The Goat Keepers - Neglected goat sanctuary, Maidstone
PUBLISHED: 16:46 09 July 2012 | UPDATED: 10:36 21 February 2013
Fresh from its starring role on BBC's Countryfile, Kent Life visits Maidstone sanctuary Buttercups where neglected or abused goats are given a home.<br/><br/>Words and pictures by Barbara Meyer.
Before Countryfile put the story on its popular Sunday evening show (11 March),probably not many people knew that Kent is home to the only dedicated registered charity goat sanctuary in the UK. Or that its patron is the former Maidstone MP the Rt Hon Ann Widdecombe.
At Buttercups Sanctuary for Goatsin Maidstone there are around 130 goats which have found sanctuary after suffering abuse, neglect or have simply been abandoned. The good news is that they have now all found a loving home.
Bob and Valerie Hitch started off with rare-breed sheep as a hobby andin 1989 took two goats that had been rescued by the RSPCA. From then on goats suffering cruelty, neglect and starvation or who had been abandoned started to arrive at their farm.
Take Diesel, a pigmy goat, named by the veterinary nurses who treated him because he was covered completely in machine oil when he arrived in 2008.His condition was terrible; his hair looked greyish, one of his ears and also the horned area of his feet were badly infected. Diesel eventually recovered fully after many months of intensive care treatment and is now a very nice looking goat with a white and brown coat, and has with time overcome the breathing difficulties and other side effects of his cruel past.
While it is often cruelty and neglect that brings goats to the sanctuary, sometimes the owners simply cant cope with the animals or have underestimated the care and time they require, especially if they give birth.
Over the years Buttercups has taken on quite a few baby goats and raised them with bottle feeds in the absence of their natural mother. In 2010 Amber and Grace arrived, followed by Wilfried, Gnomio and Bernhard in 2011.
Raising baby goats has its own challenges and is very time consuming, as the young goats require a feed every four hours. Unfortunately, as the immune system of young animals is very sensitive, complications are not uncommon.
In 2010 Grace fell victim to a virus and died, but her sister Amber was fortunately not affected and can be seen mingling happily with the other goats today.
Another example of neglect is the storyof Lottie, now a five-year-old Alpine. Her owner sold the house and simply left her behind. Neighbours did their best to helpand looked after Lottie as much as they could and it was probably one of them who called Buttercups and alerted them.
Peter, one of the employees, drove all theway up to Lincoln to rescue Lottie from living between household rubbish and with only limited protection from the weather.
When she arrived at the sanctuary, hercondition was remarkably good, asidefrom the overgrown horn at her feet.
As she had lived on her own, it took sometime for her to get used to the other goatsand at the beginning you could see herlocking horns with any goat that tried to sayhello. Today Lottie is with a foster home,where she lives in a small herd of goats.
Buttercups remains fully responsiblefor any goats in foster care currentlythere are 95 foster homes, all carefullyassessed for adequate grazing space,shelter for the goats and sufficientcare provisions.
A representative from Buttercupsvisits foster homes at least twice a year toensure the goats are still in good conditionand receiving the loving care they need.
The team at Buttercups does everythingit can to help each arrival at the sanctuaryget back on the right track and to be ableto live a relaxed and carefree life.The morning starts with feeding thegoats and letting them out to the fields,then there are many other tasks suchas mucking out the stables andcleaning the food and water bowls.
Each goat is checked every day in viewof any special requirements like bathing,grooming or medical care. And of course,there are visits to the vet for medical ordental check-ups and treatment.
As well as looking after mistreatedand neglected goats, Bob organiseshusbandry courses to give goat ownersor foster carers advice on how to lookafter their animals properly.
The costs for supporting the goatssufficiently are tremendous and for thisButtercups relies completely on donationsby private and corporate sponsors.Our information panel (right) tellsyou how you can help.