The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Abigail's first day on the farm

Goat and sunflowers

I suspect that by the end of the week, you're going to be thoroughly sick of reading about goats.  Oh well....


Trotting goatI loved all of your name suggestions, but when Mark and I finally had time to sit down and talk Wednesday, I learned that a name had come into his head nearly as soon as we saw our goat: Abigail.  Mark told me that I had final say in the name department, but I liked his choice --- simple and pretty.  So Abigail she is!

As I mentioned previously, Abigail is a hybrid between a Saanen and a Nigerian (plus a smidge of Nubian blood), which makes her moderately sized even though she's fully grown.  We hope she's all knocked up, the father of her upcoming kids being a similar mixture of Saanen and Nigerian genes.  Unfortunately, Abigail's owner wasn't keeping track of her cycles, so our goat might be due any time between the beginning of February and the beginning of March.  Chances are relatively good that she'll have twins, like she did this year.

Temporary pasture

The photo above shows Abigail in situ in her old habitat, where she shared a rotational pasture with a buck, a doe, two kids, and a milk cow.  Her previous owner explained that she's been breeding away from the dairy look with all of her animals, aiming for a chunkier body type instead that does better on pasture.

Skinny goatI'm just beginning my hands-on goat education (despite copious reading), so I'm not 100% sure whether my gut feeling that Abigail could use a bit more body weight is accurate.  Her previous owner showed me how to feel for fat along her spine, illustrating that Abigail isn't as emaciated as she looks to the untrained eye.  It will be a learning process to start gauging the fullness of her rumen (the indentation in the photo to the right) and her fat stores, a bit of a tricky campaign since I hope to get away without feeding Abigail any appreciable grain (at least until she kids).  Trickiness aside, I'm already in love with the idea of an herbivore who can get most or all of her nutrition from weeds and brush rather than feed from a bag.

Tethered goat

Training a dog to like goatsI've read that goats need a caprine friend, and Abigail's buddy will be arriving soon.  In the meantime, though, I was surprised by how much our first goat craved being close to us.  Wednesday morning, I made her a little goat tractor out of four cattle panels in the weedy area at the top of the front garden, but our poor little goat just stood at the fence and bleated instead of chowing down.

Some of her agitation was initially due to being unsure about Lucy, since Abigail's previous owner used dogs to herd her animals (extremely well!), meaning that our goat was sensitive to a canine hanging out nearby.  But, mostly, Abigail was just lonely.  So we instead opted to tether her within reach of a bed of oat cover crops right beside where Mark and I were working, which made her much happier.

Goat tractor

It's a good thing that Abigail isn't bound for the freezer, because I could feel myself bonding with her nearly immediately.  She's a little shy, but quickly learned to come toward me rather than running away once I gave her a little dried sweet corn and an over-size summer squash.  She's getting better at walking on a leash already, and hopefully will soon be coming when she's called.  Now I just need to learn some goat noises since the clucks I'd originally been using made Lucy think I was talking to her....

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Dumb question...what herbivore gets their nutrition from a bag? Did you mean feed or minerals?

Congrats on the newest addition!

Comment by Nita Thu Oct 9 08:32:39 2014

I always wonder what animals think when we parrot (ahem) their own noises back to them. I know our cats just accept the meows by now., but I doubt any real communication is happening. LOL.

Abigail is beautiful. :)

Comment by Emily Thu Oct 9 08:50:29 2014

Nita --- No herbivores, but we haven't had any before! With chickens and ducks, I'm always dismayed how much I end up feeding them, despite my obsession with pasture, scraps, etc.. Then I read your wonderful blog and say, "Why don't I have herbivores?!" :-)

Emily --- Interspecies communication is a fascinating subject. I always wish I knew more! Blinking at Huckleberry is about as far as I get in true cat language. Not sure that I know any dog language, but luckily Lucy is willing to learn human instead.

Comment by anna Thu Oct 9 09:04:15 2014

Hi Anna,

Gosh, it is fun to read and learn about your first day with Abigail. Chris and I have been wanting a couple of goats for some time now, but must wait till we live in the right setting. When we do get our first, I think we will have to name her 'Anna':)

Thank you for sharing. There is so much to learn!

Comment by Abby Elvidge Thu Oct 9 09:36:37 2014

Hi Anna! I read your blog regularly and really enjoy it. I also read and I think that you should check it out. It is about a couple who raise goats, chickens etc. and I think you will be very interested in it.

Comment by Jasmine Thu Oct 9 17:28:12 2014
Get her used to coming to you with a little bribery , sweet corn , sunflower seed anything easy to get and put it in something , my goats come running if i have a blue two pound coffee can in my hand , if i want to inspect them just lean over the gate with the can in full view , fulll or empty they know that can has goodies in it some of the time and must be inspected . Once they conect coffee can with goodies they never need to be chased , though they might try to knock you down to get to it LOL , bribery works wonders with goats.
Comment by diogenese Thu Oct 9 18:10:34 2014
Ha Ha! Shows how good my reading comprehension is BC (before coffee), I had to go back and read the sentence with a clearer head.
Comment by Nita Thu Oct 9 18:53:59 2014

Abby --- Ha! I guess that's the trouble with using a semi-common human hame. Let's hope all the Abby/Abigails out there will be honored (not annoyed) to have a goat named after them. :-)

Jasmine --- I've been enjoying Leigh's blog for a while and actually have a review of her book coming up soon. Stay tuned!

diogenese --- It seems like a little affection works wonders too. I suspect our new livestock will be lap goats in no time....

Nita --- Actually, rereading the sentence in question, I see that it's massively unclear. Could easily be read either way, but apparently I'm too lazy to edit it.... :-)

Comment by anna Thu Oct 9 19:59:22 2014

I've had goats for a five years or so now after having them as a kid and then taking a 30 year hiatus. There are a couple of things I would recommend for a first timer. I would go find a goat mineral block or some powdered goat mineral from a Coop or farm supply store that is specifically for goats and says "NOT For SHEEP" on it somewhere (copper is poisonous to sheep). Goats do much better if they get a fair amount of copper and it keeps them from falling prey to parasites as much and makes them much healthier in general. Some places you can find a copper bolus (big pill) but I haven't had any luck finding any around here (Alabama). I'm actually going to pick up some goat mineral tomorrow from a coop in TN where they have a higher goat population and you can find more products. If you can't find a mineral, I know Tractor Supply has a block made by Dumor that is specifically for goats and has a decent amount of copper in it and my goats love it.

If you are having to pull or drag them around at all I recommend using a rope halter instead of a collar. Collar is fine for tethering, but you can choke them if you have to drag them by it. Rope halter is super easy to make and pulls them by the back of the head essentially instead of by the throat. here is a video I made a few years ago, forgive the length and quality, but you might get something out of it.

Comment by Jason Fri Oct 10 11:38:01 2014

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