As owners and breeder do we give the emotional health of our goats enough consideration?
I have been studying one herd for the last 17 years. I have come to realize some important things about the goats I didn’t know before I bought them. I bought them thinking them as livestock. I quickly realized they were to intelligent for me to use that term. Anything that could be done the goats watched what I did with my hands and then do it with their lips or horns in the matter of minutes. Most goats are smarter than many dogs. Get that straight. I had trained dogs for a life time and a goat kid can be taught to potty train to a puppy pad and walk on a leash faster than a puppy every time. Even the smartest of dogs the Australian shepherd and the standard poodles. That is saying a lot!
I realized these goats where different than I expected. They were very personal each like me and you with individual personalities, playful, curious, friendly, some with a sense of humor, silly, a grumpy, or the pest. They had different likes and dislikes in treats and favorite person or goat buddies. Favorite places to play or rest. They didn’t care much for changes but they did like visitors. They ran from scary things but there was always a brave one, then one to follow that would start a domino effect of bravery.
Working Out conflict Together
When their was someone that started a fight to move in the ranks the herd Queen would watch along with the rest of the herd, there was a referee a big wether that would step in when the fight was won and declared over. If the doe decided to be a sore loser she would be pushed blocked from the winner and the rest of the herd would back him up. If she continued to push the subject then she was pushed out of the herd as a chastation. She would get the message and go back to her rightful place. All would be well. They worked well together as a unit. Mother’s and daughters and kids paired off at night, older kin and buddies slept in groups. The oldest always laid down first. They like toughing each other when they sleep. A chin on a leg, or neck over a back. They are intimate sleepers even in the summer time. There is always someone left to watch among the elder does. They take turn at this. The herd Queen starts the watch. This is all peace time for the goats.
The Big move and the Betrayal
Placing your herd in the hands of someone is hard but having it be someone you trusted and have them lie and betray you is something you don’t get over easily. Especially when lives are involved. I paid sent 28 of my herd to be cared for while we moved and got the fences up. Only 7 were found plus 5 other does they surrendered.
What happens if they experience a tramatic time. A death. Starvation, abuse or torture.
I learned that the same haunting, lost, dazed look that humans get coming from these situations the goats share as well.
The same goats that were born in our lap, played, ran to you, followed you every where, with glee, laid beside chewing cud and came running when you called them by name were not the same happy bouncing bundles of joy. They were broken down dying bodies and spirit.
The Rescue recovery
Setting to work on healing their bodies by treating them for malnutrition, anemia, mineral and vitamin deficiencies, worms, sores, foot rot and lice. After a few months they all were looking better. We did lose one he was to far gone with and Barber pole worm infestation. When he had come off the trailer he went completely flat out, he stopped breathing. I rubbed vitamin c and molasses on his gums pounded on his chest and called his name like I did when we were at home to come to me across the pasture! He started breathing again. I gave him some electrolytes he looked into my eyes and then he started drinking then eatting. He put on some weight. He wanted to live but he never fully recovered from all the damage done internally. He passed knowing he had food water, love and friendship. He was happy, his tail wagged.
The others took a year to get full recovery longer for the emotional aspect of the trama. Longer for the ones that lost more. The one that lost her mother, sister, and brother and watched her herd die around her from starvation. The other sunburned, with no coat during the winter, with no coat, shelter, watching your mother, sister, her family die. The scares from the sunburn (from being shaved for a show but never sheeted) are not as deep as the loss in her eyes tell. This doe Snow was the gate greeter to everyone before this happened. She still has a long way to go emotional. She was there a 6 months longer than ever one else. They each have a story to tell but they each have chosen to share it with me each in their own time.
What can we do for the emotional health for goats?
Being there for them with good intentions. Take a little time to set and chew the cud with them. You will be surprised what you learn about yourself and about them. A soft word, a song with their name in it, even made up. Funny thing is they are a lot like children. Make up a song put their name in it and make it possitive. They love that! See if you don’t get some tail wags. My goats love their wether and rump scratches some even face rubs. So if you get into it you will find out which of your goats love full body massages. Like I said they are all individuals. If you have milk goats like I do, you will find the benefit of a emotional healthy goat in the twinkle in their eyes, a cud popped into their mouths, a wagging tail in greetings and in a full pail.