Written by FTF Intern Geneva Wrona. Check out her personal blog: genevawrona.tumblr.com
Breeding season is upon us. Or, rather, upon the does. This means many things for us here at Fat Toad Farm, the most obvious being that we all smell like bucks. So if you visit us in October, be wary of petting anyone – even the girls smell like boys now!
But more importantly, breeding season means constant vigilance. The goat barn is divided into two groups for our two main bucks – half the does are being bred to Obie (an Oberhasli goat), and half to Thunder (a French Alpine, like most of the does). They take turns going out to pasture, and they get milked in separate groups. A mix-up of the groups means a whole lot of work for us to separate them again, and it also means we might have some baby-daddy drama, Maury-style: if any goats are bred by the wrong buck, we’ll have to wait until March when the kids are born to find out.
We do have one way to avoid this dilemma. Each buck wears a harness that attaches a piece of colored chalk to his chest. If he attempts to breed with a doe, he will leave a colored smear on her rear end. This helps us to see which buck mounted which doe, and it also helps to keep track when each doe will kid.
Not surprisingly, goat breeding is a lot different from human breeding. Now, this may seem like a pretty obvious statement, but this is my first time working on a farm, and I just didn’t think about how incredibly unromantic this would be. Buck behavior during breeding season is some of the most bizarre and wholly not sexy stuff I have ever seen. They spit and sneeze at anything that smells like a doe (including us). They drink each other’s pee. They pee in their own beards. They smell bad. They make horrible noises. But I think the worst part is the sheer determinedness they have to mate. They are just so pushy! It is literally impossible to deter them, so if they become interested in us, we just have to leave and come back later. Obie in particular seemed to have some sort of species identity disorder when we first put him in with the does – he really didn’t mate with many in the first few days, and often I saw him just lying down or eating, but when people went in there, he got really excited. In fact, I was one of the lucky first ones to be chalked by him! Yikes! Luckily, he seems to have it figured out now.