Dulcimer, photo: Crystal Lynn Lewis of Blue Tin Farm
The Buck Stops Here
words Hope Hall
photography courtesy Sunflower Farm Creamery
Anyone who thinks winter is quiet in Maine has never witnessed breeding season on a farm. The show is pure comedy. As each of our ladies comes into heat, she shamelessly flirts with the bearded object of her affection.
This year the lucky man is Old Mountain Farm Dulcimer, a caramel-and-white gentleman sporting a long beard who is as sweet as can be.
Over the winter the buck shares a stall with our neutered male pet goats Don Pedro and Rocky. After being penned up with a load of randy bucks at his home farm, I imagine he relishes this break from mega testosterone.
I usually collect him in the evening and wait to introduce the ladies until the next morning, after he has had some time to settle in. This year, May, our sweet blue-eyed doe, had other plans. She came outside in the cold rain—goats typically avoid rain at all costs, so this was a true testament to the power of hormones—and yelled at bucky through the fence. I brought her over with the boys and the attraction was instant. He ran around her in circles wagging his tongue. She stood still and flashed her baby blues at him and in minutes, she was bred. Her lust satisfied, she was then willing to go back in the barn to sleep with the doelings and the other mamas for the night. By morning she was done with him. Like a middle-school student, the crush had come and gone like a rainstorm, and by daybreak grain was infinitely more important than any goat man.
Bucks make insane noises to impress the goats they most desire. Does lift their upper lip in a flirting smile (goats have no teeth on top so it looks a little crazy) when they like the way the buck smells. Go Go in particular likes to lick the buck’s face and rub up beside him. Moonspot actually hums to the buck when wooing him.
One day the buck will appear to only have eyes for Nora, following her around obediently until the next day, when Olive comes into heat and his heart’s desire shifts course once again. This soap opera unfolds 23 times over the coldest months, until everyone is sleepy and content and we send him to another farm down the road to work his magic on a new herd.
At least two goats are usually bred within 24 hours of the buck’s arrival, and something about them changes almost instantly. While all the other goats go crazy trying to get his attention, those who are bred first lie around with smug looks on their faces.
With the buck’s work done, our herd of mostly pregnant goats snuggle up on especially cold days in family groups, sometimes three generations in one heap. Because each goat can bear as many as five kids, come April we will likely have nearly 50 babies hopping around the barn!
For now, they grow wider and slower every day. On sunnier days, they parade into the field—at least as far as we shovel for them—and soak up the winter sun.