When you become a goat farmer, one valuable trait you will need to develop is how to be sneaky around your goats. Iíve frequently considered teaching a class on this to goat farmers and future goat farmers. If you really want to know what your goats are up to or have been up to, you have to learn how to sneak. You are probably asking why on earth would I want to know that. You say, just march on out there in the herd and look. If you do that, then the goats quit whatever they are doing and stare at you. Youíll never know what they had been doing a minute earlier.
This was brought to my attention just last week. I had 9 bottle babies down at the barn and I was wanting to start weaning them from four bottles a day to two and with lesser amounts of milk. I had good second cutting hay in front of them, a good goat protein block, and Iíd put out a little grain that morning. I also stalled an older goat beside them that was sharing the hay I gave them and had given her some grain to eat also so they would get the idea what they were suppose to be doing.
But, being use to seeing them at least 4 times a day (more then that since there were a lot of other goats to care for) and then suddenly Iím to only see them two times a day, well, I was going through bottle baby withdrawal. I had to see the kids and see if they were eating hay. I just had to see my babies. If you canít tell, either I love bottle babies or I'm just plain snoopy.
If I just marched down there and looked into their stall, it would cause all kinds of commotion with them screaming for a bottle and bouncing off the door trying to get to me and I wouldnít know if they were adapting at all. The only thing to do was to sneak down.
Having goats for years, I have become quite good at sneaking. In fact, the FBI, CIA, Army, etc. really need to send their recruits to me for training in sneaking into a barn or goat herd, if ever there was a need for them to do that. Just call me fog, I drift through the barn and herd undetected. No, forget that. You can see fog. Call me the wind, unseen, going unnoticed. In fact, Lee calls me windy quite frequently.
So, I just had to see my bottle kids. I put on my dark barn coat, dark woolen toboggan, rubber barn boots over my dark pants and quietly slipped out the garage door, closing the door gently behind me. The goats are on hill sides all around the house and usually, if they see me come out, they all look up to see what Iím up to and if I happen to have the grain bucket with me. This can cause quite a commotion and they can start hollering which clues everyone else in to start looking for me. Not good.
After slipping out the garage door, softly shutting the door behind me, I stop for a moment to blink in the bright sunlight, letting my eyes adjust. Then I hunker over so as to not be seen so easily. I notice a flash of light reflecting off different windows of the neighbors on down the road and know they have their binoculars on me to see what Iím up to this time. For some reason, I am a source of fascination for the neighbors.
I ignore the reflecting light and hunker down lower and zig zag to the electric fence gate to head down the hill to the barn. If anyone has ever zig zagged down a steep hill side, especially if itís wet and muddy or slick with snow and ice, they know just how difficult this can be and it takes a true professional to do it. This time I do not fall. A couple of goats on the hill have noticed me, the flitting wind, and are staring hard, trying to believe what they are seeing or if they really see it at all. They snort loudly, flick their tails and disappear over the hill. Lee says they do this because they think I have gone nutty, but he just doesnít realize the finesse of sneaking, never having achieved the level I am at now.
I get to the hay barn and flatten myself against itís side, after having stumbled and used it to stop my fall, making the wall shake ever so slightly and loosening some of the fillings in my teeth. I then keep myself plastered to the wall and inch myself along to get closer to the main barn. I hunker down again and zig zag the few feet to the main barn and softly and silently slide the barn door open. It screeches. I make a mental note to oil it later, just as I have made a mental note several times before. I donít bother to shut the door to prevent further screeching.
I hunker down even closer to the barn floor. Lee says my hunkering looks like Iíve bowed my head and slumped my shoulders, but I know I am close to the barn floor, like the wind blowing gently along through the cracks of the barn, flowing across the hay bedding.
I make it to the bottle kidsí stall and peek over. What do I see? Nine little heads all turned and staring straight at me. Drat. Someone had tipped them off. They recognize me and start hollering for their bottles. But, I do notice that little bites have been taken out of the protein block and some hay has been pulled out, so mission accomplished. Now I know the kids are learning to eat regular goat food. See, how the sneaking can pay off?
You can use this same technique at kidding time when those tricky does are waiting for you to leave just a few minutes so they can quickly pop out a kid. They do this so they can hear your shocked, "What?! But, I was gone only a minute."
Sneaking out to the herd takes a good deal more skill. I have long admired hunting magazines and pictures of people in camouflage. This one picture showed a man with his face painted in black stripes, dressed in forest green, with brush attached all over him. You wouldnít notice him in a million years, except for the striped face peering out in the middle of the bush.
Only one problem with being dressed as a bush. Loving brush, my goats would have me stripped in a matter of minutes. There I would be standing in my forest green outfit, striped face, and the goats walking away smacking their lips and wishing Iíd do that more often. No, itís better to keep it simple and hunker down and zig zag from tree to tree in order to see what the goats are up to.
I told Lee I really should write a book about this and call it, "How To Be A Sneak". He suggested I find another title. So, until then, practice your own sneaking methods among the goats and if you come up with any good ones, pass them along to me and weíll put them in a book called, "A Bunch of Sneaks Get Together" or "What Was That? The Wind?"