Thursday, February 21, 2013

Barnyard Speak: Understanding Bucks

It's a 2-for-1 Thursday!

This post is a mix of Fast Facts and Barnyard Speak, it contains both facts and many of the terms you should be familiar with when working with bucks.

Photo courtesy of "Storey's Guide to Raising Meat Goats" by Maggie Sayer

Buck Anatomy:

  • Beard: it's a beard. Don't over think it. Both bucks and does can have beards, but bucks often urinate on their beards to entice the females. Remember that trick next time you go out.
  • Flehmening or "the flehmen response": This also happens with many other species, both male and female. The upper lip curls back so that the smell is closer to the animal's nostrils and exposes a pheromone sensor. They do this for any new smell, but most often when guessed it...a female's urine.
Image courtesy of Böhringer Friedrich on Wikimedia Commons.
  • Scent Glands: Goats have their scent glands located behind their horns, near the top of their head. Bucks will often "claim" their humans by rubbing their head up against them.
  • Scrotum: While the first three bullet points aren't unique to bucks, this one definitely is. You know what I'm talking about. It's the visible pouch that contains their testicles.

Buck Behaviors and Equipment:

Example of a buck "blubbering". Video courtesy of Youtube.
  • Blubbering: a type of goat call or vocalization that bucks make while "in rut". It is hysterical to hear in person, it sounds a lot like a human voice saying "hey" or "what" over and over again. Just like people, bucks have different personalities and different calls. A Youtube search of "talking goats" will provide you with MANY examples. I selected one of the more PG versions.
  • Buck-in-rut:  The behavior of bucks during mating season. Bucks urinate all over their legs, beards, and chins. They will blubber/talk to nearby does, and can be extra aggressive. Farmers, even experienced ones, will often use a cattle prod or similar device to protect themselves from overly stimulated or excited bucks.
  • Buck smell: This is a very special smell distinctive to bucks. Part of it is bucks urinating on their legs and beards, part of it is just the scent glands. Fun Story: I'm a college student. I commute to school, and I feed the goats right before I leave the house. One day, I finish feeding, drive to school, and notice that I reek of buck (Mega was extra friendly that morning). Cut to me in the bathroom with soap all the way up to my elbows trying (and failing) to explain to the girl next to me that I don't have OCD, I just smell like a farm animal. File it under "sh*t that only happens to a goat farmer"!
  • Buck Rag: a cloth is rubbed on a buck's scent glands, then given to a doe to smell. If she is interested, then the farmer knows that the doe is likely in heat. It is really just a cloth rag, and is a quick and easy way for farmers with large herds to estimate breeding times/heat cycles.
  • Marking Harness: The harness goes on a buck and when he mates with a doe, the doe is marked by a crayon or ink pad attached to the harness, allowing for a better estimate on doe due dates. We don't use them, but for larger herds, it seems to be essential.
Feel like a buck expert yet? I'll make sure to link back to this in future posts so you don't have to memorize everything!

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