When I came to Australia for a holiday with my family, I had no idea that it would include herding goats! Let me explain. My sister Sue, who has three dogs, one cat, three chickens and three alpacas, wanted to add some female boer goats to the menagerie! “They’ll keep the grass down in the paddock,” she said. “And eat the brambles and weeds.” So early Saturday morning we were off to the Cathedral Mountain Ranges, a beautiful drive of about an hour and a half, to a farm selling some boer goats.
In a large, rough field thirty or so goats were grazing, about a dozen emu were padding around, and a very nasty black alpaca was eyeing us up. We braved the alpaca, who advanced on us menacingly, and spat at the farmer as we went through the gate into the field. Emus are strange, curious creatures; we were constantly aware of their booming and drumming sounds as they followed us around the field.
We looked at the goats. “Yes!” Sue and Chris definitely wanted six or eight females, “Can they be delivered?” they asked. Peter the farmer offered to loan us his livestock trailer, “You can take them today – if we can catch them!” he said. Sue was delighted. So for the next hour, Peter on a quad bike, and we three novices on foot, arms outstretched, were rounding up goats that didn’t really want to be rounded up! We managed to herd about half the goats into a small fenced run, but when we turned away, they were out again, under a broken piece of wooden fence and off up the field! Repeat performance; one quad bike, and us, herding unwilling goats down the field to the run, with a few booming emus following just behind. This time we got most of the goats into the run, and blocked the hole in the fence! The quad bike and the trailer were carefully positioned at the head of the run, with the goats huddled together at the other end. We advanced, herding the goats along one side of the run towards the trailer – until some scrambled under the wire fence in a desperate bid for freedom. We encouraged the remainder along the other side, and Sue began to choose which she wanted. Then Chris and Peter wrestled them one by one on to the trailer – steep learning curve for Chris in how to handle goats – horns and back legs – while I stood guard on the trailer gate to prevent any further escapes. Finally we had eight goats on the trailer. (One male went on by mistake, and had to be forcibly removed!) The trailer was secured, a tarpaulin tied over the top, and the trailer was hitched to Chris’s ute (utility vehicle). Then, in the ute, we followed Peter up to the house.
The house was set in the most beautiful gardens with the majestic Cathedral Ranges in the distance. We met the gardener – Peter’s mother – wow what a lady! At 94 years old she still mows the grass, and grows superb organic vegetables! We were told how on Black Saturday in February 2009 bush-fires had raged across the mountain ridge; the road was blocked and they were cut off, with no other way of escape. Thankfully the fire only just brushed the edge of their property, but 92% of the Cathedral Range State Park was burned. Now, almost four years on, the ridge is misty purple and blue in the distance, as the ranges begin to regenerate.
We towed the goats back home, and brought the trailer into the paddock. The alpacas were initially very interested, but as the goats jumped out of the trailer they kept their distance. Now, two days later the goats and alpacas are happily integrated, and the goats are munching the grass, and lower tree branches, and tree bark, hopefully the brambles and weeds, and goodness knows what else!
Sue and Chris originally wanted six to eight goats, and bought eight. However, three of the goats are pregnant, and boer goats usually have twins. So in about three weeks time (after I’ve gone home), they may well have a herd of fourteen!