By LISA BICKNELL
CV&T News Editor
When Diane Sparks Johnson was about 14 or 15, she asked for a goat for her birthday. That must have been a sign of things to come.
Years later, she married Travis, a country boy with some acreage on Jake’s Heavenly Hwy., and her interest in the loveable—and sometimes frustrating—critters has only increased.
The first goats the Johnsons acquired on their “Creek Bank Homestead” were Pygmy goats given to Diane by a former co-worker.
She laughs as she shares how she and Travis worked hard to put up some new electric fencing, but when they turned the goats out of the barn, they headed straight through the fence and across the creek.
That was just the beginning of a streak of bad luck. They bought two does and a set of twins from the stockyards, but they lost some of them to parasite-related problems.
Diane credits a course of classes on small ruminants with helping them become much more successful with their herd.
The Johnsons learned about deworming goats, how to tell good hay from bad, and how to assist when the goats are giving birth. They also learned about disease. There are a few, such as Johne’s and CL, that can be transmitted from goats to humans, so Diane and Travis are diligent about testing their herd for those diseases.
They then bought a starter herd of young Boer goats and successfully raised them up on their farm.
It also helps that they’ve established good relationships with a couple of veterinarians and a seasoned goat breeder, all of whom have provided a lot of valuable guidance.
This year, so far, eight of their does have successfully raised 20 baby goats. They’ve had five sets of triplets.
The Johnsons sell meat and dairy goats both commercially and as registered stock. Diane also sells goat’s milk soaps and lotions at the Estill County Farmers Market.
Diane decided to make some value-added products after she took a class in making soap from goat’s milk. Eventually, she also learned to make goat’s milk lotions. Besides the farmers market, she now sells the soaps and lotions at area festivals and events, as well as online.
Diane and Travis are also raising “kidlets” of their own. Seven year-old Aubree and nine month-old Ivory are usually right there with their parents as they work.
Aubree thrives on playing outside and helping with the animals. She enjoys feeding and assisting with the fencing, and she’s often seen lugging around one of the goat kids.
“I have more of an issue getting her to work inside,” Diane says with a laugh.
Little Ivory is learning early to be farmer too. Diane says she pushes the baby in her stroller to the milking shed, and Ivory sits quietly while the first goat is being bottle-fed. About halfway through the milking of the second goat, Ivory typically begins to get a little restless, and by the time Diane starts milking the third goat, she usually has to put Ivory on her knee while she finishes up.
Occasionally, Diane still finds time to feed all the critters, but it can be a challenge with the 25 pound baby on her back.
Look for Diane and the Creek Bank Homestead table at the Estill County Farmers Market beginning June 7 at 3:30 p.m., and at the Moonlight Market, which is the first Friday of each month and lasts from 6 to 10 p.m.