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Goat Basics

and my personal pet peeves

There is a lot of information out there about goats. As one of the first, if not the first, domesticated animal there has been plenty of time for all kinds of information to get out there. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the untrue. Goats are #1 when it comes to how many people drink the milk and eat the meat worldwide. I'm going to share some of the many things I've learned about goats along the way. I'm also going to share some of things that drive me insane!

Goats come in all sizes and colors and breeds. They are mostly the same shape though! Goats are all easily recognizable as goats. Except fiber goats. Sometimes they can look like sheep. They can be hard to see at all through all that hair! Goats have distinctive head shapes and wedge shaped bodies with cute little curled up tails and cloven hooves.

The terms used for goats are just like those used for deer. A intact male goat is called a Buck. A female goat is a Doe. A castrated male goat is a Wether. Boy goats are not called Billies and girls are not Nannies so calling them that is frowned upon in the goat world. It will make you sound ignorant so please refrain if it all possible! Goat babies are called kids and giving birth is called kidding. Goat kids have had this name much longer (by several hundred years) than human kids. Baby girl goats are doelings and boys are bucklings.

Goats do not eat everything. In fact, goats are incredibly picky eaters. They might eat the label off a tin can and especially enjoy the adhesive but they won't eat the tin can and they won't touch it if happens to be anything less than pristine! Goats won't eat it if it fell on the floor, or if my disgusting mouth already took a bite, or if another goat slobbered on it. They have a wide range of foods they enjoy and some of those foods surprise even me. Maggie, for instance, will do whatever she has to for Cheez-Its. This was unexpected simply because I don't typically buy them but Maggie got her first taste at county fair and she is hooked. I have also never met a goat that didn't love animal crackers. You can teach a goat to do amazing things for an animal cracker.

Does have an udder. It's singular. She does not have udders and if she does you have some serious issues with your doe! A doe's udder has two halves and, ideally, two teats (some market breed have a more but it's not ideal). One teat per half of her udder. This differs from a cow in that while a cow also has only one udder, she has four teats, one on each quarter.

A group of goats is called a Tribe or Trip. I like the sound of Tribe as I think it makes them sound more like a close knit unit! Herd is perfectly acceptable, especially here in the U.S. but it's not technically correct. I still use herd most of the time as no one will have any idea what you're talking about if you refer to your tribe. At best folks will think you're odd and at worst they will be terribly offended at your callousness and disrespect of political correctness. We do live in world of squishy and sensitive feelers so herd is probably the safest term to use! Your herd of goats is led the matriarch, known as the Herd Queen. Some Herd Queens are nice and laid back and some are absolute tyrants. It's kind of just the luck of the draw what you get.

My favorite thing about goats has to be pregnant does. After their first pregnancy they know they are pregnant the next time. Does will "talk" to their unborn kids in their enormous bellies towards the end of their gestation. Some of mine wait until almost the very end and the beginning stage of labor but some seem to start talking as soon as they feel the kids move. Maggie actually rubs her hair rough on the baby side of her belly in the last couple months from all her rubbing and murmuring at those kids. I think it's awesome!

One of the things it took me the most time to get used to was those weird eyes. Seriously, it's hard to accept that your doe is gazing lovingly at you with her horror movie devil eyes. The entire first year I had goats those eyes just gave me the heebie-jeebers! Eventually I got over it and now I can look past the creepy and see the intention. The very cool part of those eyes is that they enable the goat to have 340 degree vision. They can see almost all the way around themselves without moving their head. That's pretty cool! It would be so useful as a mom and there are times I really wish I had a pair of devil eyes too. *sigh* I don't so my kids get away with a lot more than they should!

One of the things those creepy goats eyes are good for is finding food. Like coffee! I know, right? You think "could goats get any cooler" and then I blow your mind with that one! Yep, the incredible, edible goat discovered coffee. The story runs along these lines. One day a shepherd is out with his tribe and sees them munching on strange berries. Shortly after his goats are dancing and playing like never before so he tries the berries and feels the joy of coffee for himself! One of the greatest discoveries of the human age (yes, coffee!) was made by a goat!

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