…..as I suspect today’s tale will make you wince. Back in June, we had a call from a gentleman over in Pembrokeshire who was seeking a milking goat as a companion for his elderly, ailing British Saanen lady. You might recall that our dear ‘bear of little brain’ – Froggie – was being bullied by the rest of the Milkforce & we were quite worried about her as she was growing increasingly fretful, making her lose weight & condition. She proved the ideal solution for Jim; & since his other goat has since sadly passed away, Froggie’s been starting to feel a little lonely when Jim has been out at work or doing other jobs around his smallholding.
Jim came to visit our Ffarm recently, in search of a solution; & immediately fell in love with a cheeky little lad named Bran (ostensibly named after a Celtic hero but also dubbed in honour of our friend & fellow Gelatière Artigianale, Bran Bucca; whose skill & originality have impressed us with his many inspirational & deliciously unique flavours of gelato). And so it was, that the caprine Bran was safely delivered to his new home this afternoon – but as his future is to enjoy a long & happy life as Froggie’s friend rather than consort, this journey came with a high price….
It wasn’t the nasty procedure of having to insert ear tags (& I feel frustrated each & every time we have to double-tag an animal; not only a waste of time & money but most crucially, what an unneccessary cause potential pain to the poor creature – especially when it comes to goats – as they put their heads in the bushes to browse (their natural behaviour) & all too often, when pulling back from a hedgerow will inadvertently catch a tag which then rips out of the ear. And it’s not just that horrible pain, it’s the healing process afterwards; for if it occurs during the summer the wound will inevitably be plagued by flies no matter what we try to do to help (& I still don’t understand why we cannot use subcutaneous microchips – not the forthcoming Electronic Identity Tags or EIDs – or freeze-branding, as a more permanent & secure means of identifying an animal). Nor was it the brief sting of Bran’s multi-dose booster, which I swiftly administered along with a cuddle – no, something rather more radical, I’m afraid; more a ‘snip’ than a sting, in fact.
Phil, the vet, is a jovial chap; whose ebullient exterior thinly disguises a consummate & efficient professional who is passionate about his patients. I gently coaxed the frightened, folorn kid out of the comfort of his crate & tipped him onto his side in such a way that his rear legs fell naturally open. Taking a fine needle the vet slipped it into each side of Bran’s scrotum, administering a dose of local anaesthetic.
Once it had taken effect Phil swiftly & neatly incised each side of the scrotum with a scalpel, exposing the testicles which were then pulled out. The spermatic cord & the wound were then dressed with antibiotic cream (one use for ‘Leo Yellow’ – the intermammary tubes we administer against certain types of mastitis & which contain penicillin – I’d never have anticipated). The wound was then sealed shut, & it was all over; Bran had not so much as squeaked nor even wriggled during the procedure & so had genuinely known nothing about it. The whole operation had taken under ten minutes from start to finish & in fact if it hadn’t been that we’d waited for the anaesthetic to take effect I dare say it took probably less than five.
I gently carried Bran into his new stable & he immediately settled down to munching hay after briefly exploring his new accommodation. We leaned over the stable door awhile for a chat; & our familiar presence helped Bran to relax after his busy ordeal. Indeed it was only when we retired to the house for a cup of tea that he showed any anxiety; calling out as our departing footsteps crunched on the gravel in the yard, stepping sensitively around the two folorn little sacs which had been tossed to the ground during his operation.
Froggie – who is evidently suited to being a house rather than a herd goat & is blooming with health, was given strict instructions to ‘nanny’ her new little friend; although I’m not so sure she was exactly delighted at this high-pitched bleating invasion of her privacy!
We headed for home & en route called in to Phil’s farm to have a look at the stable mats his wife had recently purchased: of robust quality & 18mm thickness they weigh 45kg each so at under £30 per mat (including VAT & delivery) they represent excellent value for money. For us, it equates to approximately £600 to cover the 24ft x 20ft area we initially need – almost the same price as concrete – which of course also lasts far longer: however we have to bear in mind the actual reason we want & need these mats: it’s for their thermal value, reducing the amount of bedding we require; making us less reliant on straw of which we are woefully short – & I suspect the situation won’t improve any time soon. At least one of the advantages of goats is that they weigh far less than a horse or a cow; so in theory the mats should last longer. However, I say that guardedly; as ironically my days loading aircraft in the RAF translate roughly in this instance to farming. Although the goats weigh less overall, their hooves are smaller than that of a horse; therefore putting equivalent strain on the immediate area on which they are standing. Known as ‘Floor Loading Intensity’ it comes with inevitable calculations to accurately assess just how much potential damage an object could do to a floor; hence a woman wearing sharp stiletto heels could in theory do more damage than an elephant standing in the same spot! Anyway time – & experimentation – will tell, I dare say although I might just dig out my RAF course notes!
We returned home to cheer ourselves with a heartwarming dish of Ras-Al-Hanut with rice, as the gloom of an evening heavy with cloying wet mist enrobed the farm in its clammy embrace. But at least we can be happy in the knowledge that although Bran is now not quite all he was, he’ll doubtless enjoy a long, happy, healthy & comfortable life with his new friends, Jim & Froggie.