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Goats In Mourning

Welcome to My Green Vermont - A Blog by Eulalia Benejam Cobb.
By Eulalia Benejam Cobb

Sorry to write about dark stuff in this merry season, but today is the darkest day of the year, at least in our hemisphere, so here goes.

Yesterday, the baby goats left. They went to a wonderful farm,, and I was fortunate to be able to place them. They were almost three months old, and more than ready to be weaned. They were taking up valuable space, drinking milk they didn\’t really need. They needed to go, and I rejoiced that they did.

My two remaining goats, Blossom and Virginia Slim, are anything but pleased. Blossom is the babies\’ mother, and I know for a fact that she was trying to wean them; I\’d seen her hunkered down in a corner of the shed, hoping they couldn\’t get to her udder. Virginia Slim was more of a wet nurse. She\’s a domineering goat, but when the kids were born she could not resist them, and when they were a couple of days old I caught them nursing from her, while she stood patiently and nosed their rear-ends, just like a mother goat would.

The minute we loaded the kids into the truck, Blossom and Virginia S. began screaming, “Where are you going with those babies!” When we returned five hours later, they were still screaming. I milked them both and gave them grain, and hoped that a good night\’s sleep would calm them down.

Not a bit of it. This morning they greeted me with anguished cries “What did you do with the babies?” Milking and a bowl of grain didn\’t make a dent in their distress. “What are we going to do now that our babies are gone?” they kept saying, over and over, in a strange throaty bleating. No mother who has just deposited her first born at college could have been more upset.

These are normally almost silent goats. But boy, they aren\’t silent now. They are in mourning. They are weeping and wailing. They look at me insistently, as if I have the answer.

Which I do, of course. The answer is: “We who own you and take care of you are not vegans. We are not even vegetarians. Therefore, we need you to have babies every year so we can get milk and cheese. Your daughters, if they are lucky, will go on to have babies and make milk for other people. Your sons…let\’s not talk about what happens to boy goats. Either way, for the rest of your lives you will be separated prematurely from your children, because I cannot take care of more than a couple of goats. If we were brave and honest, we would slaughter your kids right here, and eat them, but we aren\’t, so we hand them over to others—the girls for milk, the boys for food. Please try to get used to this arrangement, because it\’s all that I can offer.”

It is night, and the goats are quiet now. I hope they are keeping each other warm. I hope they are not too unhappy. How long does it take a mother to get used to her children\’s absence? Tomorrow I will give Blossom and Virginia S. a good brushing. What else can I do?

7 Responses

  1. Et tu, Lali?I don't think I lack compassion anymore than the average person (could be wrong about that of course…) yet I find I am worn raw by the constant bombardment of unadulterated horror in modern life. Increasingly I find myself scanning the paper out of the corner of my eye or leaping towards the radio to turn it off in my effort to forstall yet another tale of horrific dismemberment or torture reaching my eyes or ears. This blog has been my oasis – until now. My heart is wrenched by this piteous tale which reminds me uncomfortably – and unfairly- of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Sigh. You are a wonderful writer and a sensitive soul; I forgive you.

  2. Oh, dear…would it help to know that the goats are feeling a little better today, not screaming as much? After all my cheery stories about farm life I felt obliged to share my awareness that even the most not-for-profit of farms is built on a substratum of animal sacrifice. I can do my best to minimize the sacrifice, but I cannot altogether eliminate it.

  3. When we raised cattle, it was always a difficult couple of days when the calves went 'on vacation to Colorado, or wherever it was the truck took them. I could hardly stand it when I would come home on sale day and Little Gloria Swanson (one of the more dramatic cows) would come charging across the hill, literally screaming 'Mew, Mew, Mew,' as if I could bring back her baby. The mothers quickly forget, as their udders shrink and their thoughts turn elsewhere.

  4. My dear Lali, I was only 10% serious! And that 10% has been seriously soothed by NellJean's story and your report on the current emotional state of the flock. I completely agree you should write about the dark and nitty-gritty side of life with livestock -it is necessary and fascinating!

  5. Sigh. It is dark outside and I'm now dwelling on bleating goats looking for babies. THat's ok though because I have a bleating baby who won't nurse down for a nap. Distraction is good.

  6. Thank you for sharing this story with us, Lali. It was sad to read, but I understand that this is part of farm life.I remember when my nephew told us about the future of the pig he'd raised from a piglet. \”We're gonna eat-em-up!\” he exclaimed.

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