Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Goats? Perhaps not.....

Of all the animals we have here, the goats are the least easy to get on with. They have reduced the hedge on the Home Field to a point whereby it is almost on the verge of collapse, they are forever finding the smallest weakness in the fencing to escape although do not go far, they are forever arguing and head butting each other, we have to find a separate space for the male goat, they give us milk but nowhere near as much as our cow, and they are not animals which like to come up to us for a fussing and stroking, unlike our cows, the sheep, and the pigs.

So...... do we no longer have them here, that is the question.

The sheep give us most of our meat, their fleece I use for spinning (and weaving eventually), and they emit a calmness which is very soothing, unless they are in ditsy mode, and then they can be a barging force of collective bodies.

Lissie, our cow, has been giving us milk since March 2013. She gives us back a lot for looking after her as well as we can. Soon we shall let her dry out so she can have a rest until her new calf is born in August. Bonny, her 2013 calf, will be artificially inseminated later on this year, or early next year. That means that there will be times when we have two cows being milked, producing a splendid amount of milk for a smallholding, so lots of cheese, lots of yoghurt, and the food bill for the pigs can be reduced. Bonny and  Elise are friendly and approachable, and feel part of our team here.

On the subject of our two Tamworth pigs, sometimes we think that they are not as productive as they ought to be, but that is only because we have not been able to organise them properly. To have breeding pigs we need to have more paddocks, and this we are in the middle of doing. Fencing poles have gone in, and once they are wired up then we can manage the pigs better. We are also giving them more food from the smallholding which helps the food bill. And the pigs are friendly too, and are always willing to have their backs scratched by a garden rake, or their ears tickled. They also like to have a chat. They are interactive with us, so are part of the team.

As for the chickens ...... they are definitely part of the team, particularly when it comes to making a raid on any food that the dogs have left in their feed bowls. Frequently we find little piles of poo scattered over the floor as evidence that a raid has taken place, or else we catch them mid-raid, and then we have a lot of ditsy panic as they head towards the front door, often with the rottweiller girls hard on their heels. And there is always a hen or two hanging round the front door, and when we are outside it is not often that there is no chicken following us to see what we are up to. They are definitely team members.

As for the geese and the Muscovy ducks, they are themselves.

But as for the goats. We had a lengthy discussion yesterday about the keeping of them. It is likely that we shall not be keeping them in the future. In truth, I do not think that they fit in very well with our smallholding, and I don't think we fit in very well with them. If an animal feels that it fits, then it is interactive with us, enjoys life, is calm, looks content, then, and only then, can we slaughter it for our food table and then enjoy the meat it gives us. It is the cycle of life on a mixed farm-type smallholding. Our animals are not pets, but they are respected and valued. If they are happy, then we are happy. We do not think the goats are happy. Perhaps it is in their nature to be aggressive with each other, perhaps they are just being goats, but they give us an uneasiness which the other animals do not give us.

Before we came to France we often had discussions about whether we would keep goats or a cow. I favoured goats, Lester favoured a cow. And then, in summer 2012, within two days, we had purchased both goats and Lissie. It would appear that having two cows is going to be the way forward. We shall see........

Sometimes hard decisions have to be made for the sake of the whole. 


Ohiofarmgirl said...

believe me.. the decision is not hard. cows yes, goats no. i hope you dont "ruminate" on it too much. i have a friend who has milk cows and wanted to try goats. they lasted a year and were promptly sold. the cows are far more productive, the goats more destructive - and kind of annoying. honestly i do not understand them as pets. but i am a repressed cow person and shall remain cows-less and so... goats.
*sigh* comfort yourself by knowing that somewhere out there someone is really wanting those goats. when you have the money in hand from the new owners be sure to drive off fast yelling "no take backs!".... or at least that what we have done for our goat sales.

John Gray said...

Chickens are always team players
Me thinks they are brighter than people give them credit for xx

Vera said...

OFG, I feel greatly relieved that other people have trouble with goats. I think the way to go for us might be to bring the numbers down to two milking goats and one male goat, that way they might stay decently behaved towards each other and not be constantly fighting.

John, I would agree. In fact I find all our animals have an intelligence which we, as human beings, do not give them credit for.

Ken Devine said...

Fascinating...hearing about all this. I think we'll start with chickens first (in May) and see how we go. Our neighbours have goats and they almost ruined our little silver birch and oak saplings.

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

I have to admit that if it was me the goats would be out. I have never met one yet that I would completely trust but I guess that there must be exceptions! Hope all is well down there and that you are drying out a bit. We are still like a swamp, I wonder if this rain is ever going to stop! Diane

Vera said...

Ken, Chickens are good to start off with, and no trouble at all providing you keep a boundary between them and your veg plot or flower garden!

Diane, we were drying out a bit, but now we aren't because of the latest bout of wet. Not to worry... the weather has not deterred Spring from creeping up on us!

Marie said...

I couldn't go back to milking goats again. If they escape they destroy everything ! And the milk is not as useful as the cows milk.
At least the cow grazes on grass instead of eyeing the veg plot or the young fruit trees :-(
I know some people say that goats are easier to manage but I think that depends on the animal, either can be very docile or difficult.
Do you keep the goats for cheese?

Vera said...

Marie, we don't think that goats are easier to manage, apart from the fact that they are smaller than a cow, but their attitude towards life and each other is nowhere near as soft and friendly as a cow. And I would agree with you in that the milk is not as useful. We kept the goats for milk, and bought them before the cow came along. They taught us a lot about having milking animals, but in comparison, a cow is far better an animal to have. I don't think we are going to continue with husband says that there is no joy in them!

Marie said...

I couldn't agree more. We are getting a new cow on thurs. I'm excited about the milk but dreading the milking schedule.