Our first teachers

Getting our first goats was an anxious time, but we were ready. Their shed and fenced area was ready. They had water troughs, feed, and hay. Getting their area ready was work but … we had been living on the ranch for almost a year and only had a few chickens. It was time to get some real livestock. It all began with a sip of milk. Our neighbor had goats and gave us some fresh milk. Never having tasted nectar from the Gods before, I was hooked. Only after being hooked did I become aware of the milk’s nutritional value and health benefits. But the milk was only half the story. Goats are fabulous, intelligent, fun loving creatures! The more we learned about the goats, the more I wanted to know. We read about pasture management, hoof trimming, and nutrition. We subscribed to the Dairy Goat Journal but to actually care for these caprines was a different story. Our first goats arrived on September 14, 2002. Then the lessons began. A LaMancha named “Hazel” and a Nubian named “Delight” became our first teachers.

Hazel taught me how to milk her, well, we made a deal, and she taught me just how loving she could be. Her little bitty licks on my cheek were like tender baby kisses. Her gentleness moved me to a different place in animal care. Listening to her belly while milking her reminded me of a rumbling ocean. Ah, the ruminant stomach at work was a marvelous thing.

Delight, on the other hand, not only taught me what the word “NO” really meant, she taught me just how high those back feet can kick. Woooowe! We never did milk her but we did learn to move fast and keep our distance. She was fine until I touched her udder, then she morphed into a jumping gehoseaphatt. But, we thought we would work that out. After all, we had trained dogs forever, surely these goats weren’t that much different. HA, was I wrong!

But these two ladies taught us much more than we had expected. They taught us the value of vaccinations and the emotional devastation and suffering by not having the proper shots. Delight was euthanized on 12/11/02 and Hazel was euthanized on 12/24/02 because both had contracted Tetanus. It was a tough Christmas season. Tetanus is an ugly, painful death that could have been prevented very easily. If only we had known … . But we do know now. We had read about feeding and maintenance but reading about their diseases never entered our minds. What an overwhelming painful price everyone paid. Now we had a new lesson to learn: What do we do with the body? We couldn’t just leave it in the pasture! For Delight, we found a rendering plant that would take her. But when we lost Hazel, we found the county agricultural medical examiner who performed an autopsy. We had to know why these two ladies died on our property and in our care, when they had lived healthy and happily for years just across the tree line without incident. The coroner confirmed that Hazel had died from tetanus. Two $7.00 shots could have prevented this devastation. Lesson learned!


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