Meet Sylvester Manor’s newest residents — baby ‘fainting’ goats

These goat twins were born at Sylvester Manor on Feb. 15. (Credit: Monique Singh-Roy)

These goat twins were born at Sylvester Manor on Feb. 15. (Credit: Monique Singh-Roy)

Say hello to Sylvester Manor Educational Farm’s two newest residents — twin baby goats — who were born there last week.

The two little ‘does’ or ‘nannies’, which is what female goats are called, came into the world last Monday morning on President’s Day.

“Copper, their mom, took real good care of them,” said Julia Trunzo, Sylvester Manor’s farm manager and designated “goat wrangler.”

“She cleaned them off and started to nurse them. They needed a little bit of help latching onto their mom at first.”

The twins do not have names yet because the Manor is planning a special naming event later in the spring. But they are already outside, enjoying the windmill field with their mama.

“Baby goats stay about two to three days with their mom in a separate area by themselves so they can bond,” Trunzo said. “This way it’s easy for the babies to catch up with mom to nurse, but it is considered best that they get out as soon as possible.”

Out on the windmill field at Sylvester Manor, a former plantation recreated as an educational farm on Shelter Island, the goats forage natural plants on their own, as well as grain and hay they are fed on the farm.

“There’s a little bit of grass poking up because we’ve had such a mild winter, so Copper is browsing out there,” Trunzo said. “The twins are primarily drinking milk now. After three or four days they’ll start to mimic their mom, nibbling on hay. They’re not getting any substantial quantities, they’re just practicing.”

As they grow, the little goats will join their mom in their role as “non-native invasive control.” That means the goats main role is to eat weeds, brush and briars, as well as any undergrowth on the property that is not native to the area. Invasive plants choke out native plants and goats are integral in feeding on those plants and clearing the area of them.

Like their mom, the twins are also so-called fainting goats. That name comes from a muscle condition known as “myotonia congentia,” a hereditary disease, which can occur in humans as well. It causes the skeletal muscles to stiffen when the goats become startled, leading them to topple over. However the fainting part is actually somewhat of a misnomer because despite falling over, the goats never lose consciousness.

So far the twins have not tipped over, according to Trunzo, because they carry a fairly weak fainting gene. She has only seen the adult goat faint a few times.

“The reason we chose that breed is because it makes them a little less sure-footed, so they’re not crazy escape artists,” said Trunzo. “Almost any other goat would have gotten out of their pen by now.”

There are plenty of adorable baby goat videos online showing them climbing on just about anything and Trunzo says that is perfectly normal.

“They’re practicing, testing their balance, their stamina, they even test each other a bit as well,” she said. “The babies are just more active then adults, that’s why they’re hopping on the rocks and logs, they’re just spunkier.”

Sylvester Manor’s two newest residents will be on view on Saturday March 12, when the Manor’s farmstand will also be open. Sylvester Manor Educational Farm is located at 80 North Ferry Road. For more information call (631) 749-0626 or visit sylvestermanor.org.