The goats have developed a new game that they love to play with me. I try to keep out of the game, but to them, my running away makes it that much more fun. I can't help but blame a little bit of this on Lee. Too many times when he is working at the barns, he takes a radio and listens to games, football, basketball, whatever. Even if they had golf or tennis over the radio, he'd be listening. He's such a sports nut.
I think the goats have listened to these games, with Lee, for so long that they came up with an idea for one to play with me. I am not a sports nut, so I don't have a clue what is going on, what rules are allowed or not allowed. The only sport I ever watch on TV is rodeo and any horse event, such as jumping, dressage, eventing, cutting. Those other sports seem way too technical to me, but evidently not to the goats.
It all started because we set out goat protein /mineral blocks for our goats. Now, depending on the 33 1/3 pound block, they either love it or hate it. You have to find the block that they will actually eat and will help them, and they have to eat it at a decent rate. There are two goat protein blocks we do not set out for our goats because they love them too much. The same goats will stand there and devour them until it is all gone, at one standing. That's not good. There's another block that they hate. Set it out and it will not be touched at all, so that block is a waste of money. You have to find a block that is the middle of the road, they will eat it, but will not devour it in seconds. And, you have to read the directions on the block. Usually it says something like one block per ten head of goats and they are to eat so many ounces a day and this will last either two weeks or a month. You have to evaluate the block you set out and also pay attention where you set it out.
A lot of goat protein blocks tend to have a little concrete mixed in to keep it a bit firmer in moist weather. No joking. But, if its too firm, the goats can't eat it to get enough to help. You have to notice this. There is one block our goats really like but our old does and baby kids can't hardly eat. They will stand there while a young adult doe works on it with her good teeth and the old ones and babies lick the crumbs that fall off. They, themselves, can't chew on it.
We found a good one that is in between for our herd, firm enough to stand up to high humidity, but not so firm that an old doe or baby goat can't eat it. But, none of them are firm enough to stand being rained on, so blocks have to have shelter. Set it under the edge of a building in a pan where rain can't hit it and goats can't stand on it. Or, hang in big rubber buckets in run-in sheds or barns. Or, make your own mineral/protein feeder using metal T posts driven in the ground, piece of cattle panel as a shelf to set the block in a pan on and put another piece of cattle panel over head, attached with hay string and throw a piece of tarp as a roof on that. Or, come up with your own unique plan of protecting the block for goats to eat on out in pasture.
In our larger herd, eight to ten blocks are put out. At first it was close to their lounging area, near the hay, or near the watering tubs. When we knew they liked them, we spread them out a little farther from them to control the amount they were eating. But they love their blocks and they particularly love a freshly put out block. I don't know why. It should taste the same as the ones they already have. I'm just replacing the one they had finished, but it might be a competition thing too, as who gets to get the first bite out of the new block.
It seems there are always girls keeping an eye on me as I walk around checking each place where the blocks are kept. They aren't the same girls each time, its just any of the girls who suddenly focus on what I am up to.
When I see that a block or two needs to be put out, I head to the barn where we store them. The barn on the upper hill has the blocks stored in a small hay area where we keep square bales for just in case its too muddy or too icy to get the tractor up the hill with a round bale.
I have to sneak to where the blocks are kept, now that I have caught on to this game they like to play. You will see me with my back up against the outside wall of the barn, slowly edging along, watching the goats. If I see too many goat eyes staring at me, I saunter off and do something else for a bit and then attempt to get back to the blocks.
When I think I've only got a few watching me, I slip inside the door where the blocks are kept and keep peeking outside through the window to see if any have followed me and are standing at the door, waiting for me to come out. I know this sounds like paranoia, which it is after you've gone through some of their games, but its survival paranoia.
I then quietly cut the plastic off of one of the 33 1/3 pound blocks and then hoist it up under my left arm, resting it on my hip, like you would your toddler, and peek out the window again. If no goats are around the door and I see only two or three watching the door at around 200 ft. away, I will then hurry and sling the door open, carefully shut it so no goats can get into the stack of blocks there, and charge at a power walk to where I need to go to deposit the block. I can no longer run with one bad knee and one replaced knee, but I have a pretty good version of a power walk and can cover ground when I need to.
I try to keep the block hidden on my left side so I can use my right hand to open doors to the barn or straighten up a bucket to place the block in, or take a small piece of old block out to put somewhere else, but speed is important in getting that block placed.
One time I thought I had done a fine job of sneaking a block to the hanging bucket inside the barn when fifteen girls suddenly flowed into the barn, blocking me from getting to the hanging bucket. I ducked and dodged, swerving here and there, trying to get through the girls and as I bent down to drop the block into the bucket, the girls dove in at the same time, knocking the block out of my hand, rolling it along the floor, all of us chasing it, hitting and missing getting it, then with super human effort, I swooped down one more time and picked it up quickly, my back groaning in dismay, and I deposited that block into the bucket and hurriedly backed out of their way so they could fight over the prize.
You say, the poor things are starving. No, with several round bales sitting around and eight other blocks in various stations outside, Id say not. Its the thrill of the game to them.
The only rules I can see in surviving this game they love is to make sure you can sneak a block in on them, or have at least 200 foot clearance between them and you to carry the block to its destination, or to wade through as few of goats as possible to survive delivering the block. One time I really thought I had it made when I sneaked into the hay room for a block, because all the goats were busy doing something over the hill.
By the time I had gone several feet from the building, at least forty of them poured out from around the barn, surrounded me, and was trying to knock the block out from under my arm. I hung on for dear life, faking to the left and to the right, dodging their moves on me, until finally they had me in a goat lock, so tightly surrounded by goats that I couldn't move. A few of the greedier ones made a dive for the block clutched to my side, which gave me an opening to make it to the pan the block was suppose to go in.
The trickiest time for losing a block is stretching out to drop the block in the pan. It can be easily knocked out of your hands then and the goats will swarm over it. Now, football players are probably telling me to man up and get that block to its destination, after all you are only dealing with goats. Id like to see them carry a 33 1/3 pound square football that didn't tuck well under your arm, and fend off as many players on the field as the other team had plus any bystanders that wanted to jump into the fray to take the ball.
I have a feeling that my goats' toss-a-block game is going to continue as long as there are blocks to be delivered on the place. So Id better turn pro or, better yet, turn to Lee and bat my eyes and say, “Oh, Lee, would you mind taking this block out to that bucket in the barn? There's only thirty girls in there now. It'll be a piece of cake with your big muscles and long legs. Why do you need muscles and long legs? Oh, I was just making an observation. Hurry along now.”