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The accidental goat keeper

17 January 2017 by Rolawn

All my life I have lived on a farm. When I was a child we had a substantial dairy farm but as my parents got older they replaced the dairy cattle with various rare breed cows; the desire to have a lie-in during the morning and not get up for milking was strong! Along with the cows we had sheep, chickens, ducks, geese and even the occasional pig but never goats.

On the flip-side my boyfriend had grown up in a semi-detached house in a coastal town, he had the odd pet fish and even a few exotic pet birds, but farm animals were worlds away. I wanted to introduce him to the world I grew up in, so suggested a visit to the local auction of rare breed animals, just to look, not buy, where I could explain the fantastic range of breeds, and their distinct characteristics.

Saturday 5 October 2013, the day we accidentally became parents to a goat!

We’d wandered around the sale, first to the cows, then poultry, a quick stop at the café and then onto the sheep. We caught a glimpse of a pen of animals that were not sheep, they were goats about 20 of them, all of which had come down from a petting farm up in Scotland. I heard a man explain to the viewing crowd, he was selling them to make space for next year's kids but before we could make friends with the goats we were ushered away for the start of the auction.

Sat at the ring side we watched all the sheep being sold, Southdowns, Ryelands, Oxford Downs, Jacobs, Herdwicks and Kerry Hills. In my efforts to impress my boyfriend with knowledge about each breed we had virtually forgotten about the goats, until they started coming into the sale ring. First through was a very spindly looking black and grey boy, £20, sold! Next could have been his twin, £18, sold! Into the ring a pair of pygmy brothers, £150, sold! Then a mother and baby pygmy, £200, sold! We watched each of them go through the ring and get sold, with a few bidding wars going on. Then into the ring came a very small, very frail, very scared little white goat. I felt so sorry for the little fellow, its fluffy coat was full of burs and it was shaking with fear. The auctioneer started the bidding at £20 but no one was interested, it dropped down to £15 but still no one raised their hand. It dropped again and again and again reaching just £5. I could bear it no longer this little lonely goat needed a loving home. Without really thinking about it I caught the eye of the auctioneer and my hand went up, this caught the attention of someone else too who raised their hand but I wasn’t going to give in, I was going to win! The gavel dropped at £12, I called my name and I became the owner of the saddest, loneliest goat that I’ve ever seen. Still somewhat confused by all that was happening, I heard a voice in my ear, “did you just buy a goat?”

Geraldine about to leave the market

A very sad, lonely, little goat before he left the market.

First things first, a name was required. Many silly names were considered, not least Goat, but in the end we settled on Geraldine, yes after the ‘Good Life’. Geraldine seemed to be the perfect name, after all she was very pretty and very delicate. However, our little girl ‘sprung a leak’ and we discovered actually ‘she’ was a ‘he’! This unfortunately left us with a dilemma, what do we call him?

The obvious answer would be to just shorten the name, but a recent family bereavement meant Gerald or Gerry would have been extremely inappropriate. The collective decision was to stick with the name Geraldine, a boy named Geraldine.

A boy named Geraldine

A Boy named Geraldine.

Now that our scared little goat had a name, he needed somewhere to eat, sleep and play. You could be forgiven for thinking this would be easy when living on a farm, however, Geraldine made it somewhat of a challenge. Our fields were all designed for cows, with fences a little goat could simply walk under, so we had no choice but to put a fence up and make an enclosure specifically for Geraldine. With elbow grease, sheep netting, posts and some help from my brother, Geraldine had a beautiful new field to live in with a nice old garden shed for shelter, by some woods and a pond. Feeling rather happy with ourselves, we put Geraldine to bed with his dinner, shut the gate and headed into the house for a brew. Within a heartbeat, Geraldine was stood in our kitchen too! It turned out that we were the lucky owners of the goat equivalent of Houdini, who insisted on being within two feet of me. Now, this may sound like fun but a goat will try to eat everything, will succeed with most of it and then produce ‘raisins’ from the other end!

Geraldine’s need for social interaction also meant that we developed an unhealthy routine. Unlike cows and sheep that tend to stay in the field you put them in, our cute new member of the family decided he would go on a little adventure whilst we went to work each day. We'd have to find him, put him back in his field and attempt to make the field even more goat proof than the day before. Geraldine made us believe we had succeeded because he would stay in the field all night, until we left for work the following morning and then off he would go again. Eventually we had a breakthrough, but not before we had made the fence six-foot-high, topped with a wooden rail (so he couldn’t jump over) and a double layer of sheep wire (so he couldn’t squeeze through).

Life is never dull with Geraldine around

Life is never dull with Geraldine around.

Life with our new little friend was starting to improve. There was still a lot to learn but that was no hardship, we really didn’t mind doing anything for Geraldine because he was the most loving pet you could wish for. One of the funniest little quirks we discovered was how much he hated eating food from the floor. He would drop a carrot on the ground and then look at it with big sad eyes until you picked it up and gave it back to him. We truly loved his company and he loved ours. Unfortunately, the trees in his field weren’t so happy as within days of his arrival he had stripped them of their bark.

To give the trees a break we would take him out for walks as often as possible, he didn’t need to be on a lead because he wanted to stay close by. Occasionally, he would get distracted eating a tree or some tasty looking shrub, not noticing we had carried on walking, he’d let out a little bleat and come running after us and for the next few minutes he’d be virtually walking on our feet to stay close, until he saw the next tasty looking tree. Our neighbours really enjoyed watching a goat wandering by, they found it even funnier when the cat joined us too. We were a very happy little family.

Anyone for a walk

Anyone up for a walk?

I would love to say we all lived happily ever after but life and a goat is not that simple. Something was wrong…. both of us worked full time which meant Geraldine was being left on his own for about nine hours a day. We didn’t think this was fair. He was a very sociable goat and was very used to getting a lot of attention. We talked about it and decided that the best thing to do for Geraldine was … to get him a friend!

We started the hunt straight away for another goat and yet again we were coming up with difficulties. We couldn’t seem to find another goat that would fit in with Geraldine, so in the end we had no choice but to get TWO goats. A local old lady could no longer give her spoilt boys the attention they required, so they came to live with us and Geraldine loved them.

Geraldine taking his new brothers for a walk

Geraldine taking his new brothers for a walk.

We went from having no intention of having a goat to having three and I wouldn’t change them for the world!

Alison Mellor, Customer Service Co-ordinator, Rolawn
Photos by Graham Buckle