As I started out with my goat rental business, I had some pretty clear expectations. Then came the unexpected things. They weren't all negative, and in fact, the unexpected was full of positives. My goat herd is not only a green eating machine, it is also a great entertainment package that is therapeutic, educational and mesmerizing. This is more than a business to me; it is a way of life that brings a service but also brings joy to those who hire us and those who stop by to visit, watch and learn.
Almost immediately, I realized that people would want to stop and watch the goats as they "worked", but it quickly morphed into something more. As I learned how the goats reacted to the various environments, I was soon able to tell the visitors about how the goats behave in a group and what to look for as they watched the goats graze. Watching five or six goats graze is one thing but to watch 70 to 75 goats is amazing!
I became an agricultural educator, giving short educational talks, answering questions — so you need to know goats — and you need to have fun stories to share about some of your more "adventuresome" goats. We added two wethered males to the crew three summers ago, and they are the resident couch potatoes (there is a story there). They are also the token males on the crew, because we prefer to use females as this is a great way to re-condition them after weaning and to prepare them for breeding season.
My customers always get excited when they know we are coming to their property! They get a child-like excitement that many have not experienced since they were children and so they are overly excited and giddy. The anticipation is very satisfying to me. They love to watch as the goats almost fall out of my stock trailer as I open the gate to let them have their way with the weeds and brush. It is something I like to organize, to get the best thrill for all.
I generally give them a timeframe for how long I will take to set up fences. Then I will let them know when I am ready to let them out. It is almost like being the announcer in a three-ring circus. The customers love this!
For the more educated part of my job, I make sure I have plenty of information about the digestive system (the four-compartment stomach is of great interest) and gestation. Information on certain goats (a life story) is also of interest. Some customers even regularly inquire about certain goats throughout the season.
As the goats come out of the trailer, they run the perimeter of the area, tasting things as they go, as if to check out the buffet before plowing into the main course. Then the goats work as a team to bring down young saplings, vines and branches as if they've planned their attack on the brush.
My weed warriors perform a service, yet they are a mesmerizing entertainment that is also therapeutic in nature. I've watched many tired customers come home from work and start watching the goats, and as they watch, the amazement of the goats relaxes them and erases the work day troubles away. This is as satisfying to me as the nice paycheck we get as we leave.
Mary Powell is a goat rental business owner and agricultural educator with 30 years’ experience working on ranches, farms and feedyards. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from Kansas State University with an emphasis in Livestock Production Management. Follow Mary and her many misadventures with the goats on Facebook at Barnyard Weed Warriors and Ash Grove Goat Ranch or on her BarnyardWeedWarriors.com
All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.