Guess what? It’s rut! That means it’s breeding time for us goats and sheep. It also means that if you have studly bucks and rams on your farm, you should be extra careful this time of year.
See, I’m a really sweet and laidback guy, but some bucks and rams get testy during rut. Mom says that’s because we’re “testosterone-driven beasts.” It doesn’t sound complementary, but it’s true—not only of us but of other kinds of intact male livestock, like stallions, boars and bulls. Sometimes when we’re thinking of pretty females of our own species, we stop behaving like we usually do and go into sex overdrive. That’s especially true of rams.
A few weeks ago, one of Mom’s friends was in a pasture with her big Bluefaced Leicester ram. He charged her, knocked her down and then continually bashed her. A neighbor drove by and saw what was happening. He grabbed a plank and held off the ram until Mom’s friend could get away. Her doctor said she had a sprained shoulder, a broken and dislocated carpal bone with ligament tears, a chipped radius, three cracked ribs, badly bruised knees, and solid bruising from her shoulder to her hip on the left side of her body. She could have been killed!
Bucks in rut can be dangerous, too. Mom knows a man who raced to his truck as fast as he could when his big Boer buck gave chase. The man dove in and slammed the door. When the buck crashed into the door with his horns, he hit the truck so hard that he caved the door in and shoved the truck 4 feet to the side.
These aren’t terribly isolated incidents, so whenever you go into a pasture or pen with a ram or buck—even if he isn’t in rut—be careful! Don’t turn your back and don’t let him get between you and a pre-planned escape route. Remember: Even sweet and gentle intact males sometimes react out of character. Kerla and I are pussycats, but Mom never takes us for granted.
Mom’s even more careful with our rams because a friend’s ram once knocked her down and beat her up. Mom always carries her shepherd’s crook when she’s out among the fellas. She knows that a sharp rap to the nose dissuades most aggressive rams. But don’t hit their foreheads! To a ram that mean’s you’re responding to their challenge and you want to fight.
Something to remember is this: You should never play fighting games with ram lambs or bucklings. Never push on their foreheads or shove them around. Their fighting behavior might be cute when they’re wee little guys, but it teaches them that it’s OK to tussle with humans. They store that in their memories as they grow up.
Mom likes our rams to be sweet and tame, so she often scratches their chins. They raise their heads and sigh with contentment. Rams lower their heads before charging. A ram that is conditioned to raise his head when he’s with humans is much less likely to charge them.
And here’s a trick about goats that you might not know: If an aggressive buck ever threatens you, don’t panic. Instead, reach out and grab his beard, then yank. Ow! Once you have his attention, hold onto his beard and move to safety, leading the buck by his beard. It works!