Eau du Goat, Or, What Is That Smell?!

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Showing off for the camera…

Goats stink. Specifically, bucks stink. Fortunately, they don’t stink all the time, but when it’s breeding season, grab your gas mask because it’s bad…really bad! It’s currently breeding season for my Kinder goats, so “buck stink” is in the air.

Meet Spock, my Kinder buck. Spock was born in March of 2019, so he’s a young boy, but he is filling out and becoming a fine looking buck. He arrived on the farm in May 2019, did his one-and-only-job very well, with four kids that arrived at the end of February 2020 (I wrote about them in a previous blog). Maybe it was because he was younger, but I don’t remember him smelling that bad last summer. Boy, was I in for a surprise when the does came into heat this year.

As you can see, Spock has a lovely beard. It usually is a beautiful grey/white/black mixture. Right now, the white and grey are a not-beautiful yellowish hue, as is his nose. I can’t think of a delicate way to put this, so here goes. His beard and nose are now yellow because he pees on himself. There you have it, folks, the secret to goat love. Urine. While a “why do goat bucks smell” search will yield oodles of information and anecdotes about stinky bucks, the short story is that bucks spray themselves to attract the does, who find it irresistible.  

(As an aside, I taught junior high and high school for 20 years. I remember Axe body spray. If you’ve ever been around a young human male who uses a product like that, I see an astonishing similarity. Some days, my eyes would be watering as the kids would change classes.)

As if this weren’t enough, bucks also have scent glands near their horns that are triggered by testosterone. The combination is a heady brew that sticks to my clothes when I walk anywhere near his pasture. When I have to enter the pasture, Spock will come up for pets and neck scratches (he is very much a friendly and calm little guy, but as with all male animals, I keep a close eye on him), leaving me to smell like buck for hours. And that’s after washing with handfuls of soap! The smell does not go away quickly.

Spock definitely thinks he’s all that. He may be all that, but all that really smells!

I am incredibly thankful that Spock is the only stinky boy I have – the Shetland rams develop an odor when their breeding season begins in September, but it is nowhere close to the near-visible cloud of goat buck smell. My first ram, Sven, had a slight musky odor to him, and my current ram Marcus, has no smell that I can notice, but that may be due to my olfactory system overloading on the reek that is Spock.

Smells are part of life on any farm. Tractors, seeds, inputs (I’m not a fan of the smell of fertilizer!), animals, plants, they all have distinct smells. Some only happen at certain times of the year, like goat breeding season or corn on a hot summer night, and some are more constant, like tractors and the wooly smell of sheep. As much as it may make me gag a little right now, I know the smell will go away once breeding season is over, and it also starts the anticipation for next spring’s goatlings. That’s worth it, but wow, does he stink.

What are your favorite/least favorite smells around the farm/homestead? Is there a smell that has stuck with you (figuratively!) over time as particularly nice (or not!)?