Shutting the Stable Door…

The title for today’s post, is apt in many ways –

first, the good news: defra has announced the lifting of the general movements ban on livestock throughout the UK, with the exception of the remaining Surveillance Zone which encompasses the London area.  And thus, the bad news (for us at least): as Tony travels through the Zone on a regular basis, we’ve had to take the difficult decision to keep the gates locked for now; we just cannot take any risks, & our responsibility to our neighbours is a major consideration.  They would not thank us if their livestock had to be slaughtered because we’d lapsed our biosecurity & Tony had unwittingly brought FMD to the area on his vehicle.

But that was just the tip of today’s iceberg….

At first light I hurried down to the yard to sort out the youngest batch of kids, intending to move the two boys in with our four other young males as they are of sufficient size to look after themselves.  However, I was horrified to find that Addaon had managed to scramble over the gate & into the young females’ pen; & one was clearly in season (typically our best little girl).  And judging by his amorous antics, he’d already covered her, as well…..he needed to be moved, & fast.  Meanwhile his little half-brother, Arvel, was bonking away merrily in the neighbouring pen, too; but fortunately his young sister was not in the slightest bit interested; & in fact I’m not sure he actually knew what he was doing, he sees to think it’s just another game (albeit a dangerous one as I’m sure every parent tells their children!). 

Whilst they had breakfast I put collars on the boys with my priority of course being to catch the errant Addaon.  I had a lucky ‘near-miss’ whilst attempting to catch him – he didn’t want to leave the ladies – & leapt sideways at the stable wall in order to avoid my lunge.  I did manage to grab hold of his collar – but his sharp little horns just scraped above my eyelids, thankfully only a painful scratch although a worrying near miss, nonetheless.  It would be our ony non-polled goat which is the most feisty!  As quickly as possible I hauled him outside & took him to the pen containing the young males.  Now for the next challenge: there’s a static hurdle fronting the pen; & I had to get wriggling, struggling, sharp-horned Addaon over it & in with his new companions.  With great difficulty I managed to haul the bawling little goat successfully over the hurdle, to the great excitement of the other occupants.  I hurried back to fetch Arvel, repeating the operation with less difficulty as Arvel is slightly smaller & thankfully doesn’t have horns. 

Little Arvel thought the whole thing was a game & romped happily round with his new friends; but Addaon wasn’t quite so comfortable.  Whether it was because he had the smell of an in-season female on him, or because he was much more defensive, the play quickly became much more aggressive.  Fearing that Addaon could actually inflict some real damage with his horns, I grimly realised I’d have to get him out; the sooner the better.  So once again I waded in – this time in a penful of young but clearly excited entire males, adopting the attitude in voice & posture that I would not accept any nonsense whatsoever.  I quickly retrieved Addaon – who by this time had clearly had enough – & hauled him back over the hurdle & into the stable next door.

Meanwhile the remaining residents now turned their aggressively amorous attentions on the increasingly frightened little Arvel, who wasn’t used to such highly-charged play.  I grabbed him as well & carried him back over the gate, putting him back in with his brother so that they could at least kee[ each other company.  The remaining four young males immediately returned to calmly chomping their hay – typical.  I suspect if I’d taken a deep breath, stood back & just left them to it, they would have soon settled down – but being here on my own, I couldn’t take that unqualified risk.  

But the fun & games weren’t over yet.  Taking a water bucket & some fodder into the two boys, Addaon dared to lower his head in a gesture of defiance at me.  Something had to be done – immediately.  So I chased him around the stable until I caught him; & then neatly flipped him over onto his side, & gently but firmly held him there until he realised I was in control & he could do absolutely nothing about it.  By the time I’d finished, the ‘terrible teens’ had subsided & he was completely quiet & tractable again.

Playtime over, the next task was to integrate the group of girls.  I was quite surprised at how easy this manouevre was; all went remarkably smoothly & there was none of the ‘handbags at dawn’ I’d anticipated.  I had plenty of work to do & spent a busy day, punctuated with regular visits to the reorganised groups of goat kids.  Apart from a cacophany of incessant bawling from the two boys, everyone else settled quickly & quietly.  Now in the ‘training’ mood, I did some extra work with Nanuk, who is now sitting & staying nicely – at times, at least. 

By late afternoon it was time to resume the chores, including evening milking.  Once the goats had all been through the parlour I headed briefly back to the house to recharge my mug with a fresh cup of tea, during which time the ‘phone rang.  I answered the call & by the time I’d finished chatting decided to fix a quick evening snack whilst listening to ‘The Archers’, after which I returned to the parlour to weigh the milk & flush through the milking machine. 

To my horror, I discovered the gate to the Milkforce’s accommodation was open – & I’d only partially closed the milking parlour gate.  It was bedlam.  Goats were running up & down the corridor; & literally wrecking the parlour.  They’d knocked one of the galvanised arms off the machine & had managed to get the lid off the bucket, drinking as much of the contents as they could reach. They’d pulled everything off the shelves, emptied the rubbish bag, chewed the towels; & had stamped all over my CDs, which were strewn across the now filthy floor.  Leads, collars, bottle racks, buckets, bedding & my parlour coat littered the corridor.  Thankfully at least, they hadn’t managed to open the feed bin & consume the contents; nor had they actually left the building to access the main hay & feed store. But the worst was yet to come….

Staring in horror at the devastation & realising I had a very long evening ahead recovering the damage, I hustled the highly excited goats out of the building & into the field, slamming the stable door at the end of the corridor in disgust.  How had this happened?  I’m really not sure; perhaps when I put the feed pails in for them, I didn’t quite manage to secure the stiff catch; or perhaps cheeky Morganna – who has been working tirelessly on this particular project – had finally ‘struck it lucky’ & managed to pull back the catch enough to release the gate?  I’ll never know. 

Surveying the damage, my eyes strayed to the oddly slack electrical wire which powers the milking machine….no; it was still plugged in….but then the horrible truth dawned on me: the wire was now in two pieces, having been chewed clean through by the goats.  How on earth they managed to do it without electrocuting themselves or burning the place down, I’ve no idea – but thank goodness they didn’t.  But with no power, how was I to clean the machine?  And how on earth would I manage to milk all the goats…?? 

It was going to be a sleepless night.  And not only for the Milkforce – who remained indignantly in their field for the duration as even after hours of work there was still too much detritus scattered about to bring them safely back in; but also for me, fretting over the prospect of having to hand-milk alll the girls whilst my machine sustained increasing damage from its unflushed pipework.  

In future, I will always check, check & check again, that the stable door is firmly shut.   

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About LittleFfarm Dairy

The LittleFfarm Dairy Team: Jo - Goat farmer & Gelatiere Artigianale, plus General Dogsbody; Tony - Airline Pilot & part-time Herd Manager, Product Taster, Accounts Secretary, Handyman etc!
This entry was posted in Diary, Farming, Life, Livestock, October 2007, Smallholding. Bookmark the permalink.

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