For some people, chickens are a gateway farm animal. You start out with a backyard flock. The fresh eggs are nice. So, you start thinking about producing something else, maybe milk and cheese. But a cow would require acres of land. If you have some space — about 400 square feet — you might consider stepping up your homesteading hobby by acquiring a few goats.
Ours are Nigerian Dwarf goats, an American breed derived from a West African group. These miniature dairy goats produce as much milk as their larger cousins and have a sweet disposition, adorable sense of humor, and beautifully colorful coats to boot. We got three of them for our backyard farm a few years ago and can’t imagine living without them.
Like all mammals, goats produce milk only after having babies. So, if you are keeping goats for their delicious milk, you have to breed them. There is not much in this world that is cuter than a kid, and our small goats give birth without much fuss — we have never needed the attendance of a vet and even my 11-year-old is now an accomplished goat-midwife.
Does can breed anytime during the year once they have reached about 10 months of age, but in our climate, with colder winters that extend into the spring, tiny kids have an easier time if they are born between June and September. With a goat pregnancy lasting about five months, the time for matchmaking is now.
The trouble is that bucks — male goats who can breed, as opposed to wethers, their castrated brothers — are hard to come by, especially on Cape Cod. Not many people keep them, and there’s a simple reason: a buck’s personal perfume is truly terrible. And if you think bad pickup lines are a turnoff, be glad you’re not a doe. These guys enhance their scent when courting by peeing on their own beards.
Some people use a drive-by dating service to impregnate their does. In this case, a buck owner, usually coming from off Cape, charges a fee to travel to your homestead for roadside romance. The chances of success are not exactly slim if you know your female’s fertile time of the month, but they are limited. You may have to pay more than once for a visit and, even with that, your doe may not be agreeable within the short window of time the suitor is present.
A much better option is to rent a buck for at least a month, even better, two. This is what we decided to do last year, with total success. From early January to late February, our home herd welcomed Stinky Dan and his sidekick, Buford T. Justice, as my husband called them. Many bucks travel with a wingman because goats, like most farm animals, don’t like to be displaced and are more amenable to change if they get to bring a buddy along.
This year, however, Stinky Dan was not available. It turns out that he has serviced most of Cape Cod’s does by now and, since even in the goat world relatives should not mate, was sent off to Western Mass. to peddle his genes out there. We had to go to New Hampshire for a pinch hitter, but the trip was well worth it because we ended up with Lance Romance, who is quite a fine fellow.
While Stinky would charge his target at a speed that was uncomfortable to watch, Lance is a consummate gentleman. A gentle boy with a sweet temper, he has no need for a wingman and quickly makes friends with new ladies by tenderly licking their ears.
Cammie Watson, a fellow homesteader in Truro, just took Lance to meet her bashful doe. “He talks articulately in gentle tones, moans every now and then, notices her every mood, and seems willing to do whatever is required — serenading her, or backing off on occasion,” Watson tells me. “I know she will come around.”
We’ll keep you posted on the kids.