When we bought our first dairy goat, a beautiful Nubian named River, we had no clue. The previous owner dragged her out of the pen by the ears – long, beautiful silver ears. River’s horns had been burned off, which is a common practice for the breed to prevent injuries and accidents.
“The ears are your handles,” the woman said. “Use the ears and the tail to get them to do what you want.”
We brought River home and from the start we had problems. She had to be chased around the yard and cornered, wild-eyed, and then dragged by the ears over to the milking stand. Every morning and every evening. Not fun. Not for her. Not for any of us. She hated being touched, especially on her ears and her head. She quivered anxiously on the milking stand, often stepping off or squatting down while we tried to milk her.
One morning I said to Lyndon, “Let’s quit dragging her by her ears.”
She still had to be chased and cornered. She still had to be dragged, but we held her as gently as possible around the neck instead on yanking her by the ears. It took some time, but now she is a different goat.
When Lyndon and I walk out to the barn now, River is waiting at the fence for us. She follows us into the barn, and stands beside me, nuzzling my hand and accepting scratches on her head and ears while Lyndon milks the other goat. She gently butts her head against me with pleasure and enjoys the handling and attention that I give her.
When it is her turn to be milked, she is calm and can be led to the stand with very little force. She jumps up onto the bench by herself, and stands quietly for me while we get the job done.
River is a different goat. Kindness, gentleness, and time have worked their magic on her, and she is a pleasure now instead of a pain.
When someone tells you the way to do something and it doesn’t seem right, find a different, kinder way.