Building Fences + Goats

See that electric fence? I helped build that. Basically it involved driving T-posts (the post in the foreground) into the ground about every 60 feet. One of the hardest tasks I’ve done at the farm is drive T-posts. Then every 20 feet rebar posts are driven into the ground with hammers (those are the little skinny ones). Plastic wikis (not a technical term) are placed on all the posts in pairs for the wire to run through. The bottom layer is strung on first, then the top layer. A gate is also installed. And by gate I really mean a square piece of fencing tied with wires to a T-post that opens and closes. After double checking for evenness, the fence is then wired from a power source (in this case, the dairy) and tested. I throughly enjoyed doing this, and four of us got it all constructed in one work day, leaving only the wiring to be done.

The purpose of this fence is to build a temporary structure for the goats to graze in. That way, when they clear a field of all edible grass -which doesn’t take long at all- they can be moved and the fencing reused for another pasture. Its not a perfect boundary, they’re are a couple of little ones who love to break out regularly, but it does the job and discourages predators from mingling with the goats.

Now, about milking…

Milking.

Milking is an involved process. When I was oriented to the milking process, we started at 6 (in the AM) and finished at ten. Thirty. Epically long. But I appreciated the thoroughness.

The process (roughly):

The first thing to do when you enter the dairy is to check this board. This is where Jessica (the current livestock intern) writes important messages pertaining to the goats and the milking process. My first time was in the morning, so it involved these steps:

(This is abridged version. There are a million steps. This is just the gist)

6 am. check board. wake up goats. person #1 cleans the pails, prepares the bottling room. person #2 prepares the milking room. goats get brushed, utters/teets get washed. goats are milked. milk is bottled. goats are put back in yard behind dairy. pails/milking room/bottling equipment cleaned and sterilized. goats are herded to appropriate pasture. milk is taken to the ed building. Usually this process takes less than 2 hours.

Also something I thought was cool: Each goat that is milked has its own stanchion, and each goat knows where to go. All you have to do (usually) is call that goat’s name and she will come right through the door and hop into her stanchion. They look like this:

The process is basically the same for the after noon milking, which happens at 430. Which is when the epic fail (concerning herding) happened.

The Epic Fail.

Goats are nice creatures for the most part. They like attention. They can be your friend. But sometimes, they get rowdy. Herding them can be an impossible task, especially when its 2 on 35. Sigh…

This happened in the afternoon. It was really hot, not a merciful cloud in the sky. This is the 2nd time I have ever milked. I am milking with a guy named James, a nice dude who really loves the goats. Think about the way most people interact with dogs that they love, that’s how James is with the goats.

So first we must herd them. James grabs the feed bucket, calls the goats and leads them away from their pasture to the pen, roughly 50-75 yards away. I’m bringing up the rear, goading along the stragglers. As I am guiding a couple of older kids, prodding them to catch up with the herd, something happened. First, they got distracted by some luscious greens along the way. Then, apparently, a few discovered the (closed) bags of feed lying exposed in the kid barn. Visual: Several large goats charging towards the 50 pound bag of feed, eyes glazed over in a feeding frenzy. James, who is shorter and skinnier than I am (ie, not an effective goat barrier), tries to take one for the team and stop the goats, using his body as a blockade. James does not succeed. The goats push past/plow over him, so by the time I reach this gathering, all I can see is Jame’s head and shoulders sticking out of a pile of frenzied goats.

Valiantly did I charge in, sweep down and scatter these animals, and with the strength of my arms and voice, herded them successfully into the pen.

Except thats not what happened. Instead of doing anything helpful, I doubled over with hysterical laughter, barely able to catch my breath from laughing so hard. Luckily, James emerges, screaming “You crazy goats!” By this time, the 7 or so goats that obediently went straight into the pen had heard the commotion, and ran to join the pack. The bigger goats were feasting on the bag of feed they had torn open, pushing and shoving one another. The older kids were perched on top of the adjacent hay bales, and I’m pretty sure there were either 1. laughing at us humans or 2. contemplating dive bombing into the middle of the feed.

In the end, we dragged all 35 extremely resistant goats by hand into the pen. James would pull them away from the pile, I would pull/push/ride/yell them to the dairy and through the door. Which got even more involved when they crowded the door trying to get back out again. So all in all, when every last goat had been manhandled into the yard behind the dairy, we went inside, soaked through with sweat and covered in mud/hay/goat poop and drained half a gallon of water.

At this point I was still laughing, mainly because it was all I could do.

Even after all that, goats still are really cute. Here is some baby goat pictures to warm your heart:

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