Friday, April 1, 2016

Put Your Best Foot Forward

It's that time of the year again: kidding season. Even though it happens multiple times a year, it’s always exciting. Right now we have eleven babies on the ground and the dinner table talk is monopolized by discussions of which goats we are keeping and which ones we are selling -- and to whom.

Katherine has a waiting list of people wanting all sorts of combinations of goats, some very specific, some flexible. Then there are our breeder-friends that Katherine barters with for new goats to add genetic diversity to the herd. Sometimes it’s a condition of sale (“I’ll sell you that goat, but I want a baby doe out of her to keep her blood lines in my herd.”) Sometimes it’s to balance out colors (“I have too many gray agoutis right now, and you have a mess of carmels. Wanna trade?”).

Cali & DeeDee (daughter and mother)
But which ones to keep? Even though I seem to do things on a grand scale (like 7 children), I do have my limits, and I have been trying to keep Katherine limited to 40 goats on the property at a time. That seems to be the magic number for having a variety of brood does, adolescents, babies, and bucks.

As we have learned from our goat mentors, the general rule for brood does is that once you have the daughter (or maybe two to be safe – “a spare”), then you can sell the mother. Sometimes you keep the mom around longer if she’s an “easy kidder” (= gives birth with little assistance – God bless that rare goat) or if she usually throws triplets (more goats = more $). Or, of course, if she is a beloved pet. 

Anyway, we always want to have at least one “daughter” around, which means that if the goat's a “first time kidder” we are going to keep any baby girl that comes out (alive). Generally, of course.
If it’s a badly mismarked boy goat, it will (eventually) be neutered and sold as a wether. Lots and lots of people on the waiting list want wethers, so that’s a good thing. Of course, if that little wether “speaks to you”, then you may just have to keep it after all…ahem

Here are our FIVE wethers
If it’s a perfectly marked, big headed, beefy, fantabulous boy then maybe you will keep it around as a buck. But, come on, how many bucks do you really need to keep around to breed your does? You need a few so you can stir up the gene pool and avoid too much inbreeding. But really, “a few” is just fine… sell the rest.
That’s the basic idea.

So, what are we going to do with our 11 babies?
  1. Bagel: mismarked boy --> wether --> sell
  2. Cream Cheese: cute boy, not fantabulous --> wether --> sell
  3. Meatloaf: mismarked boy --> wether --> sell
  4. Ketchup: only boy from quintuplets, we are selling his mom… --> keep? Wait and see how he turns out? Breed a few times then sell?
  5. Action Packer: FANTABULOUS boy out of a new bloodline --> keep
  6. Babybel: only daughter that we have out of her mom --> keep
  7. Allie: beautiful girl, already have her half sister --> keep (she’s the “spare”)
  8. Lucille: mismarked girl out of quintuplets --> sell
  9. Fluffernutter: boy with cleft lip (palate OK) --> wether --> keep??
  10. Bloomers: mismarked girl, tiniest of quintuplets --> keep
  11. Bertha: biggest girl out of quintuplets, lovely --> sell

We have two conundrums. First, Fluffernutter may have other health problems that might possibly manifest as he ages, so maybe we should just keep him around…and, OK, he speaks to me. I love that little bugger. But come on, AG, how many wethers do we need around the place? But what’s one more? And that’s how the herd size grows…It’s not even Katherine’s fault!

Fluffernutter's lip
Second, one of Katherine’s goat mentors (a breeder from the next state over) expressed an interest in acquiring one of the quintuplet girls. Within hours of Katherine announcing the quintuplets, our pal contacted Katherine and offered to trade one of her baby does for our one our baby does. Why, you may ask? Or at least, I asked.
Well, two reasons: 1) pedigree. These babies come out of a genetic line that our pal wants and doesn’t have. 2) Chances are good that the baby girls out of the quintuplet “litter” will also have multiple babies when they start down that garden path. Maybe more quintuplets?!
But what about letting our pal “cut the line” of other people waiting for our goats? That’s not fair.
Life is not fair! And she is one of Katherine’s mentors…and she is a highly regarded breeder (and judge) in our area. It’s always nice to make deposits into the “favor bank.”
More than that, though, it’s a great show of confidence in Katherine’s “brand” if this other breeder wants one of Katherine’s goats.
That’s decided. Now which goat?? Katherine had already sold the mom of the quintuplets, deliverable to her new home after weaning her babies. Little did we know there were five babies in there! We were crossing out fingers that one of the babies would be a daughter because we didn’t have any other daughters out of this mom. I think Katherine had given up on her, which is why she sold her.
Anyway, then there were four baby girls to choose from. Thank you, Universe. A gorgeous big one (Bertha). A wee bitty little one that didn’t survive (Monkeyface). A mismarked one (white on her rear leg). And a wee bitty little one that did survive and who has a gigantic mismark on her back legs and butt (Bloomers).
OK, three to choose from now.
Another goat mentor has an applicable strategy here: sell only the best ones and keep the mismarked ones at home.

Still yummy...
As much as we’d like to hoard all the most beautiful ones for ourselves, the “sell” strategy totally makes sense. You want your best product in the marketplace representing what you are creating. If it were cupcakes, would you sell the ones with the messed up frosting?? No way!

So, our pal will get the pick of the litter: Bertha. We will sell the slightly mismarked one to someone on the wait list, and we will keep the runty, mismarked one (Bloomers).

Bloomers (left) & Bertha (right) - EXACT same age
I call it “putting your best foot forward.” And, like so many other lessons from the goat pen, this strategy applies to all aspects of our lives.
I, like every other mom on the planet, accosts my children with the “do-your-best” mantra every day.
I want them to put forth their very best self, their own personal “brand,” at all times. Show the world their best soccer kick, their most artful “Frozen” rendition, their silliest joke, their biggest smile.
They can keep the “mismarked” parts—insecurity, fatigue, anxiety, crankiness, weird OCDs—at home. I will still love all those funky parts anyway. Just like I will love little Bloomers.


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