Goats in the Garden - Dec 2013

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Viv McNeil



The clocks have gone back and the nights are drawing in earlier and earlier. I never like putting my goats away too early as apart from anything else, the longer time they spend in their pens the more cleaning out is required.

Every Saturday morning you will find me in my wellies cleaning out the girls, Sounds of the Sixties blaring out from a battered radio with me joining in with the right words but probably not the right tune. (Yes I am that old!)

I have only three goats now, and after a lot of sole searching I decided I would try breeding just once more.  I have thought long and hard after the kidding problems I had this year, and I really meant it when I said I was giving up, but after 26 years I am not sure what would take their place.

The male I borrowed this year was in fact one I had bred a few years ago, Rosebery Angus,

I think this is what persuaded me to try again, I have never been in a position to use a male I had bred so I was quite excited. He proved to be the calmest, quietest, non-smelly goat I have ever met, a true gentleman. I think my girls thought so too as they came into season within a few days and were duly mated. They all returned 4 days later and were remated. This time Crystal took but Hebe and Astra returned again three weeks later. After trying for a third time it looks like I am going to be unlucky with Astra, she had a caesarean last year and is possibly now unable to conceive. The problem I have in a back garden is the noise she is making, she is coming into season for two to three days every three weeks and is quite vocal. I am awaiting a visit from the noise abatement society.


When I borrowed Angus we were enjoying a welcome heatwave, this however threw up the problem of flies. After the problem I had last year when the male I borrowed had fly strike and had to go back to his owner, I was very aware of these nasty green bodied flies landing on Angus`s back. I wasn`t quite sure how to deal with them, I obviously could not stand all day shooing them away so, I went to my local farm shop. They had a variety of products that promised to cure everything  any goat/animal could suffer from. I chose a product with the exotic name of `Naffoff`, it was quite expensive but it promised to keep the flies off and in fact it worked very well. I sprayed Angus liberally in the morning and evening and also about midday for good measure. The flies did not like it, they hovered around him and in fact one or two landed but they soon flew off as soon as they got a whiff.

The warm weather eventually ended and the flies were no more.


I had an interesting phone call from a gentleman who was producing a show at the National Theatre. He was looking for a couple of pygmy goats for his art directors to study with a view to making puppets of them, similar t0 the horse in War Horse. I would have loved to help as I think it would have been very interesting but I had to take my goats up to the theatre in London and as I don`t know London very well decided it was not for me. I did suggest they came here but as I have not heard any more they may have found someone else.


Last week I had an email from a television producer who was trying to get a new programme off the ground. It was supposed to introduce people who needed to rehome their animals, for whatever reason, to people willing to rehome them. He asked me if I could put him in touch with anyone who would be interested in rehoming goats. Knowing how difficult it is to do this the only suggestion I could make was for him to go on the Chat Group and see if there was any interest. I wonder if it will ever reach our screens.


By the time you read this I expect you will be thinking about Christmas, and if you are anything like me you will be losing sleep and worrying about what gifts to buy. I have decided this year will be different, after all, I am a member of the Women`s Institute and their motto is  `Keep Calm and Carry On`. Then I will panic!!


Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year.




















































It appears that we may be in for an arctic winter this year if the weather forecasters are to be believed. I had an email from a new keeper the other day who was concerned about keeping his goats warm during the winter and wondered if they needed some form of heating. I told him that was a bad idea, someone I knew had done that and the goats had begun to moult and lose their coats thinking it was the summer. The coat on goats thickens during the winter to take into account the change in temperature and they are well able to withstand the cold, just make sure you do not brush this undercoat out. What they do need however, is a draught free pen in which to shelter during the worst of the weather, dry bedding and plenty of hay. I sometimes give my goats some Readigrass mixed with a handful of Alpha A by way of a treat but it is the hay which is most important.  Do not increase their goat mix. When the weather is particularly cold I give my goats warm water to drink, which they appreciate. Even in the coldest weather the goats still need ventilation in the goat house otherwise problems can occur. A glass free window above head height is fine.


I took Heatherview Borneville back today, I had borrowed him from the local children`s farm and as it was the second time I had used him for serving my females we were not strangers.

He had changed though. He was not as smelly, which was very fortunate for my neighbours, and to start with he was very quiet. He settled very quickly, ate his goat mix and hay and behaved like a perfect gentleman. All that was about to change once he got his eye on my girls. I must admit they were as much to blame, the saucy minx`s. They kept walking up to his gate wagging their tails and then walking away as soon as he showed any interest, what red blooded male can be expected to put up with that. He soon let me and most of Epsom know he was not pleased and with a raucous bellow made his presence felt. Fortunately, things settled down as the girls came into season one by one and all was once more quiet and tranquil. I always keep the male for three weeks after the last female has been mated to make sure they have all taken. This, however, does cause some frustration for the ignored male and this year Borneville loosened several fence posts and  battered his way through a gate to reach the object of his desire. Fortunately, I was putting the girls away when he arrived behind me so there was no harm done except to my bruised legs.

I reinforced the fencing with hurdles for the remainder of his stay.


The showing season has now finished and if you managed to get to any shows I hope you enjoyed them. I was judging Peterborough this year, the last show of the season, and we were very lucky with the weather. It was a good entry and it finished the season off nicely for me.


I only have three females now and they are much easier to look after. Hopefully, if all went well with Borneville they will be due to kid the first week in March, a little later than last year and hopefully a little warmer. Those who are expecting kids, I wish you vet free kiddings and to all of you I wish a very happy Christmas and peaceful New Year.


Viv McNeil