Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Learning Experience

So tomorrow we're cashing the check for the last of our goats. With a baby on the way, dramatically rising feed costs, falling animal value, and frankly, just being in a bit over our heads, we decided to take a break from four-legged livestock.

And let me tell you, it wasn't a day too soon. What a story I have to tell you. This all actually happened this past weekend, but I haven't quite been ready to tell it until now.

We've been selling our herd little by little. The last to go was Congo. He was a high-bred, purebred, bull-headed Boer buck. He was always the most aggressive and the most obnoxious. (He also stunk to high heaven, and even the briefest dealings with him would leave you with a musky film all over you that just doesn't wash off easily.) He'd go out of his way to challenge you, and he knew just how to jab you with his horns. We knew being alone in the pasture wasn't going to be good for him, since goats are a herd animal and they don't do well solo. But we were working hard to sell him so he'd be back in a normal goaty environment.

What we didn't know was that he'd figure out how to get out of his pasture. One morning I glanced out the window, and there was Congo, punishing the neighbor's three rail fence. Odd.

Both gates were well secured. I couldn't see any visible damage or gaps anywhere in the pasture fence. Since he's not only aggressive, but strong, I grabbed the cattle prod and headed out to get him back in. I'd answer the question of how he got out later.

I decided to move him into a different pasture. Maybe a change of scenery would keep him occupied for a while. It did. For about three hours. In the meantime, I ran out to take care of an errand. I mistakenly assumed that his escape had to do with some undiscovered issue in the old pasture fence line.

No. He learned how to climb the fence. A chest-high woven-wire fence. He was using the crossbrace for the end posts as a stepladder and hurling himself over. I knew I should have finished electrifying that damn topwire. (You can see the crossbrace I'm talking about in the photo to the left.)

With me gone, this left my poor wife to deal with the big brute. My pregnant wife. Not good. He could get out within 60 seconds of being locked in. I got back to the house and he was out again. Lori's crying. He'd escaped twice, torn some of the siding off our house, and pinned her against the gate where she could not overpower him. Meanwhile, my son thinks it's all a big game, coming out of the house to see what we're doing, or shouting at us from the window. It was just a nightmare.

Eventually after getting him into the pasture and sending everybody else inside, I find myself standing there at the crossbrace, keeping him away with the cattle prod, trying to figure out what in the hell to do.

Okay, I'm going to build a temporary pen out of cattle panels. One with no crossbraces. We've got part of a pen already, so I just need to close it off. I head into the pasture and call Lori on my cellphone. She brings me the wire and the wire cutters. I cut loose a panel from a divider fence and start securing the temporary pen. I get Congo to chase me in there and then sneak around the shelter and close off the last escape route. After a good bit of wiring, we don't even have an entry point. The only way in is with wire cutters. He won't be there for more than a day or two. He's got a shelter, he's got water, and he's got hay. Whew.

Ten minutes. That's how long it took him to figure out how to climb the cattle panels and hop over the perimeter fence again. This is a thick, muscled animal who probably weighs close to 200 pounds, and who is now stronger than any of us. So I say "hop" facetiously. He's out again, and this time he's pissed.


I thought he was secured, so I had headed over to the neighbor's house to get a stray rooster out of their llama pasture. He'd been in there all day, and it was getting toward dusk. Unlike the hens, he's apparently not smart enough to find his way back out the way he got in. From there I can see Congo trotting through our front yard. But because of the fences, there's no quick way back if you're bigger than a chicken. And their fence is topped with barbed wire to boot, so I'm not even up for trying to climb it. I take the shortest route I can, all the while trying to figure out how to stop this unstoppable beast.

I have no ideas left. All I know is that I want Lori to stop trying to help me and get into the house. She keeps resisting and I keep insisting. I'm not all chivalrous or stuck on gender roles, but there's this matter of an unborn child that happens to be right at Congo's head height. Congo takes turns charging at us and rearing up on his hind legs. Finally I convince Lori to go inside while my mind frantically tries to think of a solution. Any solution.

Out of desperation, I decide to try to get him into the "goat gofer". It's a cage that fits into the back of a pickup truck, used for transporting goats or other small livestock. It once fell off the back of our truck at 60 miles per hour, and didn't have a dent or scratch on it. If I can somehow get him in there somehow, and get it secured, we can take him to the auction in two days. Leaving him in there for two days sounds like a terrible idea, but I have no others.

I drag the cage over to the truck. Lori sees me struggling with it and comes out to help me steer it onto the bed of the pickup. Congo decides to give her a hard time and I'm having none of it. I grab the prod and come after him. He manages to charge me, pushes me back into my knee high garden fence and almost takes me down. I give him a good jolt and he backs off. Mostly.

We get the cage secured to the truck while he's milling around looking for trouble. I discover that wherever I go, he comes at me. I set up the ramps on the back of the truck, and I climb into the bed and get behind the cage. He walks right up the ramp, eyes me behind the cage, and sticks his head in. Can something actually go right? Is he dumb enough to go into the cage?

No, not quite. But he's thinking about it. Meanwhile, Lori's brought some grain. I ask her to get in behind the cage too. Yes, I'm using my pregnant wife as bait to trap a dangerous animal. I suck.

The grain goes in the cage, Lori gets behind it with me, and we try to coax and/or taunt him into going in. After a couple of almosts, a lot of swearing, and some kind of luck, I slam the cage door shut and pop the pin to secure it. We cover the whole thing with a tarp. This should keep the rain and wind off him, keep him from seeing us and getting angry, and maybe even contain his stench a little. We get a water bucket in place, stuff some hay in, throw some cinder blocks onto the corners of the tarp, and hope for the best. The next step is to have the sherrif come out and shoot the damned thing. Why didn't we have a gun on hand?

Two long but uneventful days later, Congo made it to the auction. He sold for far less than we paid for him. But he's not our problem any more.

I can live with that.


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At 10/25/2007 9:34 AM, Blogger Wendy said...

Wow! I'dheard that goats can be escape artists ;).

I keep telling my husband I want goats, but now I'm not so sure. I live on a little lot in a suburban area. I can't imagine seeing my goat chasing my little, old lady neighbor around her yard. That would not be funny - or worse, the little girl who lives down the road.

I'm glad you are all okay and that the goat has found a new home. Thank you for sharing the story, though. Guess I'll be sticking with chickens and store-bought milk for a while :).

At 10/25/2007 11:18 AM, Blogger Phelan said...

Annoying, but funny. I had a male that learned to make his way through an electric fence. I found out later when a niaghbor came by in an uproar about her pregnant goats. We couldn't contain him and ended up giving him away.

At 10/25/2007 12:20 PM, Blogger e4 said...

Wendy - If you stick to girls, you won't have as much trouble. And Nubians (in our limited experience at least) are nicer than Boers. And bottle-raised goats are friendlier (to people) than those raised naturally.

Phelan - Yeah, the wrong goat can be such a pain. Bad times, but good stories...

At 10/25/2007 1:27 PM, Blogger Ornery's Wife said...

I never have been around goats, but this made me more than happy for that lack of experience! Wow. What a blessing you all came out relatively unscathed! Bet you're glad to see the end of that venture!

At 10/25/2007 2:20 PM, Blogger Pea said...

You cured me. I think I will stick to sheep. My husband will be relieved. He never wanted goats to begin with. I'm glad you weren't injured.

At 10/25/2007 4:35 PM, Blogger tina f. said...

I had an experience similar to that with a Dorset ram. I really hated him and I didn't care that I got 1/2 what I paid for him, also at the auction (and he was the Supreme Champ. ram at the fair too). I really think it depends on the breed though. My Dorper ram is SO much easier to handle. I love the Dorset ewes though... Just for future info to anybody, you can buy a "ram shield" from Premier One that makes it hard for them to see straight ahead. Or you can do like they did in the "olden days" and chain a piece of log to the buck's neck to slow him down (also make it hard to jump the fence!).

At 10/25/2007 4:36 PM, Blogger tina f. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 10/25/2007 5:46 PM, Blogger barefoot gardener said...

Your poor family! I bet e5 was just upset that he missed out on all the fun, too. Reading your post I just wanted to give that goat a good swift kick...

Here's hoping life without the 4-foots is a little calmer!

At 10/25/2007 8:02 PM, Blogger e4 said...

Pea - They're mostly not so bad really. The right breed, raised around people from the beginning, they can be like grass-eating, milk-producing dogs. But they're just not all like that.

Tina - I'll have to remember the shield and the log. Heh... The log trick would probably get me a call from the Humane Society though.

BG - A kick probably wouldn't have even made him flinch. He was a tough hombre. The only thing we ever found that he respected was the cattle prod. And believe me we tried other things. Anyway, glad it's behind us. Now we know what NOT to do.

At 10/25/2007 8:21 PM, Blogger Madcap said...

I've never had any real inclination to keep goats. Maybe this is why. It made for entertaining reading, even if it was a fairly wretched experience. You offered it up for blogdom, my dear!

At 10/26/2007 12:58 PM, Blogger Matt said...

You have more patience than I do. I would have shot him the first time he charged me. Bad temperament is bad news.

Good on you for being so patient! That's admirable.

At 10/27/2007 8:09 AM, Blogger JBTW said...

W-ow. I have absolutely no idea what that would have been like, but I really feel for you guys.
Glad you don't have to worry about it anymore since you've got more important things to worry about (ie. current & on-the-way kiddos). Hope the road ahead is much smoother.

At 10/31/2007 12:33 PM, Blogger Amy said...

i had a nightmare goat too, only mine was a 'docile' bottle baby. She'd get out and want to be with you--- right with you, even tried to get into the house several times. push into you, get you with her horns accidentally, drive you crazy, same result only a different attitude!

At 8/14/2010 1:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you say you were selling off your herd, little by little? I'm confused as to why, but maybe I haven't read that far yet.

It just occurred to me (as I was seeing an ultrasound picture)... I am REALLY far behind. But making progress. Little by little.



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