Merging Goat Herds - Reprize
In the ten years I've had goats I have never worried about tossing the new guys in with the old guys - at least not past the first 10 minutes. After making sure they have had some time to get to know each other across a fence, you turn them all out together, make sure they are not likely to attack each other, this is were the 10 minutes comes in, and walk away. They will work out the hierarchy details on their own. Simple. Easy.
With the new girls, Star, Millie and Morha, it all seems very different. Star is very old at 16 and the younger ladies, Millie and Morha, are 8 which puts them up into older middle age. The first time I tried letting Gloucester and Harvard in with the ladies, Millie ended up with a broken horn that needed a trip to the vet's office for treatment. I would very much not like that to happen again with Morha or Star.
With all that in mind, the last couple of weeks have been very interesting. Here is the quick summary. Star may be old but she is quite capable to staring down any of the boys for access to food and is comfortable being in a larger group of goats. Millie is the first to take offence and start to posture which explains why hers was the horn broken the first time I added boys to the mix. She is mildly frantic about being in a group of goats beyond her small family of three. Morha may be the most forward when it comes to humans but she is by far the most hysterical when faced with a larger group of goats.
We have been fighting parasites, as we always do during the summer months. I've penned up all the animals once to have fecal samples collected and penned up the goats several more times for the same thing. And I've started feeding all the goats together in the same pen. Star stands her ground and eats till she's finished. Millie eats until I open the gate and let the boys in at which point she darts for the gate to get back in the barn. Morha has figured out that she needs to be first to get to the food because as soon as she sees me walking towards the gate to let the boys in she is running for the gate back to the barn.
I thought about it all and it makes sense. Star was raised on a goat farm with 50 to 75 goats. She spent 8 years having babies with a friendly group of does and was very used the hustle and bustle of a large ranch. She was retired to Judith's place with her final doeling, Millie, and another weanling born that same year. Morha and Millie have never known a life that included more than the three of them. It makes sense that they are much more concerned about the boys than Star is.
I am continuing to feed all the goats together. I am restricting the ladies' access to escape the feeding pen more and more but I am also watching very closely to see there are no broken horns during this adventure. The last couple of days all the goats have been in the barn so I could catch and treat various ones for parasites. I've been throwing open the stall doors all at once which requires all the goats to move as a large group out the doors and into the pens. Morha had one meltdown when she thought Harvard was after her. It took her a while to understand he was running for the gate out into the pasture and she just happened to be in his path. OK. I understand that was what was happening. I hope Morha figured it out.