Shepherd Level: Advanced
A year ago today we set out with a borrowed livestock trailer to pick out and bring home our herd of goats. We have learned A LOT about goats and about ourselves in the last year.
Lesson 1: If it can go wrong it will. Less than 24 hours after picking up our goats all 6 were roaming around our 10 acres not to be seen unless from a distance or on trail cam for 10 days.
Lesson 2: The way to a goat’s heart is through its stomach. We were able to contain our herd by feeding into one area. They wandered right into our net fence trap! Goats love their breakfast in bed. And supper. You can also get a goat tamed up with some patience and sweet feed. It took only few months and all of the goats were eating out of our hand. If we want to cut the grass in the front of the property, the goats will follow us down there and are happy to eat for a couple of hours. Some goats are more “affectionate” than others and some are just plain rude by invading your personal space. Having goats that are relatively tame helps with health care and herd management. Goat horns help too.
Lesson 3: Bottle babies can be useful. We have one. She's long graduated from bottles, but we are still her Maa. She’s a pain in the neck sometimes - always under our feet, but she has come in as a huge help a few times this year when we needed a stray goat reined in. She’ll lead the herd like a champ! And she’ll do it over and over. Bottle babies are also great at calming the rest of a group that might be a little leery of humans.
Lesson 4: Goats clear land. The primary purpose of our initial herd of goats was to help us thin and clear the dense brush on our farm. They have surpassed all of our hopes for them and are a valuable tool. Sure we could have gotten the same effect quicker with a tractor, but with the goats they are “green” and their manure will help to fertilize our poor soil.
Lesson 5: Goats are very strong. Bigger is not always stronger when it comes to goats. What you think is your strongest goat will surprise you. Our largest goat is definitely not our strongest goat. And up until last weekend, what we thought was our strongest goat is probably not. A larger goat is not necessarily the strongest. A short little compact goat will give you a good workout. Goat horns, while useful as handles, do hurt. I've been tapped by them a few times just by being in the way - they do leave a mark.
Lesson 6: Have patience. While starting our second year, with hopefully 6 pregnant goats, we hope to expand our herd and sell some goats. We hope to be able to put at least one goat in the freezer for our personal consumption – because the farm has always been to sustain ourselves first – and pick the best of the best (this place is tougher than Top Gun) to stay full time. Farming success doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time. We’ve learned patience this last year.
Lesson 7: Have fun. I’ve mentioned it a time or two, I’m sure, that in order for us to fulfill our dream, become successful and to go the distance with this farm, we have to have fun. Sometimes it’s easy to forget. So, when the chores seem mundane, the work is getting hard, and the sun is baking our brains, we take a time out,sit in the shade and hang with the herd. There's always some little goat that puts a smile on our faces.//tr
In 2014 a couple of 40-somethings decided to make a change. The purchase of 10 raw, pine scrub acres along Florida's Nature Coast started it all. This is that story.