Saturday, July 28, 2012

Christmas the Goat aka Chris

I get asked a lot about why we have a goat and what we think about having a goat.  Personally, I love the goat.  My husband - well, he's still not sure what he thinks about it - although he appreciates the fact the I can picket the goat pretty much anywhere and he will eat whatever weeds are in sight so my husband has not had to weed whip since we got him.  The kids find the goat very funny.  

The goat was named Christmas by the kids because he was a gift Santa left in our barn a couple of Christmas' ago.  Yes, Santa really does visit and leave presents like a live goat in the barn on Christmas morning around here so be careful what you put on your wish list.  To protect Santa's privacy, I can't divulge on here exactly how he made that happen but if you are really dying to know send me an email and I'll fill you in - there are some funny side stories there.  :)  

At the time, we didn't have any big horses because my old man had to be put down the winter before.  The pony was growing very lonely and we had talked about how mommy's heart just wasn't ready to find another big horse to bond with just yet but maybe we needed a companion to cheer up our lonely little pony.  So the Princess had been reading horse stories and fact books and learned that many racehorses had goats for companions.  She added a goat to her list for Santa - actually, she very sweetly put the goat at the top of the list and asked Santa if he could bring a goat as a present for her pony and promised to take good care of it and love it too.

Christmas morning at about 5:30 a.m., the kids woke up and found their usual presents under the tree and Santa's leftover cookie crumbles and a few bits of carrot left after the reindeer finished their snack.  Santa usually leaves a note in response to my daughter's notes for him but this time there was a very special card from Santa that directed the kids to go out and check in the barn for one last present.  Princess was SO excited she could hardly read the card to us as she flushed a bright red and grinned ear to ear.  We bundled up everyone in their PJs and winter gear and then trudged through the snow to the barn.  As the kids huddled  in front of the gate to the pony's stall, I turned on the lights and the squeals of delight let loose from both of them.  We were surprised that the most excited was actually our Little Man.

The goat was un-phased by the commotion and stuck his head over the gate to meet them as the Princess discovered another note from Santa taped to the barn wall full of information about the goat and how to take care of him.  We learned that Santa had brought us a young Alpine goat whether (a whether is a male goat who has been castrated) who was about 8 months old and was bottle-raised.  Santa even suggested that we teach our little buddy to leash lead and had provided a shiny red leash and collar.  

Our little dude could not wait to get in the stall with them - and it was love at first sight like a Pepe Le Pew cartoon...  That kid and goat took one look at each other and Little Man took the goat's face in his little hands and smooched him so big he literally put the goat's nose IN his mouth...  Both gross and cute at the same time...LOL...  The Princess decided that Christmas was a good name and it seems to fit him well - we call him Chris most of the time.

The pony and the goat were instant buddies - although they are currently in a power struggle as the goat has gotten a little bigger and more dominant in the herd setting.  The pony picked up very nicely and Chris happily settled right into our routine.  The dogs weren't sure WHAT a goat was for a few days but after some meet'n'greets they decided he was one of their critters to protect and they do just fine as long as he stays out of their dog food and doesn't run when the kids are around.  They do sometimes try to herd Chris away from the kids when they are a little worried but they are never aggressive with him as I've heard dogs can get with goats.  

Being bottle-raised, Chris is very friendly and comes when he is called by name and a kissing noise.  He tends to follow us around just like a dog and wants to see what we are doing.  He is very curious and tilts his head to the side when he isn't sure whats going on which is extremely cute and funny.  He likes to play but never head-butts aggressively like a lot of the Pygmy goats do.  He was de-budded as a baby but he has about 1-inch curls that have regrown.  He does sometimes posture and roughhouse with the horses a bit in play but never at a level where he is charging them or aggressive.  Chris will run and jump and make funny movements in a gesture if he wants to play with us and loves to push around a stall-ball or bucket to play with in the pen. He also likes to climb and jump off things like the manger and horse trailer wheel-wells.  

A lot of people who remember goats from childhood or heard about them from other people ask if Chris stinks.  He does not.  One reason is that he is a whether - which means that he has been castrated.  With castration comes the removal of the male sex glands that produce most of their hormones - the hormones are what causes most goats to have a strong musky (skunky) smell.  He did have a strong smell when we first brought him home so I treated him as I would a dog who had been skunked.  I used some dry shampoos and baby powder rubbed into his coat and then brushed out really well a couple of times a week for the first week and provided him with plenty of fresh straw and sawdust to roll in.  As the musky oils came out of his coat, he lost his smell.  When the weather is nice and I bath the horses and dogs, I also bathe Chris.  I use an unscented liquid dish soap like Palmolive or Dove that has conditioners for soft skin added.  This takes any of the built up greasy or oily stuff off their skin without drying them out.  Then I spray them lightly with a leave-in conditioner made for horses.  The same thing seems to work well for Chris.  I have heard that goats don't like the water but he tends to tolerate the bath the same as the horses and if its really hot like it has been he seems to enjoy a light spray and playing around in the sprinkler a bit.  The rest of the time he really doesn't even smell much like anything except that generic "barn" smell.  He tends to keep himself pretty well groomed and he likes to roll in the dust and grass or straw to clean himself.  He also participates with the horses in mutual "herd grooming" behaviors but has never chewed their manes or tails like some goats (which I appreciate!).  

If I were to recommend a goat for a family with no goat experience and young kids, I highly recommend finding someone who has bottle-raised Alpine goats and get a whether if you don't plan to raise baby goats.  The Alpine's stay at a manageable size.  The bottle-raising makes them easy to handle and leash train and eager to please you.  And without the hormones you have a goat that is less aggressive and stinky.

In all, Chris is a funny and sweet character who has fit right in around the place.  He follows me everywhere glued to my leg and likes to put his face right up against me and get his ears and neck rubbed.  He likes to eat all the parts of the hay and pasture that the horses don't care for - stuff like yellow rocket - so it works well because then there is no waste, I don't have to mow the parts of the pasture that the horses don't eat, and the weeds never get to seed stage so they don't continue to spread more.  He is very cute and has been an easy care breed.  

1 comment:

Unknown said...

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