Photo by Lisa Bicknell
Tinkerbell is the lone Nigerian goat in a farm full of Nubians, but she’s the one who gets to eat oatmeal creme pies and animal crackers.
By LISA BICKNELL
CV&T News Editor
Slate Woods Farm in the Trapp area of Clark County is a tidy little goat commune tucked beneath some shade trees.
It was hot and humid the day I visited the farm with Robyn Arvin, who was looking to acquire a young billy goat.
The goats mostly peered at us from the shade of the small sheds scattered around the property of Kathy and Terry Jones. Separated into fenced lots containing the nannies (or does), the bucks (or billies), and the kids, the “kids” called for their “maa-a-ma” frequently.
It’s likely they are calling for Kathy, who has been raising Nubian goats for 25 years, not their biological mothers.
She still has the daughter of one of the first goats she acquired all those years ago. At any given time, she has three or four generations of the Nubians on her farm.
When they are retired as breeding stock, she keeps them until they die. “They give me their life, so I give them mine,” said Kathy.
Most of her goats have a name, and if they do, she likely remembers it.
Of all the goats on the farm, one kid on the block looks a little different. It’s Tinkerbell, the lone Nigerian goat among the herd. She’s the resident “house goat” who likes to watch TV and eat oatmeal creme pies and animal crackers.
So far, it’s been a great year for kids to be born on Slate Woods Farm.
Kathy says her 23 does birthed 60 kids this spring. They often came in multiples: twins, triplets, even two sets of quads and one set of quintuplets. Only eight of those kids are left, and one of those goes home with Robyn when we leave.
Kathy has been working with goats so long, she’s developed a breeding system down to an exact science.
The goats are artificially inseminated so Kathy knows almost to the day when they are due to give birth. Sometimes she induces their labor, so she can pinpoint down to the hour when the babies will arrive. Timing is everything when it’s very cold outside.
Once the kids are birthed, they are removed from their mothers. Kathy milks all the mamas by hand, then she will bottle feed the same kids the same milk she just got from the mother.
This process is one breeders use to prevent the development of caprine arthritic encephalitis.
This process is obviously a lot of work, so Kathy’s day begins at four every morning. She feeds the babies first from the milk she milked the previous night, and around 5:30, she begins milking the goats for the next feeding. The babies get fed three times a day, and the mamas are milked twice a day.
By the time Kathy washes up all her equipment, it’s time to begin the whole process again.
Kathy’s goats are such good milkers, that she has extra to sell for animal consumption or to crafters. She’s had dog breeders buy it for puppies, a horse owner buy it for a foal, and some folks purchase it for their own goats or sheep. She also makes goat milk soaps and lotions.
Not only does Kathy raise registered livestock, she raises meat chickens and sells eggs. The chickens are processed in a USDA facility and are also for sale.
Kathy is generous with her knowledge of goats and their care. She teaches goat education classes through extension offices and university programs and she’s eager to answer any questions that beginning breeders have.
“I have learned a tremendous amount from Kathy,” said Robyn. “She is always available to answer any questions, large or small.”
Robin met Kathy through another local goat breeder, Diane Johnson of Creek Bank farms.
Both Robyn and Johnson live on Jake’s Heavenly Hwy., and they are among the growing number of farmers who raise goats to sell as breeding stock, as meat, and to milk. Both create valued-added products made from extra milk, and they sell milk for animal consumption as well.
The information Robyn has learned from Kathy came in handy over the weekend, when twins were being born, and one was presented abnormally during labor.
“If I had not taken the class from Kathy, I would not have been able to save it,” said Robyn.
Cutline: Robyn Enright, a customer from Estill County, chooses a young billy from this year’s kids.