Sunday, October 3, 2010

Farm Journal: Barn Cleaning and Pen Mating

Ron put me in charge of cleaning the barn today while he and Soo were busy setting up at the new farm.  This was the first time I was on my own for this project and all went well.

Channon Mondoux and her sons, Jim and Luke, scooped the poop while I put it on the compost pile with the tractor.  We worked as a team, got the job done very efficiently and finished in about three hours.

Jim was marvelous at guiding the tractor.  His physics skills came in handy.

Channon has been lifting weights for the past six months and she has enormous strength, which is what it takes for lifting a pitchfork full of straw and water buffalo dung. 

Luke excelled in throwing the fresh straw down from the loft, which enabled us to spread it all over the barn in no time.

After we finished, Channon and the boys picked raspberries while I harvested a bucket of squash, onions and potatoes for them to take home.  She said they would have done this work for nothing just to help Ron, but since we had food to give, we were glad to share it with them in gratitude.

Thanks again Channon, Jim and Luke!!

Pen Mating
Tiger has returned to Dancing Turtle Farm after a brief rendezvous with Anne Cavanaugh's goats.  Rone put Tiger in the pen with the does so that he can mate with them as each goes into heat.  This is called "pen mating."
It was a sight to witness and not at all like the tender, loving mating ritual I witnessed the other day when Shadow was with Leonidas. 

Tiger spent most of the day cavorting with the does in the north pasture and in full view of us as we cleaned the barn.  He was especially interested in Shadow who apparently didn’t take the other day when she was with Leonidas.  Once a doe is mated, she is no longer in heat and therefore no longer “available” for mating.  This is all hormonal.

Meanwhile, Ava and Dina, two of this year’s kids who have now grown into big girls, were hanging around Tiger and Shadow.  So was Maggie, a year-old doeling.  Apparently, they were all in heat.

Leonidas was nearby in the buck pen watching and anxious to get to the does.  He and Tiger were both groaning with excitement in the ruff ‘n ready buck way.  Ron warned us that Leonidas might try to bump heads with Tiger through the fence.  The two of them had spent a lot of time butting heads a couple weeks ago, which is all preparation for mating season.

During our barn cleaning, Tiger and the does spent half their time romping with each other and half their time sitting down on the ground and resting.  But they rested with each other.  That surprised me because I expected some kind of mating exuberance among them—but it wasn’t long before I got my wish.

After Channon and the boys left, I prepared the gates so the goats and buffs could get into the barn.  I attached three heavy chains back on the north pen gate, secured the locks on the side gate near the barn and opened the pasture gate so the animals could get to the barn.  I was still on the north side of the pen when Tiger and his girls came for water and that’s when the real action began.

Several more does had joined Tiger, which meant that he had his pick of whoever was ready for him.  Shadow had begged off at this point but still hung around the area.  Maybe, as queen of the herd, she was “supervising.”  (There I go again:  anthropomorphizing!) 

The pace in the pen suddenly picked up as Leonidas, who was in the adjoining buck pen, began groaning more intensely.  He also stuck out his tongue.  These are signs of a ready-to-mate buck or as Jim described it to Luke, “Leonidas wanted to get layed.”  The buck was so excited, he tried to squeeze through the gate at one point and I feared he would, especially since he somehow got out the other day.  He would have hurt himself badly if he had!

Tiger seemed especially intent on Mary (a.k.a. Haley), one of this year’s twins, and she was more than willing to oblige.  They went around each other for a while licking and positioning themselves.  He mounted her several times but without successful penetration. 

Maggie, a year old doeling, had followed Tiger to the north pen along with Ava and Dina.  Then Lil’ Man came on to the scene.  He got into the spirit of the day by trying to mount a doe or two even though he is castrated!

Ava began to imitate Tiger and mounted a couple of the girls.  At one point she tried to mount Tiger and he snapped his head back and pushed her away in disgust.  She is a doe who likes to please but sometimes she doesn’t understand the way things work.

The intensity increased.  The goats went around and around in circles hungering after each other as if in Dionysian revelry for a good 15 minutes.  Tiger mounted whomever was in front of him and this changed frequently. 

Leonidas seemed to get more excited and I feared he’d jump his pen.  What would I do?  I then thought my presence may have drawn these goats to this side of the pen so I left them to finish digging potatoes.  Eventually, the goats ceased their frenzy and all went out to pasture again.

This was all quite an amazing sight to see in the lives of the goats.  Not your normal idea of a pastoral farming scene, but obviously very much a part of it.

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