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Izunya
07-16-2007, 02:39 AM
Well, we've had the giant Thread Of Horse Expertise, but horses aren't the only animals that are important in a medieval society. I thought I'd start a thread on other domestic, non-cat-and-dog animals that characters might have to interact with.

Like, say, goats. I just realized that one of my characters would probably keep a goat for milk. And I realized that I don't know that much about goats. So, can anyone give me a general overview on the subject? How do you keep goats? I see them tethered in yards sometimes, but I assume they also need a stall to get out of bad weather. How clever are they? How good at getting out of wherever they've been put and into the vegetable garden? For that matter, am I right in assuming they want to get into the vegetable garden?

How aggressive are they? Suppose some young, dumb drunks came up to my protagonist's house, intent on vandalism and general mischief, and started tormenting the goat. (I'm thinking poking and throwing things, not trying to kill it.) What would the goat do? Try to flee, or try to flatten them?

As with the horse thread, I was thinking that people should add their own animal questions as needed. Thanks in advance for any help,

Izunya

Vanatru
07-16-2007, 03:56 AM
From my experience only:

Goats are generally ok......as far as livestock go. Kinda like geese in a way.

Usually benign, but with an evil streak at times.

In some of the villages I went to, the goat were territorial. If they didn't know you or knew you didn't belong there, the male goat would charge your ass and attempt to make contact with his head, and your body. I've had rams...........ok, not real dall sheep type rams, but male goats with a rack on 'em........charge me and they can hit hard enough to cause a decent injury.

Some goats are clever as can be. Not as clever as horses IMO, but clever enough to find a way out of their pastures and into trouble. Most of the goats I saw were free range and lived off the land, but with access to some limited feed. Usually pellets. I had three damn goat climb into my vehicle as we searched the house. By the time we got back they'd climbed over everything and were digging into our packs trying to get into our meal packs. Bloody goats.

Some goats are real good jumpers and can clear 3' or 4' three wire fences. Some goats can find ways to climb out of pens.

Fenika
07-16-2007, 04:08 AM
My goat experiences, in part:

Bottle fed goats can be VERY friendly. I had one jump a four foot fence (small goat too) and come running at me full tilt once I started feeding it. Said goat would let me pick it up and greet all visitors.

Goats can be stubborn as mules, but usually not as bad. My cousins and I use to haul goats around by their collars and into an old bus. We never messed with the head buck though! (At first we tried but he would twist his horns into us)

Goats can get out of almost anything. They need (or, 'need' depending on the society) shelter. They loff having something to jump/climb on.

Milk goats and meat goats are very different. You can read up on them pretty easily. If you pick a breed to loosely model your goat on (or, if it's a modern tale, just pick a breed) then you can easily develop your goat character based on what is typical for one or two breeds.
(Note, I'm not saying milk and meet are the breeds. Instead, there are 100s or more of each category. Like cattle)

Goats honestly do chew everything. Sometimes you can't get by them w/o having your clothes chewed, your pockets pillaged, and your shoelaces undone.

I *think* a goat suffering an attack would try to flee. A goat that is watching this happen, esp a dominant one, would very likely rush in to save the day.

Cheers,
Christina

Fenika
07-16-2007, 04:11 AM
PS- nowadays, bottle fed goats are very common as they have several babies and the weaker ones usually end up on a bottle. In a posh ancient society (or posh subsector), this might be done if goats are considered valuable enough to transition into pets.

I was on an island where goats ran free, but were still owned. Lots of interesting stories there. Including the time they broke my sunroof on my car. Grr.
Goats can and will fend for themselves

Parasites are a huge problem, especially when they are crowded or given a limited area.

HoosierCowgirl
07-16-2007, 04:44 AM
Goats are ruminants like deer, sheep and cattle -- I don't know if anyone else mentioned that. So they do chew cuds and do burp at times. (I milked goats in high school at the farm where I kept my horse) They grazed, ate hay and table scraps. They tasted every thing and as far as table scraps loved anything different but then after a day or two their attitude was more llike "Melon rinds? That is SO yesterday ... what else ya got?"

Some foods can taint the milk flavor.

They have two teats, not four. The cream doesn't rise on the milk like it does with cattle which makes it more digestible for many folks. They give about a tenth of what a cow does, so sometimes they are called "the poor man's dairy." I don't know how long they stay in milk, but lactation starts after birth of a kid and then tapers off as the young ones demand less.

Breeds of livestock are fairly modern so you could probably descibe them however you want -- black, white, brown, spotted, etc. At that time would probably not be dehorned.

Buck ("billy") goats STINK and can be very aggressive.

Young drunks would probably wake up the farm dog and-or rooster before the goats, and both of those are noisy and aggressive, too ;)

HOpe taht helps

Ann

Vanatru
07-16-2007, 04:49 AM
Goats are ruminants like deer, sheep and cattle -- I don't know if anyone else mentioned that. So they do chew cuds and do burp at times. (I milked goats in high school at the farm where I kept my horse) They grazed, ate hay and table scraps. They tasted every thing and as far as table scraps loved anything different but then after a day or two their attitude was more llike "Melon rinds? That is SO yesterday ... what else ya got?"

Some foods can taint the milk flavor.

Really? Do you happen to recall which ones did, and in what flavor they gave the milk?

jclarkdawe
07-16-2007, 05:20 AM
Additional facts about goats:

Big difference in sizes. You can have fully grown as little as 50 pounds to about 300 pounds. Smaller ones, especially Alpines, are good climbers and escape artists. The big ones just sort of plow through things.

They need companionship. A lonely goat will drive you through the roof. Also, goats are noisy. I could hear my wife's from a mile away (they hated me to go off on a horse ride and not take them).

Goats hate water. Think of the worst cat you know and multiply by ten. Local county fair had a trail contest where goats had to walk through water. Very entertaining, and it was usually the human who ended up all wet. By the way, goats can be used for packing.

Goats can be entertaining. Probably the cutest livestock I've ever been involved with, though personal preference enters here. Goats have different personalities, and can be a different as night and day from each other.

Depending on how well fed goats are is whether they'll try stuff. A well fed goat can be pretty fussy. Though other goats will everything and anything. Again, personality matters. Remember, just because it's green doesn't mean it's delicious. They prefer brush to grass, and if it's a plant that is important to you, it will be especially delicious.

Meat goats do not improve with age. There is a certain age limit beyond which their meat is only good for stew.

Big goats can be pretty scary. They're strong and can be insistent on getting their own way.

Hooves need to be trimmed about every eight weeks. Dogs like hoof trimmings.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Saanen
07-16-2007, 05:38 AM
Onions and other similar plants (leeks and so forth) will give milk a nasty flavor. Someone else will probably know more since I've not kept milk goats (despite my handle! I just like the word Saanen, which is of course a breed of dairy goat). I do know that milking has to be done every single day at about the same times, twice a day usually (at least in cattle) in order to keep milk production high and keep the animal from developing mastitis.

Anyway, on to what I do know about goats. They are extremely intelligent and curious, which gets them into a lot of trouble. As someone else mentioned, they're ruminants like deer, and they're also browsers like deer (unlike sheep, which are grazers like horses and cattle). My goats loved to eat poison ivy, I kid (ha) you not. They'll eat lots of weeds, bark off trees (mine almost killed a lot of wild pear trees until I wrapped the trunks and lower branches with chicken wire), anything in a garden they can reach, and fruit (mine also loved the wild pears, although so did my sheep). Since they're curious they like to sample things for edibility, which is why they nibble at clothes, paper, etc.

I had a big mean wether (castrated buck goat) I called Evil the Goat because he was truly ornery. He considered himself herd leader and would chase off any dogs or people who got into the pasture. He didn't like me much either until I rescued him from a very bad situation (long story, but he got tethered by a COMPLETE F***ING IDIOT out in the August sun with no shade and no water for TWO DAYS--no one told me where he was, and when I found him he was so dried out he could no longer even call for help)--er, anyway, he was smart enough to realize I'd rescued him and after that we had a truce. He wouldn't try and kill me when I went into the pasture and I made damn sure no one tethered him again. He even got pretty tame with me and liked me to brush him with an old hairbrush. He wouldn't have stood for any tormenting from drunks--in fact, I happen to know he chased more than a few drunks out of the pasture in his time. My other goats, though, would just have run away.

Goats do need shelter from bad weather, but depending on the breed it can be pretty rudimentary. My goats just had a space under an old chicken coop that I kept hay in, which was built on a hill so the ground sloped out from underneath it. They could all fit underneath comfortably but it was pretty open. This was in Tennessee where the winters are mild, though, and in addition to the wether (who was of doubtful ancestry but actually probably had quite a bit of saanen in him) I had a couple of Tennessee fainting goats and some Jacob sheep, both hardy breeds.

I never had a problem with parasites with my guys, but they had a pretty big pasture and there were only three goats and four sheep. I fed a little hay to supplement the pasture, and also had sheep mixture minerals available at all times and of course fresh water, but that's all. Milk goats, or meat goats being fattened, would require much higher levels of nutrition in the form of grain.

Hmm, I don't know if any of this helps. Please post if you have any specific questions! I love talking about goats and sheep. :)

Melanie Nilles
07-16-2007, 05:49 AM
I could probably look this up elsewhere, but is copper as harmful to goats as it is to sheep (can kill them in high doses, which is why you can't give sheep a cattle or horse mineral block)?

Saanen
07-16-2007, 06:10 AM
I could probably look this up elsewhere, but is copper as harmful to goats as it is to sheep (can kill them in high doses, which is why you can't give sheep a cattle or horse mineral block)?

I think so. Goats and sheep are pretty closely related. I never checked because the minerals I had were mostly for my sheep, but the goats liked them too.

I do know that goats and sheep both should have loose minerals rather than a block, since they'll chew on a block and wear their teeth down.

Chumplet
07-16-2007, 06:19 AM
I've got an old copy of Magner's Horse and Stock book, copyright 1908. It might come in handy if anyone has questions about how people took care of their livestock at the turn of the last century. It's a real eye-opener.

If you're writing a period piece and have any specific questions, pm me and I'll see if there's anything helpful inside.

ErylRavenwell
07-16-2007, 06:26 AM
Rams are so much more vicious than goats.

Tasmin21
07-16-2007, 07:12 AM
One of my mother's hired hands bought a goat to practice roping from his horse. This worked until the goat figured out he could stand UNDER the horse, and not get roped.

This is the same goat that chased cars.

Fenika
07-16-2007, 07:16 AM
Sheep- looks at copper, drops dead
Goat- fairly good tolerance

On a more scientific level- a sheep gets liver damage, jaundice, and dies from small levels of copper

I knew someone who killed 3 sheep b/c she gave her 'flock' of goats and sheep (about 10 animals total) one scoop of horse feed once a day.
10 animals, fighting over not that much copper containing feed, and 3 died.
She had one sheep left. She decides to buy the sheep and goats their own feed. She picks up ruminant pellets. Did she check if it was safe for sheep? Nope. Did I? Yep. Was it safe? Nope! Last I heard the sheep was alive (though it must have been suffering greatly).

That's my rant. Lots more on copper and sheep on the internet.

Soccer Mom
07-16-2007, 08:17 AM
Couple more fun goat facts:

Goats love to climb. Put anything in a pasture and they WILL climb on it and play "King of the Mountain."

They can be extremely silly and playful.

Goats don't have upper teeth.

Billy goats (Bucks) are the smelliest creatures ever put on earth. They work their own pee into their coats to smell attractive to the ladies. It's quite a treat in the spring.

ErylRavenwell
07-16-2007, 08:42 AM
I googled "vicious ram" and the engine returned "Ancestry of Al Gore" on top. According to the site, Al Gore's great-great grandparent, Clary Enoch, was killed by a ram while crossing a field (Edit > find> "vicious ram").

http://www.wargs.com/political/gore.html

Here, a youtube video of a ram destroying a car

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fht4iULu0w8

l_clausewitz
07-16-2007, 08:43 AM
He wouldn't have stood for any tormenting from drunks--in fact, I happen to know he chased more than a few drunks out of the pasture in his time. My other goats, though, would just have run away.

Go Evil the Goat!

BTW, does anybody know of a goot resource for ancient practices of goat-herding? A husbandry tract by a Greek or Roman writer, perhaps? Even oblique references in an ethnographic work (the ones written by the likes of Strabo) would help.

HoosierCowgirl
07-16-2007, 04:29 PM
Really? Do you happen to recall which ones did, and in what flavor they gave the milk?

No, I don't ...

With cows, DH saw wild onions in the pasture and RAN to get a spade and started digging like a Border Collie. (I think that's the last time I saw him run, about 10 years ago ;) Not only did the cows love them but the flavor was so strong we could loose a whole builk tank (100s of gallons) of milk due to the off flavor.

THe goats I milked got table scraps and yard items and I always thought the milk tasted weird. Much better with chocolate ;)

DH sold hay to owners of a commercial goat dairy. The goats received a standardized diet like dairy cattle. However according to the goats they had to have premium dairy quality alfalfa; anything less and they wouldn't eat it.

Izunya
07-17-2007, 06:24 AM
Thanks, everyone. These goats are going to be sort of in the background, but I want the details right when I mention them.

Izunya

Fenika
07-17-2007, 06:49 AM
Go Evil the Goat!

BTW, does anybody know of a goot resource for ancient practices of goat-herding?

I would suggest you consider current third world practices as a model- one's where they have no access to medicine or luxery. They would keep goats out of need, and very little fuss as labor=resource

Cheers,
Christina

l_clausewitz
07-18-2007, 06:09 AM
Well, third-world practices is not a problem--I live in a third-world country anyway, and my front hedge often gets clipped by stray goats from a passing goatherder's herd. Most of their hrding practices, however, are already quite modern--although it may just be because there haven'tbeen all that many changes in goatherding practices short of battery farming.

Tsu Dho Nimh
07-18-2007, 11:27 PM
Escape artists! They are browsers, and can be agile climbers. I've seen Mexican goats climbing mesquite trees to get to the leaves and beans.

Get your breeds correct - I read a Recengy novel once where the heroine was commenting on the floppy hound-like ears of the goats. Those are Nubians, and they weren't raised in England at that time.

Billy goats (uncastrated males) STINK! They reek of goat hormones. It's like cat-pee on steroids. And you have to keep the billy away from the nannies or their milk will have that stench.

Soccer Mom
07-18-2007, 11:33 PM
Here is a link with lots of good info about different goat breeds (http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/goats/).

auntybug
07-19-2007, 12:17 AM
I actually just came in here hunting down soccer Mom to kick her butt....

I'm surprised no one mentioned fainting goats! Since I just skimmed it may not be addressing the thread at all (thats what I do best!) but I thought they we worth the mention.

Heard of them? They scare easily and drop over and are stunned for a few seconds. They were used by sheep herders as "bait" so to speak. The wolf or whatever would then feast on them & leave the sheep alone. I thought my friend was full of it the 1st time I head about them. They had a bit about it on diry jobs once. Its a sad existence....

Sorry - you can throw me out now.

Soccer Mom
07-19-2007, 12:31 AM
:runs from auntybug:

Gotta go!

Saanen
07-19-2007, 01:07 AM
I'm surprised no one mentioned fainting goats! Since I just skimmed it may not be addressing the thread at all (thats what I do best!) but I thought they we worth the mention.

I used to keep a pair. :) They're really sweet and make good pets. They're more properly known as myotonic (I think I have that right) goats. When they're startled or otherwise stressed a tendon in their legs seizes up and causes them to fall over--at least, I think that's the cause. I never saw mine do it, though.