As I walk to the pasture, I pass Arnost, one of my guardian dogs, dozing in the morning sun. He moans a bit in his sleep, a sound that always makes me smile. Behind him, the does graze while their kids mostly sleep. They all look fine. But I still don’t see the kid I’m looking for, so I walk through the pasture gate and check one pile of napping baby goats after another. Behind me, a savage growl interrupts the quiet morning. The hairs on my arms stand up. I swing around. Arnost is fully awake and looking skyward. In one graceful movement he leaps up and runs hellbent past me into the field. His growl grows into a warning howl as he follows something in the sky. I shade my eyes so I can see what has made Arnost so upset. Eagles circle above us. “NO!” I yell.
“Free goats?” my husband Henry said, trying to control himself. “You said you’d take on these goats?” He stared at me with the look that made me know I better have thought this out. “You are going where to get these free goats without even seeing them?” He knew that when it came to building a goat herd, there were some things I just did not do because they were far too risky. He also knew that I was about to do one of those things. “This will give me some really important DNA in my herd,” I said, looking at him with eyes full of as much conviction as I could muster. He knew that I always try to have a well thought out breeding plan for my herds of Spanish and Savanna goats.
The frail kid has a strong heartbeat – and he’s sucking on my sweater. Good sign. I wrap him in a towel and nestle him in the hay. Then I tie his mother to the stall wall and milk her. The whole time a voice in my head says, ‘you never bottle-feed babies.’ If the doe can’t feed her kid, the kid dies and the doe is a cull. But here I am making a bottle of colostrum for this kid. If he doesn’t get this in him, he will die. Despite my “hands off” rule of farming, it just seems wrong in this case – especially after all his work to get to this point. When I have enough milk, I hold him close in my lap. With some struggle, he gets the hang of the bottle, downs it, and finally perks up a bit. His head stops bobbing and he looks right at me, his eyes trying to find my face. He’s tired and frail, but his belly is full.