June 16, 2013

It Was Time For Elvis To Go

One day, not too long ago, I headed out to the buck pasture to check on water buckets. Our big Kiko buck, Elvis, was standing by the gate. This shouldn't have been a problem, but because of his wild streak, I would always keep my eye on him and try to keep my distance. As I slid through the gate, he came up and took a swing at my leg with his head. He did, in fact, catch my inner thigh with one of his horns. It wasn't what I would call a gouge, but it did break the skin like a scrape through my clothes. That, added to a string of other things, was the proverbial last straw.

Goats have a social hierarchy by which they live, If they don't see humans at the top, they will challenge the human's relative position in that hierarchy, and even try to dominate them. Elvis, having been raised with a herd of meat goats, was rarely handled when young. At best he was friendly sometimes, curious always, but never tame. We worked on that and I thought we'd made progress. He'd sometimes let us scratch and pet him, but never for long. He was always leery, and had been doing some mock challenging ever since we got him. He did some rearing up, pushed occasionally, but never charged us. Because of all that, I took care when I entered any of the buck areas. He took advantage, however, when I had to latch to the gate.

It got to where I would never enter the buck pasture without the goat buster.

I already knew Elvis was a jumper. He jumped two fences to get to Ziggy, the result being the triplets. Not that I'm not pleased to have them, but that was supposed to be poor Gruffy's job.

Elvis had also taken to trashing testing the fences. I'd watched him hook his horns in the welded wire and pull. He managed to loosen it from t-posts in several place. One day I watched him ram the fence in a spot I'd recently fixed. Both he and Alphie, one of our two, three month old bucklings, had slipped through an opening he'd made, leaving me mystified as to how they got out. Until I discovered their secret opening in the bushes, that is; a place where we'd spliced two rolls of fencing.

Another time, Alphie, the self-appointed alarm goat, started hollering. We went to investigate and discovered that Hooper, our other buckling, was in the next door neighbor's yard! We were not only baffled as to how he got there (jumped?), but also, how to get him back, because he still wasn't letting us catch him. (This is, in fact, how he got his name. While we were trying to figure it out, we began referring to him as Hoppity Hooper, thinking he'd jumped the fence.The name "Hooper" just stuck.) It turned out that he'd slipped through another opening Elvis had made.

In addition, Elvis trashed the hay feeder Dan made for the boys, kept pooping in the mineral feeder (I know it was him 'cuz he was the only one tall enough to do it), plus knocking over the cinder block I kept in front of the mineral feeder for Gruffy to step up on. Not to mention he was constantly pushing all the other bucks around. We had to tend to Gruffy's broken scurs on more than one occasion because of it. (Scurs are the remnants of horns that grow after kids have been disbudded.) Elvis had become a real nuisance.

So what did we do? Firstly, I listed him on Craigslist. I wasn't especially hopeful about this option, because Craigslist is always overloaded with ads for bucks. Bucks, even the little guys, are hard to sell because there are so many of them. After about a month, I had one inquiry from someone who wanted a buck to breed their does who would be safe with children, but I had to tell him that wasn't Elvis. (Good luck with that one. Even Gruffy, who has a gentle and affectionate personality most of the year, is a different animal in rut. I give him a wide berth then, and never turn my back on him).

If one breeds animals such as chickens for eggs or dairy animals, then what to do with the extras is always a question. Extra females are usually easy to trade or sell. Extra males are not. From the beginning we decided we would raise goats for milk, manure, young, to trade or sell, and meat. That means the extra animals are not unwelcome.

If we couldn't sell him, we would have to decide whether to take him to a meat processor or do the job ourselves. This is the question we discussed. When Jasmine's broken shoulder never healed properly, we opted for the processor. There were emotional reasons for this, but also, we weren't ready for that yet. However, it has always been something we've planned to do eventually. It's tidier to have someone else do it, both physically and emotionally. On the other hand, there's a lot of waste. Dan hates waste.  The bottom line, however, is if our goal is self-reliance and we eat meat, then we should take responsibility for it.

In the end we got the proper equipment and did it ourselves. No photos.

Actually Elvis was never considered a permanent addition to the herd. I needed him to breed my Nubian does, and as a companion for Gruffy, I hoped, until Alphie was old enough. The breeding part worked out well, but being a companion for Gruffy didn't. Elvis was constantly pushing Gruffy around, apparently for the sport of it. Oftentimes Elvis wouldn't let Gruffy into the buck barn, especially when the hay feeder has been filled with fresh hay. Elvis did the same thing with Alphie, and then Hooper.

Goats don't like change but I doubt Gruffy or the little guys will miss him. I hate to say it, but neither do I. I think we'll all appreciate the peace and quiet.

Alphie, Gruffy, and Hooper


Sherri B. said...

I am sorry that Elvis didn't work out..But, I must say that I did enjoy this post. I laughed a bit and learned some things about goats. I had no idea that they could be so naughty, dangerous and destructive..wow, you would never know with those sweet innocent faces.

Love the photo of Alphie, Gruffy and Hooper, enjoying their new 'freedom'.

Have a lovely Sunday. xo

Chris said...

It's a tough call to make, but one of those necessary responsibilities when taking custody of a 'herd'. Favouritism to individuals who don't help the herd, makes life painful for everyone.

We've often had to weed out individuals in our chicken flocks, killing those we've raised from birth - not because we wanted to but because life for the rest of the chickens was going downhill.

A herd animal depends on the integrity of the herd. It's better to dispose of (humanely) those individuals which cause upset amongst the ranks. Still a tough choice to make, especially when you take that added responsibility of dispensing with them yourself.

I'm sure it was kinder to the many, to dispense with the one. We notice our flocks do much better when we dispense with the rogues.

Farmer Barb said...

I bought a lamb once and it came wrapped. I felt that there HAD to have been more lamb than I got. The next year, the ranchers invited me to come and learn how to do it. They had an old dining table and a big sheet of butcher paper. The knifes were old an SHARP. I got double the yield and PLENTY of dog treats. I didn't do the kill, but I will do that next up.

I had tile counter tops at the time, so I bought a big piece of John Boos counter top and had them cut it to my counter size. I could lay out a BIG animal on that thing. I like my meat and I like knowing that it is clean. From shell to table or field to table, clean is king. Good for you. Besides, you don't need strangers coming to your house looking for animals. I had a friend lose three white rams for an ethnic holiday feast because strangers had been there "looking".

Nina said...

You have to do what is best for the herd. A buck which can't be trusted for a moment is a dangerous animal. The bonus is of course that his name becomes dinner.

Leigh said...

Sherri, with bucks, one is pretty limited anyway, unless one has lots of acreage and doesn't mind the infighting. A turnover is necessary to keep herd genetics healthy. We never planned to keep him, but his personality made it easier to do.

Chris, very good points. We may face a similar problem with our chickens when the new chicks arrive. Sometimes our human "kindness" in sparing lives is quite cruel in the longrun, isn't it?

Barb, what an excellent experience. And your point about sharp knives is well worth noting!

This being our first goat, we had more waste than we'd have liked. We accepted it would be that way, for the price of gaining experiential knowledge. We'll do better next time.

It took us two, half-days for the entire project. One morning to kill and dress out. Then an afternoon a couple days later after the meat had aged a bit. We ended up with over 50 pounds of meat. I saved all the bones for broths and soup. We figure next time we'll do better.

Nina, it got to where I hated going into the buck pasture because, honestly, I didn't trust him. I have to add that we had goat sausage for breakfast today and it was very tender and tasty. His nourishing us is truly a blessing.

Rachy said...

Why do animals constantly throw up hard decision making!
I'm glad it has all worked out for you.
I like you water gun, I have something similar for the local racing pigeons who like to gorge themselves on my expensive chicken feed! x

Woolly Bits said...

I admire you for getting on with that job - I am not sure I could do it. but of course it was the right thing to do. there's no point in keeping an animal that is a danger to the herd - and even you! maybe one of the kids will grow into the "job" of being boss of the herd in time?

Renee Nefe said...

Goat sausage sounds yummy. Glad that Elvis has served his purpose. Sorry to hear that he injured you and was so destructive. I hope your other bucks didn't learn any bad habits from him. (that's what I always worry about)

Kate said...

Leigh, we have had our young, neutered males butchered, but I have heard that the meat from mature, intact males has an unpleasantly strong taste. I would be very interested to hear what you think of the meat you got from Elvis.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes things are just better when we make changes for our peace of mind and safety. I'm glad you are at peace with selling him. I have decided to sell Rose also, because as much as I love her, there is not peace out in our barn, so much constant moving to pens, pastures, and not knowing for sure if she would ever get along with them, the boys. I'm not happy about it, but doing what I must, as you did, Leigh!

Mama Pea said...

What a totally, right, intelligent, but not-so-easy decision. Darn those horns anyway! Even though Elvis was just being a buck goat who hadn't had the chance to be socialized when young, he could have seriously injured you . . . or someone else. I doubt you would have ever been able to keep him securely penned. Now you will be able to raise your remaining bucks so that you can trust them. What a difference it will make in the buck yard. Thank you for sharing this with all of us. Kudos, again, to you and Dan.

Leigh said...

Rachy, that is so true about animals and tough decisions. I love your idea of a water gun to keep unwelcome birds from the feeders!

Bettina, there's never a shortage of applicants for boss, no matter what the species! It's interesting, because Gruffy seems to have taken the two young bucks under his wing.

Renee, it was! We never know about animals, do we? I'm hoping, too, that no one else has learned any back tricks from him.

Kate, we'd heard the same thing. One thing that I picked up from the Kinder email list, is that removing the testicles immediately after slaughter helps eliminate a bucky flavor. We did that. Our breakfast sausage was wonderfully tasty and tender. We're going to try some loin steaks tonight, so I'll let you know. Elvis was 18 months old.

Pam, peace and safety are important for everyone. I know with my chickens, when things are in an uproar, laying stops or slows down.

I know you'll have no trouble selling Rose. She will likely do better in a different situation.

Mama Pea, well thanks. We always hoping we're making the best decisions, but sometimes, who knows!

Michelle said...

It sounds like you made the best decision for everyone. I know it wasn't easy, but I respect you for doing the right thing.

I have a question. Have you tried his meat yet? I am under the impression that one needs to castrate an adult male and allow some time to pass for all that "buckiness" to get out of their system before processing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Leigh...you have brought peace of heart/mind to me with your comment. Thank you, friend! Hugs!!

Leigh said...

Michelle, we'd heard that too about buck meat. OTOH, folks hunt and eat venison from deer bucks all the time. Of course the animal's diet effects the taste as well, and is probably why wild animals are often considered gamey in taste. I think that's why heavy spices and marinades are so popular with these kinds of meats!

As I mentioned to Kate, I'd learned from others to at least remove the testicles immediately after slaughter. We did that and our breakfast sausage was delicious. Tonight we'll try a different cut, so I'll have to let you know. If push comes to shove, we'll just end up with 50 pounds of sausage.

Pam, I have to tell myself that every time one of my animals is a problem. Dan and I tend to assume we're the only ones to care for them, yet there are a lot of other folks out there who love animals and take excellent care of theirs. Sometimes (as with people) it's just the right mix of personalities that's needed.

Florida Farm Girl said...

Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. And, on any kind of farm that's not always a pleasant prospect.

I hope the rest of the herd will thrive.

Michelle said...

This was educational because I've been told by some goat owners that their buck goats are never a problem like male sheep are. But your buck situation sounds exactly like my logistics with rams!

Katidids said...

Ahh, toug hchoice but glad you were able to do it. I agree on the processing, we do ouir own deer and generally have about a 1/3 over what the processersgive back. We don't mind taking the time for those extra trims etc...a lot less waste

The Stay @ Home-Gardener said...

No body and I mean No body poos in the mineral bin and gets away scott free!

Leigh said...

Sue, it's the reality of natural living. Which I guess is why a lot of folks want nothing to do with it.

Michelle, I'm guessing there is breed disposition as well as individual personality. Kikos have a reputation for being "wilder," but I think it may have a lot to do with how much they are handled. Individual personality, though. Whew, he had personality.

Katydids, I'm guessing commercial processors go for efficiency versus thoroughness, which makes sense if trying to make money and remain affordable. I find that we use things other don't, bones for broth for example, or fat for rendering. I'm guess those of us who do it at home are more thorough.

Cloud, LOL. It was annoying. Every time the minerals and kelp had to be thrown out, but I figured there was no waste because the soil can always use that plus the goat berries. :)

Kathy said...

While some bucks or rams serve us well, we farmer-folk also realize that there are those who serve in other ways...or are served. Usually with gravy.
Tough choice, but the right one. Stand tall, Chica!

Hannah said...

I've experienced a little of that goat hierarchy behavior, I visited a neighbor and was alone in her pasture with a fairly large buck and he would rear up and try to fall on me. I don't think he did that with the family.

I have a couple of 1 year old hens that are not laying, I want to do them in but haven't got the umph yet. Soon, I hope. Congratulations on having the grit to do it.

Leigh said...

Kathy, there's much to be said for being able to recognize that point. For us, it's often the uncertainty of a new task.

Hannah, goats are interesting creatures. Don't give up on your hens. I have some going into their 4th summer who take periodic laying breaks, but still give me a lot of eggs.

Anonymous said...

Commiserations of having to do a tough job in despatching Elvis. As you say, it's about taking responsibility but from personal experience I know that it's never an easy thing to do and never helped if anyone who has never had to do makes negative comments about it. I hope you get none of those. :-((

Sue said...

Love the water gun. I had friends that owned a buck for a while that they actually needed a cattle prod for. He was gorgeous, but one breeding season was enough for everyone.

With mine, I am very careful to not let the little boys do anything that I'm not willing to let big boys do (no head swinging in my direction, no demanding attention, etc). Last one that was a problem for me was the first one I purchased, and I would take my stout walking stick in with me whenever I had to enter his pen.

Enjoy Elvis!

DebbieB said...

Leigh, I'm so glad you weren't badly hurt. Everything on a farm/homestead has a purpose, and it was time for his purpose to change from leading/breeding the herd to feeding your family. I see that one of your tags reads "difficult things" and I imagine that it certainly was. I hope it becomes easier as time goes on, because as you say, you get a better yield by doing it yourself.

KT said...

I had to make a similar decision about one of my meat rabbits. I had a female I had raised from a few weeks old who never took to people, always biting and scratching. She also had zero mothering instinct and never had a litter live long enough for me to get them away from her. The final straw was when she started attacking my other rabbits and did some serious damage to another rabbits baby. After that I decided it wasn't fair to all the other rabbits to keep her around. The butchering wasn't as bad as I thought, I received help from a family friend and was happy to get 10 lbs of meat out of her (she was 15 lbs before dressing out). Sometimes butchering an animal is hard to do but necessary for the health of all the other animals.

Ellen and Adrian said...

Thank you so much for sharing, and here's to some friendlier boys! I understand why you are not including more information on the process of killing and butchering, but I'm wondering if you might point us in the direction of some of your research? A friend of mine had to put down an older doe who was suffering badly from CAE, and she bemoaned the lack of information. My books don't do much other than show where to place a killing shot and say that you can piece together the process by looking at venison butchery. I agree that it makes sense (if possible) to process animals at home. More than simply wanting to make the most out of the animal's sacrifice, I worry about the stress and fright endured by animals in transit and at the slaughter house.

Leigh said...

Anonymous, I appreciate that. I have had such comments in the past; they weren't just negative, they were downright hateful. Life is so much easier when we respect even those we disagree with. Something my mother always said often comes to mind, "if you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all."

I am thankful that my vegetarian and vegan readers are respectful like that. It only makes me respect them all the more.

Sue, I hadn't thought about a cattle prod! Excellent point about training the little ones! We start on that right away, as in no jumping up allowed, for one. It's amazing how quickly they catch on.

Debbie, having watched those bucks ram one another, they could easily kill a human. They don't even need a running start to do it. We've watched Gruffy knock other bucks down with a short burst as though shot out of a cannon.

I don't think the actual killing ever becomes easy, as in the sense of not minding or enjoying. It's a frame of mind; this has to be done. After Jasmine broke her shoulder, I learned to not get too close to any of them emotionally. Animals get sick, get injured, get killed. There are no guarantees.

KT, I think one has to live with animals to understand that. It's true that it's not fair to the others. Nor is it fair to pass such an animal off to someone else who will have problems with it. Better to harvest the meat than waste it. Tough lessons, but valuable ones.

Ellen and Adrian, CAE would be another valid reason. Unfortunately, there isn't much good information on home meat processing. Dan relied heavily on YouTube, which often just has folks who obviously don't know what they're doing.

We Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery and Basic Butchering by John Mettler, but the best resource we have is an old book published by the U.S. Dept. of the Interior (that was in 1955, when our gov was actually in the business of helping citizens.) I found it at a thrift shop for a quarter. It's entitled, Butchering, Processing and Preservation of Meat: A Manual for the Home and Farm by Frank G. Ashbrook. It covers cattle, hogs, sheep, game, poultry, and fish, but not goats. Still, it has the best information, although the B&W photos could have been better.

I just noticed that Hoeggers carries a book by Sandol Johnson called Slaughter and Preservation of Meat. I will have to order that one.

Our #1 goal is the least amount of stress and suffering for the animal as possible. That said, the proper gun is essential; goats have very thick skulls.

Anonymous said...

Leigh, that is how we have always felt too, but I know there is another perfect place for Rose too! Hugs! :)

Unknown said...

I'm finding this fascinating. Since I've never killed and dressed an animal before, and all the deer hunting around here is done with shotguns - I guess I wonder how on earth you get close enough to a goat like that to kill it?
But I'm glad to hear that he's yummy. I have no idea what goat sausage tastes like - anything like venison?

Michelle said...

As one of your vegetarian readers, I have the highest respect for how you and Dan do things. I think anyone who chooses to be an omnivore should be willing and able to face the realities of their choice. You are, and do so with care, compassion, and thankfulness for what the animals provide. Blessings on you!

Leigh said...

Pam, you will definitely find a good home for Rose!

Katy Li, all of my goats will come for something to eat! They get a bit of grain, sunflower seeds, and alfalfa pellets with their herbal wormer. All goats love their grain. They also know that a certain scoop will contain either kelp or minerals, and even Elvis would come for all those things. He came willingly for the feed pan. It also kept him distracted.

It's been a long time since I've had venison! Chevon (aka cabrito) is not gamey. Not like beef, venison or mutton exactly; it has it's own flavor. This buck turned out to be very well flavored, no bucky or strong taste at all. I think much of it has to do with what they eat.

Michelle, thank you! If it wasn't for Dan, I confess I wouldn't eat meat. It's a pity so many folks are out of touch with where their food comes from. I don't think we should ever take anything for granted.

CaliforniaGrammy said...

I can tell you that you certainly were more patient than I might have been with that mean guy. I'm sure, though, it's a hard decision to make, but that last episode of pain and suffering most likely made it a bit easier. Life goes on at 3 Acres and a Dream!

Jocelyn said...

Congratulations on taking charge of your herd and doing what had to be done. Big congratulations on doing it yourself.

This is, without a doubt, the hardest part of farming. It's certainly not my favorite. I think you did the right thing.

luckybunny said...

I can understand not missing him. My first buck tried to gore me and everyone else - and I didn't miss him either! Some just don't fit the herd and just are not meant to stay. But still a huge step in the way you processed him and dealt with it. A big step in your homesteading and I have no doubt a very emotional one despite his being a jerk. I'm glad you won't have that aggression and negativity in your herd now. It makes everyone miserable.

Carolyn said...

I put up with a nasty Nigerian Dwarf buck for over a year. Even though he didn't have horns, I'd have been pummeled if I didn't keep an eye on him. He'd challenge me & I'd even go so far to putting his sorry ass on the ground just to "show him"....although I often wonder who showed whom as I was the one tired, full of mud and smelling of goat piss.

I had an ad for him online for over a month, then when I was about to put a bullet in his head, I got a call. I traded him for two bags of whole corn. And I was glad. The man who bought him was told of his antics but said he'd "handle" him when he was finished using him for breeding. Which was fine with me as that's the exact same thing I would have done given another ten minutes.

There is no room on a farm for aggressive animals; you did the right thing.

Leigh said...

Janice, I admit we dragged our feet a bit. Besides Craigslist we put in a call to our meat processor, to be put on the waiting list. That was sort of a backup. When Elvis started trashing fences and Hooper got out, we knew we couldn't wait any longer.

Jocelyn, yes it is hard. Especially, I think, for those of us new to the lifestyle. It's not only the emotional aspect, but knowing we lacked experiential skills. It was a huge learning experience.

Donna, it's true that an aggressive bully makes everybody miserable. Hopefully no one else will try to fill his shoes!

Carolyn, good for you for giving full disclosure! That is something we're finding to be increasingly rare. Too often we've ended up with someone else's problems because all they wanted to do was get rid of it.

It seems to me that with goats, the challenging never stops. They always think they can best us in the end. It's fortunate he was a mini breed and you weren't hurt.

Sunnybrook Farm said...

We got rid of all our goats several years ago, they were destructive and just seemed to work against whatever I was doing. A huge draft horse replaced them and keeps our pasture down and is pleasant to handle.

Quinn said...

Glad the processing went well - you and Dan make a great team!
I know what you mean about appreciating the peace and quiet. When I sent an unpredictably temperamental doe back to her original herd, the atmosphere in my own little goat world sweetened overnight.
It was a tough call for me, because the doe was healthy and produced truly excellent cashmere, and I had a lot invested in her - I took quite a hit financially :( But all in all, I don't regret the decision.
On the other hand, I had to put down one of my lovely laying hens who became ill this week, and there just isn't any positive side to that kind of decision. Just responsible caretaking. Sigh.

Madness, Trouble, Squish and Milkbone said...

Tough decision and not a pleasant experience, but surely he had a better life and end than most animals that make it to our tables. Can't ask for much more.

Leigh said...

Sunnybrook, my husband would love to have a draft horse! I'm sure he'd trade all our goats in for one without a thought.

Quinn, thanks! Herd dynamics is something we don't often think about, until we have a goat that doesn't fit. Illness too, is tough, as you point out. Keeping animals is not for the faint of heart, that's for sure. So many difficult decisions present themselves along the way.

MTS&M, thanks! I know you know the predicament.