August 24 – September 18, 2013
There were lots of goats, but we spent most of our time with the milkers and their babies. Alex has 50 active milkers, 19 nursing mamas and a handful of 5 month olds that all live together in the main barn. Normally, mothers and babies are separated at birth, but Alex doesn’t need the extra milk, so for now, she lets the babies stay with their mamas.
When we first started work on the farm, we could barely tell one white goat from another white goat, however it quickly became obvious that each goat had her own personality. Some of the goats were very slow to warm up to us, others were mischievous and caused trouble while others would have made perfect cuddly pets. Alex has also given each goat a different name with each generation starting with a different letter. By the end we knew maybe a third of them by name, but a few we ended up giving nicknames that stuck for us, like Big Mama.
Our time with the goats began with milking and feeding. Each milker received a ration of alfalfa pellets and cereals while we attached the milking machine. There were four goats being milked at a time. Some goats gave a lot of milk, over a liter or so, others gave barely a cup full.
After lunch, someone played shepherd and spent several hours in the pasture while the ladies grazed. This is when personalities really came out. A few ladies were always leaders of the pack, while a few like Big Mama hung back and just went along with everything. A few were constantly fighting and butting heads with each other. A small group of them were the rebellious/ mischievous ones. They seemed to thrive on the attention and would bolt for the neighbor’s fields even though the fields they were supposed to be in had a lot more grass for them to eat. We spent a lot of time heading off the leaders, and keeping the rest of the herd from bolting after the naughty ones. Other times they were more fun to be in the field with, like when they would follow me around looking for affection or because I would hold down branches so they could eat more leaves.
I can honestly say that we really loved the goats, almost like pets. In some ways they were like mellow dogs, who didn’t really listen very well.