Goats in the Garden-Dec 2011



I have just come in from cleaning out the goats and my husband was waiting for me with a cup of tea in his hand, - well I can dream can`t I?

I don`t usually mind cleaning them out, I only have six goats in four pens and I rotate the cleaning each week. Using aubiose means I do not need to clean them out just as often as I would with straw. What I do find hard is trying to sweep up wet hay from around the run, it is really heavy work and I have muscles my husband would be proud of.

At this time of year I always think my goats look their best, with the coming of the colder weather their coats thicken and fluff up and hide some of their less attractive features. I am hoping they are all pregnant, although one can never be sure, this year has been particularly confusing.

The very nice stud male I borrowed from the local  children`s farm where I work developed fly strike and I had to send him home before he had left his visiting card with all my girls. For those who don`t know, fly strike is a very nasty problem which is caused by flies. They lay their eggs in moist parts of the animal, usually around their rear ends, the eggs hatch into maggots who then start to eat into the flesh of the animal. It is unusual for goats to be affected, it is usually sheep who suffer as the maggots thrive in the moist warm coat of the sheep.

In all the years I have kept goats I had never seen a case of fly strike, and then this year I have heard of several cases, perhaps the warm wet weather has been the perfect conditions to encourage it.

I am sure not all goats react the same way but in my case the first thing I noticed was Borneville was not yelling when I went down with his breakfast. I was really pleased because he was the noisiest male I have ever had and with the proximity of my neighbours it was quite a relief. He did not always eat his breakfast straight away so I was not surprised he showed no interest in it.

During the day I watched him and he appeared to be kicking his side with his back leg and he was spending a lot of time quietly lying in his shed. I called the vet who failed to diagnose fly strike and it was not until I took him back to the farm next day that the farmer noticed what the problem was. The flies had laid their eggs underneath the goat around his penis and that is where the maggots were. Treatment was to cut all the hair from around the affected area, remove the maggots and treat with an antisceptic spray. Borneville has now recovered completely.


I had a phone call the other day from a researcher for the Alan Titchmarsh Show.

He explained that they were doing an item on goats that week and would be having some dairy goats on the programme. He wanted to know if I could provide some pygmy goats to compare the differences.  It sounded quite interesting and I thought here at last was my chance for fifteen minutes of fame. As the conversation progressed I began to have doubts. I would need to be up at the studio near Waterloo by 9 am, so far so good. He explained there was nowhere to park and immediately  visions of walking across Waterloo Bridge in the rush hour with my goats in tow came to mind. I asked where they would be kept while they were waiting for their staring roll, he seemed a bit puzzled and asked could they not be kept on a lead. All I could see was goat droppings all over the studio and a couple of very boisterous goats making me look an idiot. (alright, no change there then) Needless to say I decided against it but I did manage to catch the programme. There was a very overcrowded pen with six mixed dairy goats in it and an expert discussing them with Alan. They then brought on two very placid laid back pygmy goats on leads.  Not a poo in sight, but then neither was the owner, a presenter discussed the goats with Alan for a few minutes and that was it. I will have to wait a bit longer for my fifteen minutes.


There was a knock at my door the other day and when I opened it there was a young lady standing there. She asked me if I kept goats, and as my girls chose that moment to start bleating for attention I was unable to deny it. There is a public footpath down the side of my garden where the goats are kept and anyone walking along it can hear them bleating sometimes. Was she going to complain?  No, apparently the smell reminded her of the cheese they made in her village in Spain and after I had assured her I did not make cheese and we had a little chat she went on her way. As the smell was coming from the very pungent male goat I was borrowing, I dread to think what the cheese must have tasted like.


By now those of you who are intending to breed this year will have had your females served. My goats are due to kid earlier than usual due to a whole catalogue of circumstances and I am hoping we don`t get the snow we had last year. I have four who will be kidding for the first time as well as two old hands, with that ratio I cannot fail to have at least one caesarean. It would be very useful to have the goats scanned, then you would know if they were pregnant and also how many they were expecting. However, few of us have that facility and so we have to rely on crossing our fingers!


I hope you all have a really lovely Christmas and I look forward to hearing your kidding stories in the New Year.


Best wishes

Viv McNeil