My fascination with goats began 40 years ago when I was exploring ways of living in a sustainable community. I came across goats and I fell in love with the idea of keeping them. The desire to try my hand at goat keeping just would not go away. Thereafter, the wish to be a goat keeper was lodged deep inside but my journey through life was such that the option was never quite there. Until a year ago.
Thirteen years ago, we came to Deviock and used the land to support a beef suckler herd. My first attempt to be self-sufficient in milk by keeping a Guernsey cow was halted when I was knocked to the ground by another cow when I got between her and her calf. I sustained a cracked sternum and was out of action for a couple of weeks. Once you start a pattern of milking, however, it has to be maintained every day and thus our milk production was put on hold.
That is until a year ago, when my husband, Chris, said that we should downsize the farm to make our lives easier to manage. I interpreted this as meaning we just needed smaller animals, and so with the guiding principle of ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’, we reduced the number of cows and I downsized to goats. At the beginning of September 2014, we had two additions to the farm: 18-month-old Suzie and Sarah; and two weeks later, Sybil and Sylvie – 6-month-old kids – arrived to make it a proper little herd.Chris is ‘anti goat’! His belief is that they are impossible to contain and they’ll eat everything in sight. Although I had read the books and spoken to other goat keepers, the reality takes its own mantle. The responsibility is akin to having a child. They have needed safe, draught-free but well ventilated accommodation and grazing areas with good stock fencing – and no gaps under the gate, as they are good at finding those in their bid for freedom or more importantly a tasty snack from the hedgerows or trees or my garden plants! Goats are browsing animals and they need roughage to keep their bodies warm and healthy.
On on of these occasions, Sybil got onto a hedge and worked herself along it until suddenly we saw her on the roof of a old slate barn! She climbed up and over the ridge and then neatly jumped off onto a lower roof and then seven feet down to the ground! They are extremely agile and energetic!
Back in December, my goatlings went to a billy goat and in May both girls produced twins. I’ve gone from two to eight goats in nine months: no wonder Chris is aghast! The mums stayed with the kids 24/7 for a month. Since then the kids have been separated from them overnight, and each morning I attempt milking! It’s a lot harder than the books say but I persevered and I can now get a pint from Sarah! I’ve started making cheese, using the whey in bread and the milk in my coffee. The next stage is complete weaning and then milking twice a day! I am now one step closer to self sufficiency.