Fancy and Soul have been with us for almost six years.
Our farm life began with the guineas and shortly after, the chickens arrived. We fell in love with alpacas and began our plans to begin our alpaca farm. While I was learning about “fiber animals” and preparing for alpacas, I discovered angora goats. Completely enamored with them (Who doesn’t love goats?! Add the sweet curls! It was all over!) I began looking for a couple to bring home. It took a while to find angora goats, they are not as common as other breeds. Finally, I found a farm not too far away. According to their website they had good quality goats (meaning well-bred and producing quality fiber) and had some for sale. I called and talked with the farmer and agreed that we would buy two young ones – twins! A boy and a girl, a little over a year old. We were very excited!
We set a date to go meet them and if all was well, take them home. The man agreed to vaccinate them and have the boy wethered (castrated) for us since we did not plan to breed them and they would stay together. The family also raised meat goats, sheep and cattle and were happy to give us a tour. When we arrived we were met with many Boer goats and sheep in the barn area and the cows were out on pasture. We talked a while about them and met some fabulous animals. They talked about some of their practices for raising meat animals including tail docking of the sheep. This bothered me, but I didn’t quite understand and wouldn’t realize until much later that this was the beginning of my initiation into the world of “Live Stock” and “Animal Agriculture.” We were anxious to meet the angora goats!
Finally, we were taken into the barn to meet our newest family members. There were a number of small stalls with angora goats in them. The breeding male was alone in his stall and the others were crowded into other stalls. It was dark in the barn. We got to the stall with our little guys in it. They were very small and had tons of matted, long hair full of hay and tangles. We could see right away that they were not well taken care of. Now, I know not to pay for this sort of care and encourage people to carry on, but I wasn’t about to leave them there either. In fact, I would have liked to take all of them.
We were preparing to take them home and asking questions about their care. The farmer had wethered the little boy for us as we asked. (By using a banding method. Banding goats is a method used to castrate them before they reach sexual maturity. Banding refers to applying a small, thick rubber band to the top of the testicles constricting the flow of blood to the testes and scrotum, leaving them to die and fall off in approximately 2 weeks. This is usually done without anesthetic.) The man was happy to tell me that our little guy hardly screamed at all like most do and told us to just keep an eye on the area and the testicles would dry up and fall off in a couple weeks. (I now know that most male farm animals are castrated using this and other methods, most often without anesthesia. Keep in mind please that they feel pain just like humans. We all know how sensitive males are. Now imagine being castrated with no anesthesia – routine farm practice.) My first initiation to animal agriculture.
Next, we were preparing to leave when they informed us that the female needed to be ear tagged. Could this not have been done before we arrived? I explained that we do not believe in ear tagging our animals and did not want this done. We were told it was the law and she couldn’t leave without the ear tag. Again, I tried explaining that we would keep the tag as identification but did not want it in her ear. (We only had two goats and were not planning to breed them. It would not be difficult to identify them.) Without listening to me the woman held her while the man tried to put in the ear tag. The sweet girl panicked, cried, struggled and turned her head. The tag ripped out of her ear. With blood dripping from her split ear, still not considering our wishes or her obvious distress, they simply turned her around and put the tag in her other ear. (This is another routing farm procedure. The first step in animals becoming merely numbers and far from painless. Take a look at the ear tags at Farm and Fleet some day while you are out. Would you let someone put one of those through your ears?) So, we were handed a bleeding, crying baby goat. We loaded them into our van and took them home.
Our first task was to give them love, fresh air, sunshine and care. Once we got home, it was hands off for a short time while they recovered from the ordeal of the move. I don’t believe they had ever been out of their crowded stall in the dark barn in their lives, so fresh air and sunshine were a must!
Once we were able to get a better look at them, it was obvious that these little guys had never been sheared. Angora goat’s hair grows so fast that they need to be shorn twice a year. Both of them were matted, dirty and full of feces and urine. Their hooves had never been trimmed and were so overgrown that to this day Soul’s hooves are still incorrect. We scrambled to find a shearer and learn how to trim hooves. I called goat farmers nearby to ask for advice on trimming hooves. The few I called said they really didn’t do that. (A goat’s hooves grow like dog toenails or horse’s hooves and need to be trimmed.) We followed directions we found in books and on line and did the best we could. I remember being terrified that I would hurt them. Especially when their hooves were so bad and I had no well-trimmed hooves to look at to know what I was aiming for. We did it little by little until over time I feel comfortable and confident in trimming their hooves. We got them to a sheep shearer as soon as we could and got the matted dirty hair off to find that they were covered in lice and cut by the shearer. (More about shearing later… this is not always an easy gentle process we were to learn.) We cared for their wounds and got rid of the lice, we loved them, played with them, took them for walks, gave them nutritious food, fresh water and sunshine. We named them Soul and Fancy. Soul because even at his very young age, when he arrived, his hair was so long, he had a long old-man beard and his eyes are full of wisdom. So, he became Old Soul. Fancy because even though she was a mess and very fearful, we knew she was a beautiful Fancy Dancer underneath.
Goats are thankfully goats. They are blessed with joy and love. They were soon running, leaping and playing, and healthy. We loved to watch them and laugh at their silly antics. Soul was immediately friendly and loved to be scratched and snuggled. Fancy, however continued to be afraid of us and would run away and very often slam me with a head butt. I tried to tell her I was sorry and gave her all the same love we gave to Soul. I tried to help her forgive; but I believe she connected me/us with that terrifying day and could not trust us. We talked about it so many times and were angry. I asked a number of times if we could take the ear tag out, but we thought it could not physically be removed.
It was a few years later that one day, I was shopping at Farm and Fleet and somehow came across the ear tag section and found a tool that removes ear tags. We decided to give it a try. We held her and explained what we were doing and why and were able to remove the tag. From that moment on, Fancy has never head-butted me once and although she is still shy, she loves being scratched and pet and I truly believe she understands and finally forgives us.
We love these two so very much. They gift us with so much laughter and life. They give us love and joy and we are grateful we were able to give them the life they so deserve.