Can’t we all just get along? I keep asking this over and over to our does, bucks, baby goats, cats, dogs, even the chickens, as I referee their fights. When you become a goat farmer you’d be surprised how much time you spend studying personalities of your livestock and pets, just so they will half way get along with each other. I’m saying this after half crawling underneath the truck to separate a cat fight between two of the barn cats. I, evidently, looked more ferocious than their fight because they separated and took off after one look at my very angry face. Just a few more inches and I could have clobbered both of them. Good grief, they have known each other for years.
What sets off the strife on the farm? Let’s see, for example: We are now separating the bred does out of the big herd so they don’t have to compete with so many goats and I know that their needs are being met these last two months of their pregnancy. Very important. Their kids are now really calling on the doe’s body for it’s nutrition and growth. The pregnant doe is under stress now and I want her to easily get her amount of grain she needs, and her protein block, and her molasses bucket, and her loose minerals. Anything her little heart desires to help her and the kids she is growing for me. She doesn’t need to compete with does that aren’t being stressed at this point in time. So, the pregnant does are separated out at this stage to give them special care.
And, it never fails. We try to get all the pregnant girls in their last two months out at the same time, but sometimes you can’t catch them all. They think they are being quite sly about not being pampered and give us a look as they stand on a hill behind a tree, saying, “HA! I laugh in your face! You’ll never catch me! Never!” Oh, we eventually catch them but it may be a day or two. And, you have some going in later who weren’t at the last two months of pregnancy at the first drive.
Now, this is what usually happens when you catch several girls, put them in their special pregnant pen, and just on the other side of the fence from the rest of the doe herd, they can see each other just fine. Then that evening or the next day, you catch the hard to catch smart alec pregnant ones and put them in the pregnant pen, and what happens? The girls who may have only been in that pen a few hours, and have been looking at all the girls on the other side of the pen, will suddenly say to the does we just put in, “Who are you?! You’re a stranger! I must annihilate you!” And, a battle starts. Usually it’s not too bad and you stay and watch and referee if it gets too rough, because you don’t want those babies hurt. But, you are going, “Really? You don‘t know each other?”
Our breeding bucks are another good example. You may have a couple of your breeding bucks in a pasture together and they are polite enough to each other, then take them out to their separate pastures or pens for breeding season, and they can be side by side in their separate pastures with their girls, see each other every day through the fence (with electric on either side of the fence, of course), and then you attempt to put them back into their old pasture together after breeding season. Well, forget that! It’s who are you?! It’s battle to the death. So, all of our breeding bucks are now put in separate pens, some side by side pens and everything is fine then.
Your baby kids can’t even be peaceful. Let’s say you have a group of kids and mothers running together, it’s now time to wean. You don’t want to crowd your weanlings, and it being a cold winter, so you have them in a barn, each baby group separated with cattle panels so they can still see each other, because you know even babies will fight strangers, and then that wonderful day arrives that you think the babies are weaned and you turn them outside together to play in the winter sunshine. And, then the battle is on. Though they were side by side, each group separated by the cattle panels, able to see each other, they go, “Who are you?!! Strangers! Attack!”
Even your bottle babies can be aggressive. In the winter I’ll put the bottle babies in Rubber Maid tubs lined up together in the house. Depending on the size of the tub and the size of the kid, I’ll have two to three kids in a tub. They stay there until they start popping out like popcorn and running amuck in the house. Then they get moved to the garage to a wading pool filed with sawdust and a hog panel wrapped around that pool to keep the kids in. You can combine some of the tub kids now and guess what happens. Yes, you guessed it. Some are afraid of the “new” kids. They say they have never seen before, though they rubbed noses and faces all the time in the upstairs tubs, and others go, “Strangers! Me, Bottle Baby, must terminate these intruders!” You say, good grief.
When you think you might find peace in your barn aisle with your friendly barn cats, you just end up shaking your head. Peace is not to be had. We have cats that have known each other for years, we even have a mother cat and her four grown up kittens, and what do they do? They accidentally meet in the barn and say, “You lookin’ at me? You lookin’ at me?!” and the fight is on.
The barn cats will even lay in wait for each other to screech and scream, lick their lips, and then attack, or slink off after a bunch of name calling. All the cats have been spayed and neutered, and it’s worth saving up your nickels and dimes to do this, but it doesn’t seem to mellow them out. So, I find myself hollering, “Morris! Leave your brother alone! Spook! Did you just slap your mother! Shame on you!”
So, be prepared. Look for a couple of black and white striped shirts for your farm wardrobe, a whistle might also help, know the hand gestures to call time and penalties, and be ready to mediate between the does, the cats, the bucks, the kids, and whatever else you own in livestock, because if they have personalities, you can count on having to be a farm referee.