Monday, 11 November 2013

The Drenching

The subject of drenching the goats has been banded about since I arrived over two weeks ago but the day had finally arrived. We were going to de-worm the goats!  We were up early and ready to go as we had been instructed the night before that we would start at 8am, but waited a good hour or so for Chris to actually turn up. It was German Alex's last day and he was hatching a plan to take Heidi away with him but unfortunately Heidi did not make it through her second night and was a stiff little goat come breakfast time. RIP Heidi. 

 Now Chris and Scottish Alex had talked at length but being lowly backpackers we weren't 100% sure what it was exactly we had to do. There was talk of a wing and ushering but we weren't sure which direction anything was happening so Farmer Chris and Noel headed off into the paddocks to round up (I think the farm term is muster) the goats and we stood with purpose near the yard. And waited. Sure enough the sound of bleating and trotting hooves got louder and a large group of goats came into sight which we helped guide into the yards whilst trying our very best not to annoy Farmer Chris with our ineptness.  I'm not sure how much you know about drenching but I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. It was exhausting. My coworkers were less than fresh following the previous day's merriment, Scottish Alex particularly green, so he donned a pack of drenching medicine and the gun (a syringe type thing) and the three of us had to convey the goats to him with mouths open so all he had to do was pull the trigger. Noel was manning the gate to another pen where the newly drenched goats were to go and wait to be ferried to the other side of the farm. Simples. 

As it turns out goats are little shits. The 'pets' were fairly compliant but the majority of the herd kicked and bucked and ran and caused an unnecessary fuss. To start of with I was grabbing the goats by the horns in order to catch them but it would seem that goat necks are not dissimilar to owl necks and rotate a very long way round - much more mobile and robust than a human wrist bone anyway. Not wanting to risk a goat related wrist injury we quickly resorted to grabbing a goat by the skin, pulling it towards you, trapping it between your legs then grabbing the horns and waddling over to Alex and the medicine before kicking them into the 'done' pen. There are about 1200 goats. That is about 2400 horns. I am fairly certain that 99%of those horns bruised some part of me over the course of the drenching. The flightier beasts even jumped resulting in a fairly hard, winding, thump to the chest, one nosebleed and a broken toenail (standard). The yards were concrete and soon looked muddy, only the goats hadn't created mud and it wasn't long before we were running around in actual faeces. I'd managed to ditch the holey workboots and find a pair of wellies but these also had holes which was quite delightful. Despite the smell, the injuries and the broken nails I actually really enjoyed it as it was good to do something that actually felt like proper farming, something that needed doing and served a purpose. It also elicited a strange response from Farmer Chris...he was nice* (*almost normal, spoke to us and, yes, even smiled). He seemed to be pleased with our work and even cooked us lunch!
As the end of day one approached the goats were ferried by trailer to a pen on the other side of the farm and we ran around catching the kids so they could be reunited with their newly drenched mothers. At this point we were covered from head to toe in poo and felt thoroughly beaten up. German Alex left, the other two had to go to the abattoir and I was left to feed the kids, start a fire and put on dinner like a good little farm wife. I have now officially cooked every dinner since arriving. Unfortunately I am no Ray Mears and my fire starting skills were abysmal. I was still cold and covered in poo so gave up and put the heater on until -another shocker for the day - Chris rang to check how I was getting on and gave me fire lighting advice that WORKED. I feel like we might have turned a corner!

The rest of the drenching was done without Farmer Chris who was too tired after the first day (what with his Q fever and all) and quickly stopped being enjoyable. The remaining goats were wilder and trickier and all together more unpleasant to give the medicine too which coupled with a late night and a lot of aching muscles meant the days didn't exactly fly by. The smell of ammonia had become very pungent overnight which was another less than pleasant contributing factor. Fewer goats in the fields meant there was a lot more waiting around and there also seemed to be a lot more kids sitting around. They are a little like trying to herd cats. As we entered our third day of drenching Scottish Alex's happiness levels plummeted and he soon became an absolute pleasure to be around. He was still without Maggie and kept talking about how he needed to leave Murrabit and get back to his proper jackarooing job...a real miserable Michael. At this point we really were rounding up the stragglers and K'marie and I jumped at the chance to hop in the ute with Noel and leave the Scot to grumble alone. We found a black goat with a very new kid at the back, but being a protective mother she kept butting poor Rosalie, so we grabbed the kid and used it's screaming to get her to follow, eventually getting her in the back and sitting on her until we reached the drenching yards. She then didn't have much interest in her baby who settled down looking very tiny amongst the other kids. We drenched and ferried the goats as usual but when we went back to the pen when the sun had said the little kid had still not been collected...and so we have claimed tiny little Timmy as our own. Since he is so very small and clean we couldn't quite bring ourselves to put him in with the rest of our brood, so for now he's a house goat. By this time Alex's grumpiness had really got to me (especially after having cooked AGAIN) and he banished Timmy to the freezing kitchen because he was making noise. I took poor little lonely, rejected Timmy to my bed, had cuddles and watched Groundhog Day. Alone. And it was good.  

(N.B. I didn't sleep with Timmy into bed - he went back into the lounge for the night. I've not reached that stage yet)

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