Looking back, unwittingly (that means lacking any wits at that particular moment) I think Iíve scared people off of raising goats. I know, I canít believe it either. How could anyone not want to raise goats?! And, me, the most articulate of all people, how could they have so misunderstood me? If anyone ever looked into the eyes of these gorgeous creatures, how could they not want to raise goats, in spite of what any well intentioned person like myself might say?
Anyway, Iíve had people call up and ask what they had to do to raise goats. Basically I said you had to have true grit in your gizzard. I explained joyfully some of the things us goat people do. Well, you have to worm them pretty regularly if you live in our moist wet climate. You have to give shots, and donít expect the vet to come running to your farm to give a shot to one goat. I think them days are long over of the vet holding your hand while you raise animals, at least in our area. I tell them youíll have to learn to give shots and do your own worming and most of your own doctoring.
Letís see, you have to have shelter for them. So, be prepared to build run-in sheds and barns and be prepared to clean them out. They must have fresh water every day if they donít have a creek or pond nearby. They need minerals, really good forage to stay healthy, checked for lice regularly, give some grain when the forage is not so good. Protect the little ones also from coccidia. Letís see, I also seem to remember saying to memorize the goat section in Merckís Veterinary manual and also memorize several other goat books.
I also mentioned something about stinky bucks and needing them to get the babies, and maybe keep an eye on them in case they come gunning for you. Thatís the bucks, not the babies. And, the bucks will need the same good care as the other goats, so be prepared to having to wrestle a buck down to get hold of him at times for his wormings and hoof trimmings and shots. In those cases be prepared to smell really rank, even after youíve showered several times. But, itís all in the name of goat farming, so count it joy.
I told them you have to constantly check on your goats. You canít just throw them out and then not check on them for several months. I check everyone over daily and more than once a day many times. Just Ďcause itís winter, blowing snow and ten below does not give a goat farmer the excuse to stay indoors. If anything, donít be surprised to find yourself more outside in the winter time than in the summer. Frozen water has to be busted out to let goats drink. Hay has to be put out and constant checking on everyone to make sure they are getting enough food and water to live comfortably through the cold winter months. And, again donít forget about that shelter. Donít go sticking a dog house out there for twenty goats, I tell them. A dog house isnít even enough shelter for two goats, unless they are sisters that like each other.
The great thing about goat farming, I explain to the new people who ask me, is that it makes you feel like an Olympian. You feel strong, you will do anything for your goats, you feel so tough you can hardly stand yourself, because you work hard for those goats. If you are a woman goat farmer, you may find yourself constantly belting out the old song by Helen Reddy, ďI Am Woman, Hear Me Roar!Ē Because, man, you work hard when you are a goat farmer.
While feeling tough and invigorated, you might also feel a little soggy, because rain does not deter you from the care of the goats, hot sun does not melt you, the cold does not, well, okay you can get a bit of frost bite there, but through it all, you are an Olympian. A big olí goat farmer Olympian, beat down doing chores, but you are still feeling tougher than nails as you limp along.
About at this point, the person who has called asking how to be a goat farmer has gone silent, I like to think in awe of being a goat farmer. But, I have a suspicion, they are just wondering who to call to get me help and if there is a lunatic asylum in the area and IĎve escaped.
But, I cut them a little slack on their innocence and continue on with my helpful information. Donít forget about kidding season, I say. Never trust a first time kidder. Sometimes she kids out fine and is a great mother, and other times youíll find her running around the stall screaming, ďThereís an alien hanging out of me!Ē
So, I remind them, be there. Take your vacation time from work and be there when they kid, for that matter when any of them kid. If you kid in winter time, like I do, I explain to them, you will find yourself sitting on a bucket sleeping down at the barn during kidding. You canít have cold kids, they die, I almost shout over the phone. A heat lamp is great, make sure you are kidding in a barn. Help clean the slimy little wet kid, iodine that belly button, milk the teats of the doe a little to make sure the milk plug is out, andÖÖ
Usually about that time, I hear a click. I do need to have the phone company check on that. I keep losing calls that way. How on earth can I help these possibly new goat people if the phone keeps going dead? Unless, once again, I have unwittingly chased someone else off from being a goat farmer. Naw, I really find that hard to believe. I mean look at those gorgeous goats, those big brown eyes, who wouldnít want to be a goat farmer?