Goats and Humans at Elderslie

I am glad for those in the community of Wichita and at large who care deeply for animals. I further appreciate the concern specifically for young goats; they are very dear. Here at Elderslie we see our relationship with our goats as one of the domestic relationships, like dogs, like horses, like pigs. Our life with these animals is dear; it is also something with purpose.

Dogs are separated from litter mates to induce attachment to their family, horses live in stalls alone and their primary relationship becomes with their rider. Pigs, like Wilbur, lie around eating and hope they do not become bacon, which most will. Goats (at least dairy goats) live with a small team of people who care for them and milk them. Their primary relationship becomes with their milkers, hoof trimmers, veterinarian, and others who provide care. They are part of a herd which changes each year with some animals coming in and some going out. They have to learn to become slightly interested in this human team, and these humans get to cultivate that relationship in reverse.  On a farm the milking and care team often change, people move on, jobs shift, life moves us all. Through this the goat gets a relationship with the team on the farm. We see the Get Your Goat program as excellent preparation for this. In an idyllic world our relationship with goats might be more like dogs, but dogs are pets and we make very different decisions for our pets as separate from the animals we live with like goats, cows, chickens and pigs, which are domestic, and in relation, but with a purpose that is not primarily companionship. 

The best goats we have ever had in the dairy were separated from their mothers at birth and periodically separated from their herd and cared for by my children or family for a few days and then returned to the herd. They are more docile, more accepting of handling and milking and more interested in the human team. 

We respect those who would not send their goats home with families to socialize them to the human team and those who prefer a tighter relationship or even companionship as the ideal for their animals. We at Elderslie are committed to giving these animals a good life on our farm while they are in our care; we love each of them. We have bled, sweat and lived with these animals and they are dear to us. They do have a job to do, and a part of that job involves becoming interested in the relationship they will have to the human team and we in them.

George Elder

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