By Katie Sullivan
I took the goats on a browse walk today down in our neighbor’s pasture. Goats just love munching on shrubs and small trees on the margins of fields, tannic, nutritious leaves are incredibly good for them. I often tell friends and neighbors that goats have distinctive personalities, but I seldom describe them. As I watch the ladies interact in the field I see their individuality and idiosyncrasies come to light.
First I feel a stiff nudge against my thigh. Flossy is itching her head up and down my leg, her nametag rattling around her arched neck. Flossy must have the itchiest head in goat-dom, because she doesn’t go a day without needing this kind of head scratch. Little Dixie, born this March, scampers nimbly over a heap of brush while matronly Selma, her mother, follows behind her more slowly on surer footing. Our buck Thunder pushes grouchy Shiloh around out in the field. He must have just pushed her too far, because she wheels up to butt him straight in the forehead in typical goat fashion. He may be big and strong, but he knows who wears the pants around here.
Luna is a shy goat- I watch her pick her way through the brush to eat, ears alert and head quick to swivel at an unusual sound. Bama is a shy goat too, despite being our largest goat and very powerful. Everyone knows not to grab her by the collar unless they feel like having their arm pulled off! I’ve trained her to be friendlier towards people so we can handle her more easily. I call her name and beckon her to come, which she does. I reward her with a head scratch and she nods vigorously, enjoying my fingers massaging behind her flapping ears. Most of the goats are slowly migrating into the woods, so I call and everyone follows me to a fresh patch of brush. Patch starts to nibble my shirt, so I redirect her to some nearby tasty leaves just before Cloud charges in to demand my attention. Snapper, our fearless heard leader and the only goat who consistently remembers how to get to all the pastures, is resting in the field, chewing her cud peacefully.
Soon, it is time to go back to the barn, so I call the goats. They turn and head for home.