Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Goats are very useful creatures; they give milk of excellent quality and goodness, provide meat to a high proportion of the world’s population, and their skins are used for clothing, rugs, drums and many other useful things. They are companions to humans and other species, generally easily managed in small or large numbers, and will graze on land that other animals will turn their noses up at. They also provide endless hours of fun and amusement to anyone who cares to take an interest in them. They are intelligent animals and require hobbies to keep themselves occupied.

Some goats take an interest in politics – conniving and butting their way to the top of the tree. They are herd animals and need a leader. A leader has to be strong, decisive and a dynamic decision maker. The leader has to find the best food for the herd – be that by finding the best things to eat in a field (but usually it is on the other side of the fence), by calling the loudest at feeding time, or by being the first to raid the feed bins when a breakout is organised (usually by the leader). Sometimes it is not possible for the leader herself to squeeze through a gap in the stall, so she will train up a younger, slimmer kid to push through the gap (helping it along with her horns). The assistant will then become the leader by proxy and knock over all the feed bins, having watched the leader do this. Quite often the weight of the feed inside will cause the bin lid to pop off and reveal El Dorado inside.

Lesser members of the herd also find their niche in life. Some are professional mothers – looking out for their kids long after they need to. Others become athletes – jumping hurdles, sprinting and even climbing trees to reach the juiciest leaves.
The more intellectually inclined goats become expert problem solvers, using their front legs to bend down a pliable branch of a young willow to get at the only leaves remaining at the top. Some of these problem solvers become expert escapologists, chewing through knots in rope used to close a gate or using a bucket as a stepping stool to be over the top of a gate or fence.

Then there are the more creative types. They relish the opportunity to leap on the stage (preferably a car bonnet but a wheelbarrow will do) and exhibit their tap dancing, singing and acting skills. Their acting skills become positively histrionic when suffering from a stomach ache after raiding the feed bins.
Goats are truly wonderful animals – they do not smell (well, Billy goats do – but most goats are female or castrated male and definitely do not smell.)

I think that it is about time that goats are endowed with the value that they deserve. Few people will buy a common or garden goat as long as they are given away for free, and there is always the risk that a pet animal will end up neglected, passed from pillar to post or end up in the meat trade. So please goat lovers, make a charge for your goats. After all, a person who has thought through the expenses of good fencing, feed and vets bills will not mind paying £45 or so for an animal which will give so much in return –if only in entertainment value!

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