Monday, February 21, 2011

Baby Goats Being Born!

I needed to speak to the farmer two days ago. In the distance, I saw her slip into the barn through a side door, so I followed her. I walked into a utility room, with brooms and buckets and lots of grey cement. I called out quite a few times, but no answer, so I pushed open the interior door that I assumed must lead into the main section of the barn.

Immediately to my right as I looked around the door, were large goats in their stalls, head through the wooden bars, munching hay just next to my face. I had the right place. I called out again, but still no answer, so I walked further in. This barn looks so industrial, cold and unfriendly from the outside, but is magical inside: Everything nestles on a thick bed of hay; dusty, yellow sunlight gives everything a warm, honey colour; massive round hay bails tuck everything and make it feel cosy; the dozens of goats crunch slowly and rhythmically on the hay.

I saw some movement at the other end of the barn, and called out again. This time, she turned around and said "Oh, so you found me, then?"

I went over to this lovely, smiley, twinkly-eyed lady, and we talked for a minute about nothing much. I asked if the baby goats had started to be born, and looked into the stalls. No kids were visible, and the farmer said "No, not yet - very soon now, though".

When the babies are born each February, they are mostly kept in an old stone farm building next to my cottage. Yesterday evening, I heard some teeny bleeting next door, as the first kid was born, and the farmer lady saying "the-e-e-e-ere now, my beauty, there now". Such an amazing thing to hear happening!

Since then, I've heard a few more making their way out, and look forward to helping the farmer feed them. They nuzzle and rub and bleat for stokes and attention. It always makes me sad, though; they are crying for their mummies, and every time they hear me move outside I get a cacophony of bleating in response. But our society means that it is very expensive to raise goats naturally with their mum, so the babies will all be sold on for less than a euro in a few weeks' time. Some will only be a few hours old when they are sold and taken away in a lorry, some a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, the pining mothers - whilst lucky to be in a beautiful, cosy barn, with a caring farmer, will not even get to suckle the kids they carried for months. The babies are fed by bottle, and the whole point of the pregnancy was the subsequent milk production, so the mums now fulfill their destiny.

I do know goat farmers locally who do things the old fashioned way, and let the mothers live with their babies and suckle them, despite the farmers taking some milk for cheese. But this is rare. They are a dying breed.

No comments: