A Goat That Wanted to Live...

…in a magnificent example of Darwinian Evolution, one of our meat goats managed to break her neck in a feeding trough–a piece of equipment that had been safe for hundreds of goats.

“Uh oh,” I said to my wife, “what are we going to do with her kid?”

“Beats me,” she replied, “the little one is too old to be bottle fed and too young to wean. I guess we’ll see how badly she wants to adapt to her new life.”

It’s not unheard of for a young animal to survive in these circumstances. However, thriving is another matter. An animal with a rocky start, like losing their mother before weaning, tends to live a short and sickly life, not a happy situation for animal or owner. We decided to give it a try.

This surviving kid was small, no bigger than a smidgen. Soon the name Smidge, stuck. For days, each time we checked on her, she was full of energy and climbing around the rocks in our sheep and goat pens.

She no longer had a mother to take care of an empty belly, so soon she learned to sneak up behind any unwary doe that was nursing and grab a quick snack from the involuntary donor before they were aware of exactly who was involved. Plus, her small size and rapidly maturing stomach enzymes enabled her to slip through any fence, snitch and effectively digest a meal of grain or hay she found in our barnyard. Slowly, surely, we were losing control of our ranch to this smart little goat that wanted very badly to live.

It was a pleasure to watch.

As the weather warmed, our grass grew and spring turnout approached. This is the time of year when our lactating livestock need as much nutritional support as possible. To provide this, we open gates and turn them out on range land, away from the safety of the barnyard.

However, with green grass comes a price: coyotes, bobcats and the occasional cougar. They are feeding their own young and understand spring is the time when young livestock are on the range. Overconfident youngsters make an easy lunch. Our livestock guard dogs do their job well, but they can’t watch every wandering animal.

For Smidge, who already survived more than her share of traumas, spring turnout would be a new test.

The first day, she ran happily out the gate with the flock. When night arrived, she was safely in the barnyard, and we breathed a sigh of relief. The next day, same thing. Smidge returned with the flock, her belly full and round. Day after day, this tiny goat with no role model to teach her the ways of the desert successfully negotiated her way across our land with brains, skill and luck.

Finally, one day I was out fixing fence, and I watched our flock drift past.

There was Smidge, hovering around the main bunch. When a danger signal was called, she’d dash to the center of the flock and hide beneath the belly of the older, more experienced animals. Then she’d refuse to come out from her hiding place until the ‘all-clear’ signal was given.

She was a tiny goat that wanted to live.

Smidge survived her first summer out on our range. Same thing, her second year. While she was no longer small enough to dart under the bellies of the other goats, she’d hang out quietly in the center of the flock. For a goat, that was the safest place to be.

Late that winter, Smidge had her first kid–a Smidglet–a healthy, strong doeling. She was a very attentive mother and we had high hopes for the little goat–and her kid–that wanted to live.

Author’s note…

For years, Smidge remained healthy and well. One year she lost a kid in a nasty bout of freezing rain, but that wasn’t her fault. Since that time, she raised excellent kids.

As the years went by, Smidge passed of natural causes as an old goat. She was always smart, had good kids and was easy to work with. If we wanted to find her, we need look no further than the center of the flock, the safest place for a goat to be.

Sleep well, we’ll talk again…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *