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Goats are the comedians of the barnyard

July 26, 2007|By TIM ROWLAND

Whenever I visit Ag Expo, I wind up spending most of my time with the goats. Don't try to read anything into that.

The fact is, I want one. No, two. Or more. So Sunday was sort of like a shopping trip, as we strolled past pens of Alpines, LaManchas, Boers, Nubians and one Toggenburg.

The thing is, if goats were people, they would be newspaper columnists.

They think everything is funny, take nothing seriously and are prototypical wise guys. They are good at extracting themselves from tight spaces. It's said that if a fence can't hold water, it can't hold a goat.

I had three Toggenburgs when I was 14, which basically was a 4-H project gone horribly wrong. If they weren't on the roof of their house, they were on the car, or stripping leaves off of an azalea.

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Deer eat your prize shrubs because they're hungry. Goats eat your prize shrubs because it makes for a great joke.

I raised a beautiful pasture of red clover and timothy, turned the goat, Crystal, out in the middle of it. She gave it a disdainful survey, then calmly proceeded to the center of the patch where one lone milkweed poked its head up above the grass. She bit it off, and then chewed on it for about 10 minutes, staring icily at me the whole while.

She was not an animal to be told what to do.

Effectively, goats are dogs that you don't have to walk. Matter of fact, being led around is not their strength - something those who were showing their goats at the fair would probably agree with.

The dairy goats will follow you around peacefully enough, but the meat goats, not so much.

Probably this is because the dairy goats know that if they follow you they will get food; the meat goats know if they follow you they will become food.

We were keenly attentive to the judge's criticisms in the ring, as he commented on each entry, explaining what made the animal worthy or not.

Beth decided that goats ought to be the heroes of women everywhere - since desirability was associated with a thick midsection and a round bottom. If men judged women the same way, the nation's dating scene would be turned on its head.

At this point, we haven't decided whether we're opting for dairy goats or meat goats. We have two already - Pete and Eddie - but they are shaggy, long-horned and strictly ornamental. If they were not goats they would be in the Mafia. Pete, especially.

Their only other function is for amusement and as a rather guilt-free way of disposing of surplus zucchini. Until they figured out that we WANTED them to eat the surplus zucchini, at which point they lost their taste for the produce.

Dairy goats are elegant, friendly and sassy. But you have to milk them. Twice a day. Every day. Ten months out of the year.

For a male, this takes the commitment issue with females to a whole new level. This would be like having a wife who - oh, never mind.

For obvious reasons, people don't get as attached to meat goats, so they tend to be wilder and more aloof. You don't want a critter who is first in your heart to wind up first in the stew.

Yet I'm told that worldwide, goats account for something like 70 percent of red meat consumption. But this is not the rest of the world. Our meat selection is inversely proportional to the degree of animal cuteness - which, frankly, is a baby goat's chief commodity.

Pigs are born cute and grow up to be slovenly. No problem there. Chickens evolved from dinosaurs and look it. Cows - I don't know, it's hard to be cute and weigh 1,500 pounds. (By the way, mad props for the kids at the expo who named their cattle after diesel engines: "Powerstroke," "Cummins," "Duramax." I like that.)

Because of the low maintenance angle however, I'm currently leaning toward the nondairy side of the equation. It's not as if my standing with PETA could get any worse.

And when we sell the kids, I will just assume they are all going to good homes. I will thank the abattoir not to tell me any different.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on www.antpod.com.

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