Love in the goat barn


Farms are sexy places. That’s what my aunt always likes to say. She told me it was one of her father’s sayings, but I have trouble imagining that. My grandfather was born in the late 1800’s and died when I was only nine years old, and it’s hard to fit the word “sexy” anywhere into my memory of his vocabulary.

No matter who said it, I can testify that it is a true statement.   Love is in the air in the goat barn, and nobody is acting like their normal selves these days.

Our young herdsire Loverboy is ready to live up to his name and seems very enthusiastic about getting started on doing the job he was hired on for. To that end, he curls his lips outward in a grotesque grin, and flaps his tongue in a comical blabber. And oh yes, he stinks.   Hooo boy, does he ever!

“Good morning, Loverboy,” I say to him in the mornings when I let him out of the goat barn. “Have you been peeing on your head again?” It’s a silly question. I know he has. I can tell by the smell, and I can tell by the feel—instead of soft and rich like the girls’ coats, it is brittle and sticky. Euw.

The girls like it, though, and that’s all he cares about. All four of the female goats have begun cycling in and out of estrus in rapid succession. The normal heat cycle for a goat is 21 days, but with the boys living in such close proximity—separated by only a four-foot-high wall overnight in an otherwise open small barn—they seem to be in the mood more often than not nowadays.

Even the little buckling BB seems to want to get in on the action, and shoots straight out of his pen every morning with his eye on Cowboy the wether. Poor Cowboy is the only one in the herd who isn’t infused with pheromones. He was born male but had a little work done, leaving him uninterested in either the boys or the girls. That doesn’t stop little four-month-old BB from being interested in him, though.   They go around and around every morning, with BB tenaciously deflecting Cowboy’s vehement rejections.

Up until today, Loverboy spent his time during the Cowboy-BB dance skulking around the goat yard looking for other possibilities, occasionally eyeing Honey the golden retriever through the fence and appearing to take stock on his chances with her, and once even staring intently at Carlos the cat. Suffice it to say that Loverboy is not particularly discerning.

This morning, he taught himself to open the latch on the door to the girls’ side of the barn. I saw him out of the corner of my eye and thought it was a fluke. I slid the latch back shut and pushed it down firmly over the metal stop and turned back to my chores.   But there he went again, deliberately lifting the latch and sliding it over. I have read about goats that cleverly open latches, but have never seen one do it. I’ve never had one quite this determined and focused, I guess.

Ruthie the yearling is like a junior high girl in love. She flounces, she bounces, she dances, she flirts, she stomps her feet, she whirls, she twirls. She really wants to spend some time with Loverboy, but I keep reminding her that it is too early.   Five months from now, the weather will be too cold for bringing goat babies into the world. But she doesn’t think about long-term consequences—she only thinks about here and now. You know how goats and junior-high girls can be. Meanwhile, I keep all the gates double-latched.

Three-year-old Arline is not quite so flagrant with her desires. She doesn’t actually fling herself at Loverboy, but she has spent a few very vocal days letting the world know that she is in need of something, even if she herself isn’t quite sure what.

Lillian the herd queen, still lactating from her last rendezvous, is a bit more reticent.

“See what happens when you say yes?” she seems to be counseling the younger girls.

Although, she does seem to admit that Loverboy is pretty handsome. And when pressed, she confesses that she does dig that new cologne he’s wearing.

Little Mabel seems to just stay out of the way. Let the big girls have their fun. She’s content with kicking up her heels in the cool autumn days as the herd heads out for the browse behind the barn and sneaking an occasional snack from Mom.

I just stay out of the way too, pushing Loverboy away when he gets too friendly and turning up the radio during morning milking so I can hear it over the clatter of Ruthie’s hooves.

My grandfather probably did the same thing with his dairy cattle all those decades ago, the wisdom of his years keeping him from sharing the truth with his young granddaughter. But the truth prevails. And farms are indeed sexy places.

Kathy Bernier

About Kathy Bernier

Backyard farming since 2007--raising our own, saving up for hard times, rejecting consumerism, and hugging the land.