The Only Way to “Go-at” It
We’ve been married for 40 years but we don’t want to be old people,” laughed Mary Dakis of Happy Tails Farm near West Plains, Mo.
“The goats are helping to keep us young,” added Don. “They are a lot of work for us retired folks, but we love it.”
Don and Mary moved to the Ozarks from Maryland about two years ago. They had friends who had visited the area and talked about moving here, and said they just decided to beat them to it.
“We moved here and knew we wanted to get involved in agriculture,” explained Mary. “We just didn’t know what we should do. Being new to ag, a neighbor who raises cattle actually suggested Boer goats.
“We did research on the Internet and liked the look of the Boer goats,” said Mary. “They are big goats that are pretty and relatively new to the United States.”
“After learning more about goats, we decided they would be an enjoyable ag endeavor,” said Don. “Mary picked up the first nine of our goats from a herd in Texas.”
“After the first group, I got even more advice,” remembered Mary. “Other producers recommend you buy goats from the same environment you plan to keep and raise them. So I purchased my next 11 goats from a local breeder.”
The First Year
Don and Mary both recall the rough first year with the goats. “It was difficult the first year because we had to learn everything from scratch,” she explained. “We had a tendency to over feed our goats. So the fall breeding season was delayed because our goats had to be put on a diet to prevent breeding and kidding problems.
“We also had a lot of trouble with illnesses,” Don added. “Goats get sick very fast and unless you know what the problem is and what you should do about it, they most likely will die. These were all things we learned by default,” he said. “Mary couldn’t stand needles, now she’s drawing the medication and giving the shots to the goats herself. That’s a big accomplishment.”
One of the best things the Dakis’ said they did to learn about raising goats was to attend “Goat Boot Camp.” It was a course offered by Oklahoma State University in Ada, Okla. It included lectures and seminars with lots of hands-on experience.
“It was a constant hands-on learning experience. When they taught you how to tube feed or medicate a goat, they also had you tube feed, draw and administer the medicines,” she explained. “So as they told you, you did it. It was three intensive days.
“And then in the evening, after 8-hour days of hands-on training, they brought in speakers and hosted seminars related to networking with other goat breeders and predator control. It was well worth the money and has helped us survive another year with a better feeling for the next round of issues.
Lessons Learned atGoat Boot Camp
One of the things the Dakis’ learned was about fencing and pasture. “We worked closely with the Howell County Soil and Conservation District to have an assessment done on our land.
“We have 30 acres of land for our goats and after the assessment, we’ve learned we can increase our herd to no more than 50 goats,” Mary said.
“We’ve also attended the Intensive Grazing School given by the University Extension here in Howell County to learn about rotational grazing and are in the process of dividing our property into paddocks for this purpose,” said Don. “Rotational grazing for goats helps keep worms and parasites to a minimum. Worms are one of the biggest concerns for goats.
“All of our perimeter fencing is woven wire and we’re working to cross fence the paddocks using five strands of electric fencing,” explained Don.
Advice from theNew Producers
“It’s important to do your research and buy from a reputable breeder,” explained Mary. “There are lots of goat groups you can join to learn about goats from current breeders. Most other producers are happy to help out and willing to be a mentor for you if you ask them.”
Happy Tails Farm is busy right now with the goats preparing for the birthing season. “We are happy to be able to breed goats that we believe will make good replacement stock for new and current breeders, as well as youth projects for 4-H and FFA.”
“We are new to this, but having a great time at it,” added Don. “If we don’t get too attached to these goats right now, we are going to have a great production farm on our hands,” he chuckled.