03 July 2014

Goats do roam!

"The life of a goat herder is easy, the goats take care of themselves."
Eddie Murphy, Coming to America, 1988

Although 2014 is the 7th year the goats have been on the Roan Highlands, it was only my second time being lucky enough to assist in "herding" them to their summer home. And, for the record, it is alot easier than herding cats!

2014 - And they're off!

I am not a botanist, so I cannot explain the purpose & science behind this endeavor as well as the people who developed it, but in a few words, here goes: This volunteer based project was basically created to try to help preserve the grassy balds of the Roan Highlands here in TN/NC. While there are many theories concerning the development and age of these balds, the fact is that this area remains an important habitat for many rare species of plants such as the Grays Lily and  Bent & Spreading Avens. The purpose of this project is to attempt to restore the diversity & growth of these plants through use of grazing animals. One of the primary invasive plants on the balds is blackberry, which also happens to be a favorite food of goats.

And did I mention that the "kids" are crazy cute?

2013 - Taking a break on the climb up
The majority of the goats used for this project are Angoras, which are known for their fiber. You can even purchase yarn spun with their mohair! 

2013 - Baxter at Round Bald
The "lead" goat herder (Jamey) camps out with the goats during the season - although they do ask for volunteers to help out on the weekends. The other protectors of the goats have been a series of very large dogs of the Pyrenees persuasion. The original dogs were littermates Bean & Baxter. I never met Bean, but I was introduced to Baxter last year as he was mentoring the new dog. Unfortunately, this year Bigdog will be on his own as Baxter was hit by a car the week before we took the goats up. Sigh...... He will be missed.

2014 - Lyndsey gets to meet Bigdog

Truth be said, there is really not much to "herding" the goats to the top - they pretty much know the way! Since they are put on a grain diet to prevent any invasive plant seeds from reaching the fragile balds, they are quite starved for greens & sometimes have to be encouraged to keep moving. The hardest part for the goats & the herders is heading straight up the side of Round Bald. Between the steepness & the tall grass, this is typically where we get stragglers of both kinds!

2014 - Heading up to Round Bald
Once we hit the top we then follow the AT - trail north. The goats are typically  kept in temporary movable paddocks at Janes Bald & along Grassy Ridge. We stayed back with this mama & her kid, who were struggling coming up though the tall wet grass. Once they hit the trail, though, they kicked it into high gear to try to catch the rest of the flock.

2014 - The last stragglers

2014 - Everyone present & accounted for!

While the weather was a little bit cool, misty & rainy this year, there was still a good turnout of volunteers & no goats were left behind!

Overall I feel like this is a very worthwhile endeavor & hope it continues in the future. The Baatany Project is always in need of assistance & support can be provided in a variety of ways: You can "adopt" a goat for a month or a summer, help pay Bigdog's kibble & vet bill, help carry food and/or water up, or even purchase a hand knitted hat made from the hair of the Roan Goats!

Check out www.baatany.org to get the whole story. 

Now I just can't help myself - gotta end this with some of my favorite goat photos!

2013 - Not a bad place to spend the summer

2014 - My buddy Harold finally gets to check "goat herding" off his bucket list

2014 - Lyndsey really enjoyed it as well

2014 - Mama! Wait up!

2013 - Hiding in the paddock

1 comment:

  1. Hi! Thanks for following my blog. I'll be reading yours too. Those goats are really cute.