Here’s how my day tends to go now that I’ve got baby goats: When the barest titch of light is in the sky my brain says it’s time to wake up. A pair of shorts and a tank top later, I’m making my way outside in the muddied Merrell flip-flops I reserve for my mornings. It's around this time I get treated to the first word I hear every day: "Nyaaaaaa!"

By the time I’ve negotiated the triple latches on the gate that leads to goat country (the back half of my yard), my feet are already dew-soaked and mud-splattered, and by now I’ve been treated to more than a few ear-splitting, caprine curse words launched at me from the pen inside the enclosure where the babies have been sequestered, mama-less for the night.

"How mean!" you might think, "How can she keep them locked up without their mother all night. No wonder they scream at her! What’s the point of it, anyway?"

To that question, I’ve cultivated what I feel is an eloquent one-word answer: "Ricotta."

Yes, let’s all recap our Food Science 101: Cheese comes from milk, which comes from the teats of lactating ruminants, which flows only when babies have been recently birthed, but which is accessible only when babies have been weaned or temporarily marginalized (overnight, in this case) so they don’t continue to "steal" the food they no longer need.

My baby boys are big eaters. They can drain an udder in five minutes flat. By contrast, it takes me about 30 minutes of relatively clumsy teat sqwooshing (while they scream bloody murder) to get maybe a cup or two less than a full half gallon. It’s tough slogging, I assure you. Especially with the vocal accompaniment. Which is why most days I quit well before I’ve gotten as much milk as I could have. Brats!

These two boys have been more work than you might expect. Sure, goats are highly precocious, so you don’t have to do much to care for them (mama does it all if you let her). For example, if they were meat goats, my time with them would have amounted to making sure they were healthy at birth, applying a band around their testicles at three weeks of age (so they drop off relatively painlessly), and calling the butcher to come get them a few months later. 

As it was, my guilty conscience won out (they are my first, after all), which is why the issue is much more complex than that. And because they’re pets, I’ve had to spend time with them every day, making sure they enjoy people. I’ve had to disbud them (see this post). And when they reached the seven to eight week mark, I had to wether them.

Wether? What’s that? Wethering is how we refer to castrating goats, and a wether is the goat equivalent of a steer. A neutered boy goat. So they don’t smell, so their meat stays more tender, or so they can live their lives as great pets, if they get lucky enough.

Problem 1: With pet goats you can’t neuter them too young, as you can with the rubber band trick on three-week-old babies that are intended for meat. That’s because their urethras might not develop like they should, making urinary stones a possibly life threatening problem in the future. (Reminds you of the problem we see with neutered cats, right?)

Problem 2: Neutering them at an older age is a pain! You have these options:

  1. Using a crushing device, which is, a) considered kinda painful, and b) requires considerable practice.
  2. Applying the band, which is considered more painful and risky at 7-8 weeks.
  3. Surgically castrating them, which can be done all kinds of ways and also carries risks (infection, mostly), but which has the benefit of being the one approach I know how to handle.

Problem 3: Electing for surgical castration is problematic when you’ve never, ever performed surgery on a goat before. So here’s what I was thinking I would do:

  1. Knock them down in the morning on my back patio using an intramuscularly injectable, reversible cocktail of drugs.
  2. Whip out a small pack of instruments and slice and dice them like I would if they were dogs.
  3. Done!

Problem is, I have a meticulous veterinary surgeon for a boyfriend (which has its pluses and minuses, I assure you).

So here’s what ended up happening: Where your pets might receive state-of-the-art neurosurgery, have their most serious cancers treated, or find their bones being meticulously teased back into place after sustaining a trauma … that’s where Fleabane and Buttonwood got themselves tutored last Tuesday on their eight week birthday (OK, so not inside the OR, but rather on the table where they do "dirty" surgeries like these). Here are the pics to prove it really happened the way I say it did:

Fleabane gets his meds — yes, that's an IV catheter (I took most pics of him, since he went in first):

Fleabane gets intubated so his rumen juices can't flow back down into his lungs when they come up (a problem with ruminant surgeries):

Prepping the area:

Dr. Wosar in action while Fleabane gets monitored (BTW, he's up at an angle like that so his rumen juices don't come up as readily):

The surgery:

Here he is recovering with some help of one of the other doctors' dogs:

Cute, right?

OK, so now I have to explain the seven-testicle Tuesday thing. It so happened that on this day, my babies’ four testicles were not the only ones on the chopping block. Dr. Wosar also removed two others from a dog after getting some urethral stones out of him, and one more from a dog whose retained testicle had turned into a nasty abdominal cancer (somehow his regular vet had removed only the external testicle a few years ago — can you say "malpractice"?).

Most vet surgeons don’t neuter anything, much less remove seven testicles on one day (this is normally the purview of general practice vets, like me). Needless to say, it was a record day for castration at Miami Veterinary Specialists.

Anyway, back to the kids: Fleabane and Buttonwood are doing great. Their incisions are looking perfect, and they immediately acted as if nothing had ever happened. Problem is, they look too good. Indeed, their fatty little scrotums look as if they still contain testicles. Which is why it’s great that I have all the pictorial evidence above to prove they’ve been castrated should anyone question it.

Which brings me to the final spot of trouble: Finding homes. I’m still working on this. So far I’ve had about five initial bites, but nothing on the line just yet. Which is why I've stepped it up. Check out South Florida’s Craigslist and you’ll find my babies. "Free to a good home," it sort of says. Let’s just hope it happens soon. Though they’re cute as can be, there’s only so much "Nyaaaaaa!" I can take on any given morning.

Dr. Patty Khuly

Art of the day by me.