticeable surroundings. Unfortunately, that is what I have to believe as well. I still have some hope, I still go out to the woods, and I scan the fields every single time I drive away from the homestead. I take the long route home around the block and I search. My neighbors are watchful, and their menfolk go out on the bikes and scout for tracks, anything. Nothing.
So it was with a very heavy heart that I finally called my friends and asked if they would mind if I found new homes for the goats. We are just not goat people. There was a growing resentment at their antics and escape skills, and how pushy they were at feeding time and such. Even Cody was developing a dislike for them, and would kick and snort at them. They taught him how to push under a weak fence and get out. It was clear, they needed new homes.
I debated over it in my mind for a good week. I tried to figure out how I might be able to reenforce my fencing, how I could find the cash to build a big enclosure. How could I make good on my urge to give these silly boys a forever home. But in the end, I thought, it’s really just not good. We would be resentful of them, even if they were finally contained safely. Like our friends said, goats are for smiles and happy encounters. They needed new homes in safe goat environments.
We’ve been friends for years and years and I knew that I just had to be upfront, admit defeat and see what we could do to make it all work out. Thank goodness, they were understanding, and I knew that they were going to be fine, but still, I just felt awful. They said it would be fine if we could see about getting them a good home. And if that didn’t work out, they would take them back. It’s a long drive and I knew they were already overcrowded, so I decided to do whatever I could to find them good safe homes.
I went through my farmy friends and we made connections and had visits and all that. But finally, it was an ad in our local Craig’s List that brought out the best candidates. I immediately refused anyone that just wanted to know the weight. Not happening on my watch. These were good boys, well, fun boys and bottle babies, very friendly and endearing little nobheads. They needed GOAT people… people with kids, 4H people, people with goat experience. And good fences. We had a few good intentions but they didn’t work out.
And then finally, I found them. The perfect match, the perfect family. Owners of a lovely mobile petting zoo. Animal lovers extreme. Family with kids… and already had goats!!!! And a farm and acreage and everything ready. We talked via email and then the phone at lengths. I really wanted to make sure that they were moving on to a really good situation. That was SOOOOO important to me. When they finally came out, I could tell instantly that their smiles and delight at these boys was so genuine and heartfelt, I knew that was going to be good. Their 8 year son was delighted with them, and the goats were really accepting and happy with them. In fact, they happily walked off to the truck and hopped right in. Not even a backward glance of fore longing. They had new jobs and new adventures and they were ready to embrace that new destiny! I was happy, but yet a little sad. I would miss their good points and there were many… the playful antics, their little mock headbutting duels… their goatness.
However, when I heard the little boy howl… “Dad!!!! Common, they’re eating the plastic off the windows!!!!” I knew I had made the right decision.
We’re still hoping the sheep come home. I pray about it, and wish and watch. Your good wishes will help, I’m sure. I miss them so badly, you can not know. I just still feel teary thinking about it too much. I hope that wherever they are, they are doing well, and are loved. At least, the last we saw of them, they were healthy and happy and scampering off into the sunset. I guess that is one nice thing, that there is hope that they are somewhere. I just hope they are happy and being well cared for. It’s the best I can do in this painful situation.
And I’m really happy for the goat boys. It sounds like they are going to have some great homes and great jobs. It’s what they were raised for! To be friendly happy pets. Our friends felt good about the placement too, agreeing this sounded awesome for them. A lovely farm and pasturage… with some fun stimulating outings and a chance to interact with kids and adults in a great way. They could earn their keep and this family seemed just awesome and wonderful. I’m happy. Really, I am. The girls are relieved… they liked them as well, but always were just overwhelmed a bit with their care and escape antics.
We just need to retrain Cody to stay away from pushing under fences. Our pallet fence will be done tomorrow. I think that will stop him… it’s only one weak spot by the old foundation that he can get loose from. And we will be fencing in more of the homestead as soon as we can. I just don’t want to repeat this scenario ever again!!!Pin It