HOMEGROWN Life: The Farmer's Truth About Keeping Goats

| 6/11/2012 8:53:35 AM

Tags: livestock, goats, farming, missouri, bryce oats, Farm Aid and Homegrown.org,

This time of year, there are things going on on the farm that tend to focus the mind. There are choices to be made. Which projects do you put off? Which projects do you stick with? What gets to live and what gets to die (or at least what gets to share in the benefit the farmers’ time and/or money?)

I’m in the middle of what’s best described as a “flash drought” and have been since the beginning of planting season. While spring in Missouri is always unpredictable, you can nearly always count on lots of rain to come sometime between April 1 and early June. This year, not so much.

That means I’ve had hours and hours of time standing behind the water hose for a literate farmer’s lessons learned. And I find myself, both with chores and in my thoughts, returning to the humble goat.

goat trouble
I am one of those open-minded live-in-the-moment types. It’s both a great strength and can be problematic at times. Not sure where to place that great goat adventure, but here is how it all happened. My business partner at the Root Cellar calls me up, says our goat cheese producer has a bunch of kid goats needing to be moved out the door. $10 each. And we could use them to sell at the store and for our Barnyard Box weekly meat and dairy subscription  program later in the year.

Sounds like a good idea, I say. We talk about it as a family and decide to go with it. How hard could it be, really, to let the browsers do their thing for 6 months and earn a little extra income while getting some weeds eaten and serving up local, natural meat for our customers?
goats in vw
So I drove the 14 week-old kid goats 150 miles home in the back of our Jetta Wagon in a big watermelon box. We put them in the chicken house and commenced to feeding them raw milk we got from a Jersey milker across the County. And for four weeks our lives revolved around wrestling goats and trying to get them to stay alive.

Flash-forward to now and we and our goats have worked out a sort of truce about how things are going to work. But in between it’s been a great struggle. Some points of interest include:
Constant neediness for attention from their bottle-feeding “mommies.” This means these smart creatures are difficult to fence in and will risk life and limb to leave their fences in order to follow us around the farm.

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