Love is in the air… and it stinks!

Breeding Season at Fat Toad Farm

In a manner of speaking, October, 2010 is the month that will determine the scope of Fat Toad Farm’s cheese and caramel production during the 2011 season. This is true because we’ve just put the bucks in with the does, and the ‘baby-making’ will go on apace through the balance of the month — and even a bit beyond. So, as the 2010 production season wraps up its last few months before we dry the does off (stop milking them) at the end of the year, you could say that that we’re already planting the seeds for 2011.

If you’ve never seen, smelled or heard a buck goat in the full glory of breeding season, you just don’t know what you’re missing. We currently have 3 bucks         (referred to as ‘The Boys’) who range in age from 7 months to 4 years and live together in a retired horse trailer and exercise yard 10 months of the year, from which they are led out daily to graze small patches of grass around the house, barns and gardens. For almost all of those bachelor months these 3 friendly  fellows are easy to be around — well, maybe not snuggling up easy, just around easy —, but come September when the shortening days remind them that breeding season is on its way, the boys undergo an olfactory transformation that encourages visitors (as well as those who work here) to keep their distance.

I’m sure it’s all part of a carefully choreographed dance (Mother Nature, you know), in which the almost over-powering odor of The Boys wafts down the hill to encourage the does to make their preparations for the big day, within a day or two of October 1st, when The Boys come a’calling.

This year the herd is divided into 3 groups, each of which contains 1 buck and from 14 to 18 does (we have 47 does now), and they are separated when in the barn by 54” tall cattle panel walls that we reinforce with plywood to limit the extent to which the harem of buck #1 is coveted by bucks #2 & #3, and vice versa. It’s clearly hard to pay attention to business when some other guy is ‘ogling your chicks’! The auditory parts of The Boys’ performances consist of an almost constant stream of sounds that vaguely resemble a deep voiced man clearing his throat — meant to coax the does along, I think —, punctuated every few minutes by an explosive snort that puts everyone in the neighborhood ‘on notice’.

And then there are ‘The Girls’, who mostly want nothing at all to do with these noisy, smelly, aggressive Boys, but then abruptly change their mind — one at a time — for about 24 hours sometime in October to snuggle with and moon over that most loveable and sweet smelling of guys — and insure that next March we have a new crop of kids and a steady supply of milk for a new season of cheese and caramel making.

Another miraculous season at Fat Toad Farm!

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4 thoughts on “Love is in the air… and it stinks!

    • There really aren’t any cows that can give without being pregnant and giving birth. The same is true with goats. Ideally there will be a really healthy birth and the milk flow and the babes will be happy. Sometimes there are complications and we need to intervene to get everyone stablized and in good shape. Sometimes goats have what are called hysterical pregnancies when they really aren’t pregnant but their udders engorge as if they were about to give birth. Our wonderful charming Sparky had this happen last year. A big disappointment for all of us.

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