A capacity for self-propelled locomotion being one of the hallmarks of what we define as “life,” it follows that keeping track of living things is by no means a simple task. Most creatures, including human beings, are curious by nature, and our innate wanderlust is a manifestation of that curiosity. It’s what has spread our species to every (habitable and not so habitable) corner of the globe, and so we have devised a complicated system of paperwork and documentation to make sure that people are who, what, and where they say they are. Think of I.D. cards, passports, and such as livestock tags for humans.
A few years ago we wrote a blog about “The Naming of Goats.” Then, just recently, while shopping on Etsy, we ran across a store selling name tags for goats. And that got us to thinking: Why would a goat need a name tag at all?
Goats are quite amazing creatures in numerous ways. One way, of course, is their remarkable eating habits. The ultimate omnivores, they are known to chomp on everything even vaguely edible—or inedible, for that matter—from grass to tree bark to toxic plants, including poison oak and knapweed. They even have a documented appetite for litter when left unchaperoned. Indeed, that is the theme of the American folk song “Bill Grogan’s Goat”:
One day that goat felt frisk and fine—
Ate three red shirts right off the line.
In past articles we’ve discussed the history of marking livestock for identification purposes, from branding to ear tags to RFID (radio frequency identification). Many of these methods, while effective, are also often permanent in nature, which may not be desirable. They may even involve minor injury to the animal or damage to the skin or coat. But what if you don’t want the I.D. to be permanent (much less cause any pain to the animal)? That is where Ketchum livestock markers prove their worth!
On farms across the English-speaking world, the term used to describe the birthing and raising of sheep is lambing. The best chance for lambs to survive and thrive is when the weather is mild and grass is plentiful, and for that reason, in the northern hemisphere, Mother Nature decreed that autumn would be the season for sheep to mate, so that their lambs could be born in the springtime.
Yet, according to Emily Ruckert, an Oregon State University graduate with a degree in animal science, with modern farming technology this is not a hard and fast rule. “In nature, lambs are born in the spring, but we do it in the winter,” Emily said when asked about the best time of year for lambs to be born. “By summer all the babies are gone and we can breed again in July.”
While Nature does most of the heavy lifting, on the farm a successful lambing season still depends on the knowledge and experience of the sheep farmer. In previous blogs we have discussed:
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. It follows, then, that a moving picture must be worth at least a million. Below are ten of our favorite, most informative YouTube videos on lambing, by sheep farmers whose knowledge of the subject ranges from the beginner to the expert.
I’d always loved goats—every one
of them different from every other one,
and all of them goofy and playful.
— Steve Watkins, What Comes After
So you’ve finally resolved to make the leap: whether for their milk, or fiber, or simple companionship, you’ve decided to add some goats to your family menagerie. In preparation, you have…
- Read everything you can get your hands on about the care and feeding of goats;
- Set aside a chuck of land big enough to accommodate your new goat friends;
- Enclosed it with a fence tall and strong enough to hold them (remember, goats are curious and love to climb things, or else eat through them);
- Built a small barn or other roofed enclosure to house them in inclement weather (goats hate to get wet);
- Invested in stainless steel buckets and a milking bench (if delving into the goat milk and cheese business is your plan), and created a sanitary environment for serious dairy production; and
- Picked out the breed and gender of goats you want to keep and brought them to their new home.
Now all that’s left is to choose names for your goats (and get them imprinted on durable Ketchum goat ear tags). Coming up with suitable names may be the hardest part of all—but also the most fun. Continue reading “The Naming of Goats”