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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Bella in the herd

Bella was integrated more quickly than any other goat I’ve ever brought into my herd.  I usually wait a week or two to let them get to know the others through the gate, and to quarantine them in case they have parasites that could be passed on.  In this case, I saw where she lived, saw the health of the herd, knew when she'd last been wormed, and I transported her myself so I know she didn’t get chilled.

She was alone the first and second day, but was so upset and lonely that on the third afternoon I introduced her to Cassie, she being the youngest, friendliest, and probably the lowest on the totem pole.  It was so funny to watch!  Cassie reared up on  her hind legs, came back down, stretched forth her neck and touched noses with Bella.  Then she did it again, several times, as if to say, “Back off, you!  I’ll wipe up the floor with you if you try to hurt me.  Uh…are you friendly?” 

Within minutes they were fine together, and I left Cassie with her the rest of the afternoon and all night long.  Next day, since they had done so well, I introduced Leah, who is next on the pecking order.   
Leah tends to be a bit skittish, and I’m sure she was happy to be the established herd member, and therefore had a chance to be one up on this Newcomer, this Invader.  She and Bella went at it a bit more than Cassie’s introduction, but all in all it was all for show.  Occasionally Leah remembered that Bella was an intruder, but there was nothing serious about the head tossing and half-rears and head pushings that occurred. Mostly the three just ate hay and hung out, complaining loudly that they had to stay in. They stayed together for the next two days; then, the serious introductions began. 

Violet often stays apart from the rest of the herd.  Even so, I would call her Second in Command.  She’s more aggressive than Leah, and bullies her when she takes it into her head.  I removed Leah and Cassie, and brought Violet into the stall.  YeeHah!  The head butting was serious this time, and went on for at least 15 minutes, but since Bella had room to avoid her, I wasn’t concerned about leaving Violet.   Once things had settled down a bit, I brought Cassie back in.  Cassie is the peacemaker.  She’s so young and eager to get along with everyone, that she has a calming influence.  Violet was her companion when she was tiny, so they get along well.

Two days later, when all seemed to be settled, I let everyone out.  Now Beatrice was the only one left, and I wanted Bella to have plenty of room.  She surprised me.  Beatrice walked over stiffly…and Leah immediately gave way.  Not one rear, not one head butt.  Beatrice is boss and Bella knew it.  Bea didn’t immediately accept her, of course, and swung her head at her now and then, but for the most part, Bella was ignored, deigned too little of a threat to consider.
The three Sables.  It's hard to see Bella behind Violet, but she's there.
Time to scratch.
I won’t say that Bella is fully integrated into the herd.  She’s still a newcomer, and still lowest on goat hierarchy.  However, she comes and goes with the others during the day, and she and Cassie are stalled separately at night.  For now, I think that’s the best way to give her a break and still let her find her place in the herd.  That safe time will be especially important after she’s bred next week.
Beatrice, Bella, Cassie, and Leah.  Violet's at the hay.

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