THOSE VALUABLE BOTTLE BABIES
Connie S. Reynolds
I have been looking at my bottle babies with a great deal of affection lately. Even when they are weaned from the bottle, they all run up to say Hello no matter where I am at in the field or barn. Even when I worm or give them their shots, they all are easy to catch, quick to forgive, and think I am the most wonderful person in the world. I consider that a very valuable goat.
Maybe not valuable money wise, but valuable stress wise. This kidding season we had over 85 kids. I know thatís small potatoes to some of you breeders, but to us itís very big potatoes. And, I ran into the problem of trying to tame all those kids down. Over the years I always tried to tame my kids down. I mean the ones who werenít bottle babies. Bottle babies are just naturally tame. Itís simple to them, you have the bottle, you are the mommy. They love you.
Iíd carry around my favorite sitting bucket and go into the kidding stalls and pet and hold the new kids and do this everyday until they are out of the kidding stalls. When they were out in the big world, youíd see me trooping around without my favorite sitting bucket visiting the kids and petting them. I learned early not to carry my favorite sitting bucket into the field with the older does. To them every bucket is a potential feed bucket and I only had to be trampled several times before I quickly learned not to carry any bucket out into the field with the older does. I always was a quick learner.
Now Iíve heard many people groan, "Oh, no. Iíve got a bottle baby." Mainly because of the time spent bottle feeding the kids. Also the money, which usually means at least one 50 lb. bag of milk replacer to get one kid through to weaning. And, milk replacer doesnít come cheap. It can range for a fifty-pound bag from $40 - 75. Then you have some people who canít stand a friendly kid. They want that goat to stay away from them and not to bug them. They donít want it helping them with farm chores (stealing the hammer, bucket of nails, gloves and running off with them in fun) or going for walks around the place with them. They want that goat to stay back until they decide when itís needed. Bottle babies are a nuisance to them.
I have found bottle babies to be extremely helpful. The other day I went to let the main group of does out into the fields to graze. We keep them up at night in woven wire pens with livestock guard dogs to protect them from the coyotes and the loose dogs running the country. I had recently sold several of the boss does of this herd leaving them basically without their leaders.
Evidently, during the night something must have spooked them. When I swung open the gate to let them out the only one who boldly ran through was the livestock guard dog. And he stopped and turned around in puzzlement as to why the girls werenít coming to. Since they werenít, he went back up to stay with them.
Iím use to having to hide behind the gate every morning when I open it for fear of being trampled by the girls wanting out, not this morning. They looked at me as if to so, "Sheís trying to feed us to the lions and tigers and bears. Oh no!"
I looked around the field to make sure I wasnít seeing something that they did, like a bear standing behind me. But, I didnít see anything. They just didnít have their bold boss does to say it was all right and to lead them out. But, in the back of the cowering herd, I heard a young kid holler to me. One of my bottle babies. I called her name and she fought her way to the front of the herd and saw me.
Thatís all it took. She came running as hard as she could, hollering to me the whole time. The herd decided she must know what was going on and followed her. It was really funny to see this little kid leading this big herd of does and kids.
This year we got swamped with kids and I couldnít tame down near as many as I wanted. When Lee and I went out to the barn, these human shy kids would disappear. Youíd hear the thudding of little hooves and no kids. Or, a swish of moving air and no kids. It was creepy. I could have sworn I had at least 85 kids out here.
I stood there one time with air movement around me and said, "Whazat?"
"Itís your invisible kids," Lee answered, as we listened to little hooves disappearing over the hill. That would never have happened with bottle babies. You know exactly where they are. They are with you.
Bottle babies are wonderful in that you donít have to have a game plan when itís time to worm everyone. You just go out, they run up to you, you worm them, and they wait for their hugging afterwards. This is even when they are adults.
The ones I couldnít tame down for lack of time need a game plan. Lee and I will pick up our wormer, huddle together to talk over how we will catch the wild ones, and itís not uncommon to see us hunkered down, dodging between bushes, hay feeders, slinking along, to finally nab a kid by the hind leg. And, Lee has become very proficient with a shepherdís crook for the adults. Why donít we grab the hind leg of an adult goat like we do the kids to catch them? Have you ever tried to grab the hind leg of an adult goat? They just travel on, at speed, no matter what has got hold of their hind leg. We provide a great deal of entertainment to our neighbors who can see our fields. All of this can be very stressful. You just know there is going to be one goat that you just canít catch and it worries you to death.
So, when people tell me about how worthless a bottle baby is, I quickly point out all their benefits. Letís see, they love you, they can bring a herd to you, they are easy to catch to doctor and forgive you afterwards, you can always find them, they can trick the wild kids into running up to you with them before the wild kids come to their senses, you can always catch them, they love you, and did I say you can always catch them and they love you? What more could you ask for? Be thankful for those valuable bottle babies.