September 3rd, 2015 by Ed Bruske
It’s that time of year when our efforts to separate the boys from the girls is put to the test. To avoid accidental pregnancies, we play a complicated game of livestock chess, wherein we deploy our various pastures to keep hormones in check. It doesn’t always work.
Take our boy goat, Tigger, for instance. When July rolled around, we had him in our main paddock and adjacent pasture with our two rams. That worked fine for a few weeks, when it seemed like a good idea to rotate them to fresher grass. The best idea was our orchard. But we can’t put goats in the orchard because they eat the trees. Into the orchard went the rams, and Tigger wasn’t happy at all. He-man that he is, he doesn’t like to be alone. Sure enough, he found a way out of solitary confinement and was soon roaming with the female sheep.
Tigger spent the summer with the female sheep last year as well and it drove him crazy. He spirals into deep rut, squealing and grunting over the females. But his deepest urges are never satiated. So, as boy goats are wont to do to make themselves more attractive, he constantly pees on himself and loudly stalks the female sheep, to no avail.
Then one day we found that the two rams had gotten out of the orchard and were chasing the female sheep as well. How in the world did that happen? I figured they must have leaped over a dip in the wire fence that surrounds the orchard. But I was wrong. A short time later, I found Tigger and our Jersey calf inside the orchard looking out. An inspection of the fence revealed a previous owner’s splice in the wire mesh that had come undone. I could see a path through the grass were the animals were availing themselves of the orchard. Not a difficult fix: I just wove the patch back together again.
A four-month-old ram-ling I had neglected to castrate was getting a little too frisky with the girls. I moved him into the orchard with the older rams. But for some reason this ram-ling has never been able to resist trying to plow through the netting that surrounds one of our layer flocks inside the orchard. Or he’s just dumb as a post. I kept finding him with his head stuck in the netting, bleating without end. He had to be moved in with the female goats in a separate pasture.
Just when I thought I had the orchard fence under control, I found Tigger in there again, this time with a ewe and her female lamb. This was not good at all, as the two rams were ready to procreate then and there. How could this have happened? Well, I first had to drag the two females across the orchard and back to the pasture where they belonged. Then I walked every inch of the orchard fence until I found the latest problem: A worn area of hillside adjacent to the rear of the orchard had created a large opening underneath the fencing. All the animals had to do was give it a slight push and into the orchard they went.
Farming with animals is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates from one day to the next: You never know what you’re going to get.