Humor, Antidotes and Life with Dairy Goats
By Regina Tervo
A Modern Day Shepherd
Being a Modern-Day Shepherd is going out to the barn in a mad rush with a party dress on because of an emergency! Or leaving early from your wedding night because of a birth!
These are just a tiny bit of being a modern-day Shepherd. I want to get the idea across to those who have a picture of us Shepherd’s in the field with the cane, sandals, and tents.
I have been Shepherding my herd of miniature dairy goats since 2004. I may or may not finish this book I started 10 years ago. When I do walk in the fields with my herd it is a great pleasure and I take the time to sit and spend pondering what it might had been like for the pioneer Shepherds of the days of old. As I do so my herd grazes near me happy for my company. After a while they gather around me and push each other for to see who will be the one to get the choicest spot next to me. After they settle who and where, they settle close and cozy up to me gathered around me like flower peddles on the stamen, the cud is brought up and chewed. At times like this with the rhythmic chewing, hum of nature about me, I get completely lost in thought, time and space. Hours pass. It will be only my body that will bring me back. A stiff joint complaint that demands to be shifted, then a cramp that will follow and pushes me to an uncomplimentary position. I don’t mind, it was well worth it. When I am finely able to stand again all the goats are joining me. We walk back to the barn to get a drink of water. Each having their favorite watering tub.
When I walk to the gate to leave many join me. They say goodbye after each parting. Leaving me with a feeling of not wanting to leave, and looking forward to coming back. What a blessed day!
Passing Love from Generation to Generation
Shasta, a Matriarch, dam, granddam, and great-granddam, to most all the herd was in her last kidding. She was in perfect body condition full udder, just waiting for the blessed event.
Shasta, being 8 years of age was not too old but for some old, and in her case, she had crippled knees. Not from CAE a crippling disease but from an old injury from long ago. She had arthritis. The vet said we will know when the time will be right.
Our plan was retirement for Shasta, living out her old age in the pasture along with the herd. We didn’t want to breed her but being the doe that she is, very material, she wouldn’t eat, during her heat and she came in every 18 days, she started getting very thin. She wanted to be bred that was very evident. We were very concerned if she kept this up for the whole season she wouldn’t last long. She was a mother and loved being a mother and we were not allowing her to be that for concern for her knees and how that could be hard on her. It came down to the choice of her unhappiness and growing thinner or letting her be the mother that she is. She was backing up to the boys at the fence and made the choice herself, we decided to let her, knowing that life is meant to be fulfilled and she knew what she wanted and was going to fulfill it.
I vowed to help her and make her comfortable. I didn’t like choices presented me but excepted them.
Shasta started eating right away putting on weight eating for her babies. She was always happy pregnant! She soon was a glowing glorious doe again.
Shasta has her daughter Sophia who also was pregnant for her first time, right beside her who was due just a week before Shasta. They did everything together. Two of the happiest pregnant does sharing secrets only one can imagine two pregnant does that were mother and daughter could share. Shasta must have had a lot to pass on to Sophia for she rarely left Shasta’s side. It was out of character for Sophia she usually did her own thing and played with the others but she switched coarse forming a new-found relationship with her dam. It was tighter than ever.
As Shasta’s and Sophia kidding neared, it was obvious that Shasta’s weight from the pregnancy was causing her not to walk down to the pasture. Each day the trip out would get shorter until she would just stay at the barn. Sophia would linger with her for a while but then move on with the herd. There was hay at the barn but young shoots, and branches in the woods seem to be something that the mothers to be really looked forward to and sought out.
At night, it being February it was very cold and we tripled layered the bedding for Shasta and Sophia. They had a large kidding pen for just the two of them, mother and daughter with an outside pasture that we moved them to.
Early in the morning Sophia gave birth to a beautiful single doeling we named Precious. It was Shophia’s first freshening. She was being a wonderful mother and she was doing everything right and formed a beautiful bond with her daughter Precious.
A few days later Shasta gave birth to twin bucklings. It was her first time having bucklings out of 11 kids over the years. We named them Special and Colbot. She did amazing giving birth to them all by herself and stood for them to nurse, cleaned them, she was every bit the mother she always has been, even though she was having trouble standing. She cleaned them dry, made sure they both had all they wanted to eat and stayed standing until they cuddled up into a baby ball deep into the bedding under the heat lamp. Then she laid down.
She continued caring for her babies, even though It was hard for her to stand.
Sophia stood fast to her dam during this time.
After a few days of loving and caring for her boys Shasta couldn’t stand. I had to hold her up to pee and after a while she couldn’t stand, even after I held her up. She would hold her leg off to the side for her boys to suckle and would clean them but was in too much pain in her joints to stand. Sophia had started nursing Shasta’s boys as her own kids, along with her own Precious daughter, giving her three. She cleaned her mother’s eyes, then offered herself for nursing and the bucklings ran to her excepting. She had taken on her brothers to raise for her mother on her own without question. I will never forget the three of them followed her out to the pastured as a family. A passing of generations, passed before my eyes yet my heart still struggles to fathom the depth of the glory of all it entails.
Oh God, thou glory is so great, that in the passing of one of your creatures, you give such beauty, that fills my heart!
Shasta left this world to greener pastures but her daughter Sophia took up where her mother left off and walked her family into the pasture and introduced her brothers as her own with her daughter to the herd.
Sophia not only again great respect from me with tear in my eyes, she did from the herd as well and raised to the top of the herd along side Tilly the first born of Shasta.
Goat kids are the best at discovery. They are into everything and want to know what it is for. Best games are climbing, jumping and pushing. Over the years, we discovered that you can gauge the intelligence of the kids with development games. At different times of their development stages, they can do different things, some faster than others. First thing they desire to do is to climb or jump up onto something higher than themselves. This is a fun developmental test because you can be the object to climb and the test can start from birth. You sit on the ground with your legs out. After the kids, have nursed they wonder around. Some within the first hour start climbing onto you. If one sees one do it others will follow by day two. This allows for a faster bounding between you and the kids as well giving you information as to which ones catch on faster.
In a week and they are all jumping up there with you for that lap cuddles and petting, step it up with by adding knew activity to the fun. A hat, with a light is great fun. Zippers with a pull string, shoe laces, Velcro all are great fun! If they come in bright colors and sparkle even better!Be prepared to have your hat removed more times than you can count, your cloths undone, pockets picked, shoes untied, and Velcro ripped until you put it way not wanting to hear it for another year. This game is loads of fun but it will wear you out! Over time it builds you up for more endurance. During this time, you don’t only learn your kid’s personalities, likes, manners, strengths, you laugh yourself senseless. There is nothing more fun than kids playing and being amongst it.
Several weeks go by and you are playing every day with your kids and they are growing stronger and smarter and you are gaining endurance. At this point you have discovered which of the kids are the exploders, I’ll try it first adventures, the followers, leaders, and want to BE’s. You have watch your hat gone from just being lifted, to being takin off and passed around like a trophy, pawed and worn. All your zippers are sliding well and it’s tap pull has dry wet chew marks on it, Velrco well worn, shoe string also bare the wet chew marks of happy play of tug of war. Your pocket have been picked clean except for some bits of hay, and even your snaps are freed up.
It’s now time to step up the mental game! The Ladder and the String. This is the focus and concentration test. The longer your kid can focus on the Ladder the smarter the kid is. The one that loses that concentration and focuses on the string instead, has the lesser of the levels of skills to think things out and the ones that lose focus on both well you get the idea. This is a very interesting and fun experiment, but be prepare to spend some time at the barn at least a couple of hours. This is a time for observation on your part and you will not be able to hold back your amusement or laughter. This is a great way to spend time with your husband or family. You can take pictures or video and notes.
Get a steady well-kept ladder a five foot one would be just fine. Set it up in the middle of your stall so that the first two rails can be reached from the side of the 18- 24” seat you have. Take a nice size of rope or cord and tie it someplace where it can hang into the stall but off the ground about 18 to 24” not against anything, just in the air free. Soon you kids will be trying to get up on that ladder. Trying to climb it. Usually all of them. They will work it in all different directions, all angles, front feet, back feet, chin ups, sideways, from the ground, from the seat. There will be one after the longest time that will climb that ladder first. It’s so much fun watching them figuring it out. All of them working toward a goal, some losing interested and finding the String. This is where you just must be there to understand the meaning of goats are not just livestock. This is where you start realizing the intelligence of a goat infant is and start getting better locks for your gates, clips for you panels and the light bulbs go off, how you had so and so get with so and so with big grins on their faces these last few years! The game is over when the kids get tired and go off to fall asleep. Don’t forget to remove ladder and rope after game!
Have fun with your kids!