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The goop and the poop about goats

April 26, 2010|By TIM ROWLAND

When I got into this whole gentleman farmer detail, it was with the clear understanding that life would go like this:

I'd sit there with a mint julep and a fine plug of chewing tobacco in my khaki trousers (to be clear, I would be in my trousers, not the chewing tobacco) and Polo button-down, and I would be saying things such as "You there, whatever your name is, do please feed the donkeys" or "I say, old chap, the rose bush that I am beholding has a rather long thistle that I so wish though shouldst trim."

Unfortunately, the truth is that my drinks have been reduced to turnip juice, the only thing I chew is a gum that hasn't been popular since the 1920s and my wardrobe is the Schmidt line from Tractor Supply. They sell jeans for $12 a pair, and they are worth it.

I always assumed there was money in farming. That's always the way. You reckon there's money in everything, except what you are doing at the moment.

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But really, it seemed logical that the animals did all the work. A well-bred Toggenburg dairy goat, for example, would bring in $200. All I'd have to do was sit back and watch the pregnancy advance and the money pile up in my pocket.

Even better, goats have twins, which would multiply my wealth exponentially.

This logic was fine as far as it went.

Sadly, as my logic always is, it was flawed. I sort of assumed that goats -- like the welfare mothers in Ronald Reagan's anecdotes -- popped out a kid once every three days.

So I calculated my profits. I gave much away, on paper, to charity. I built a pool. I put up a new barn, installed automatic waterers and laid in a three-month supply of mint juleps.

But reality presented its problems. Being your typical male, I assumed a pregnancy was a snapshot, when in truth it is an oil painting. I never believed that a goat could sit around being pregnant for so long while producing squadoosh.

All the while, we were feeding our four mama goats an estimated $3,573 worth of hay and another $7,249 worth of grain.

But finally, the big day had come. I heard this noise coming from the pasture, and I said to my goat what I assume -- never having had any children of my own -- every husband says to his near-birth-giving wife: "Would you shut up? I'm trying to watch the game."

When I finally realized what was happening, I rushed into the field to help and was rewarded with two armloads of glop encased in what looked to me to be the shrink-wrap that you see at your supermarket meat counter.

"Oh, this could be handy," I thought, before the plastic broke and out jumped two living, breathing creatures that looked hopefully up at me, as if I could help them with their problems.

I pointed to their mom.

"Ask her," I said.

All the while, my arms dripping with goo, I was thinking about how the final selling price of these little goats would not equal what it cost us to feed their mamas for a month.

But somehow, as the wet little tykes looked up to me for guidance and uttered the first happy bleats of their little lives, the money involved was the last thing on my mind.

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. Tune in to the Rowland Rant video under opinion@herald-mail.com, on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 at 6:30 p.m. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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