Autumn has arrived and love is in the air here at Bold Souls Micro Farm. Toro, our Nigerian Dwarf goat, is in his first rut. Rut happens in the fall when male goats get a lot more twitterpated than usual and female goats get a lot more attention than they care for. It’s a time when your normally sweet, cute and friendly buck turns into a stinky, loud, annoying and stubborn oaf. Luckily I only have to deal with it directly for a few minutes each day when I’m doing chores in the animal yard. Even more luckily, he doesn’t find me attractive, which other goat owners seem to have a problem with at times. Even though I’m not worried about him trying to mount me, (try it buddy, I’m not above tackling a goat to the ground…) I do have to keep one eye on him at all times because if he gets within an inch of me the smell gets on my clothes and I have to wash them immediately. I learned this the hard way when I was standing at the counter at the doctor’s office and my teenage daughter leaned over, sniffed my jacket, and announced in front of the receptionist and everyone in the waiting room that I smelled like a goat. Thanks honey! These people don’t know we keep goats so that sounds like a real insult!
The poor female goats have to deal with Toro and his ruttiness 24/7 every time they’re in heat for the next couple of months or so, though I may have to separate them sooner to give them a break. Last night I walked into the animal yard and ended up watching 15 minutes of Animal Planet Raw & Uncut before my very eyes. It’s fascinating to watch animal courtship behavior, especially when you’ve read about it and then get to see it for the first time. The dance goes something like this: Toro sees Bonnie and finds her irresistible. He runs up to her with his eyes crossed and his tongue sticking out. He cocks his head and makes a funny sound that reminds me of Woody Woodpecker’s laugh if he smoked a lot of cigarettes. Kind of throaty and phlegmy, and really obnoxious. Bonnie either thinks this is adorable and stands still, or finds it repulsive and fights or runs away. Neither outcome seems to matter to Toro because his feelings aren’t easily hurt. He is a very persistent little guy. If she runs, he follows her making a horrible, insistent groaning sound and then starts the whole thing over. Sometimes he will pee on his own face, which is the goat equivalent of human men wearing strong cologne. If she stands still instead of running, he takes his opportunity and hops on. The whole act is over within about two seconds (sound familiar ladies? Haha, just kidding…) What’s different with goats is it’s not over after one time. They keep going. And going. In the time I was watching they did the dance five times. Five! Unless you’re a porn star, that’s a lot of action in fifteen minutes.
Why did I stand there and watch, you and my husband ask? Because this is education for me. People who keep goats (or cows, or horses) tend to know EVERYTHING about their animals. When you practice animal husbandry, you have to know a lot of things that “normal” people don’t need or care to know. Like how to tell when a doe is in heat. Or pregnant. Not the same way you can tell with other creatures! You don’t see farmers trying to have their goats pee on a stick to see if they’re pregnant, or taking their goats to the vet to deliver their babies except in emergencies. This is the kind of thing you do yourself, at home, because you don’t want to have to rely on or pay a vet for normal operation of your farm. Most farmers vaccinate their own herds, perform the neutering (known as banding) of their bucks (easier than it sounds) and deliver their animal’s offspring. In order to be the most prepared, I have to know how to tell that the mating was successful, so that I will know a little more accurately when the babies will be born. To give you an example of the type of research I have to do to learn these things, here is an excerpt from http://fiascofarm.com/goats/behavior.htm:
“Squatting & Back Arching:
Ever since we bred one of our young does has been doing this weird squatting thing. She squats like she is going to pee, but then she tucks/curls her bottom in, her front and back legs are very close…. she kind of turns into a ball. It’s like she is trying to push/squeeze something out, but nothing comes out! I have seen it 5 or 6 times, and it’s getting very troubling. She has no discharge or blood, but I wonder if she’s aborting or having an abnormal pregnancy.
Your doe is having what we refer to as a “girl boner”, for lack of a better term. It looks totally involuntary – like she has no control over what is happening.. right?
The act you describe is what a doe does when she “comes” when a buck breeds her. It happens right when the buck has a successful thrust and meets his mark. You want to see arched back at breeding; it means a good solid “poke” that satisfied everyone. She is not trying to squeeze out the semen; it really means the semen is on it’s way.
We have seen our does have “girl boners” many, many times over the years. We can’t really explain the whys and wherefores for it, but we do know, at least in the cases of this that we have seen in our own herd, it is absolutely nothing to worry about.”
See? I’m not the only one in the world who wants or needs to know these things.
So back to the action in the animal yard. While I was watching this, I was reminded of my sister and how she likes to go up to Estes Park, Colorado in the fall to hear the elk bugling. It’s a sound that carries through the mountains and tourists flock from miles around just to listen to it. I used to find this to be a pretty cool idea until I saw a goat in rut. Now I think it’s hilarious because the sound is so ridiculous that it just makes you laugh, and since moose, elk and deer are all cousins of goats I imagine their mating scene is pretty similar. I was picturing people sitting in the woods behind my house and listening to Toro “bugling” as a tourist attraction. I should probably explain to the neighbors what this sound is, lest they think we’re over here torturing bloodhounds.
We’re taking bets on when Bonnie’s next delivery will be. Based on the acts I witnessed last night, I’ve got dibs on March 14, 2014. Would anyone else like to wager a bet? In case you want to save yourself a trip to Estes Park, I’ll leave you with this video I filmed last night. Don’t worry, it’s not graphic, but you will want to turn up the volume. The sounds at 0:18 are as good as anything you’re likely to hear from any elk.