Raising goats will put a spring in your stepApr 04, 2023 01:59PM ● By Colleen M. Story
Mary Story, a Boer goat breeder in Palisade, bought her first goat when she was about 8 years old.
Raised on a Holstein dairy farm in upstate New York, she was out doing chores one day when the calf man came by. In those days, the calf man was the person who visited farms to see what calves were for sale. He visited regularly, but on this particular visit, he had a baby goat with him.
Story saw that tiny white goat in the cab of the pickup and fell in love.
“She was so cute, this little baby thing!” said Story.
She was delighted to find out the goat was for sale—for $1.50. Yet, when Story checked her allowance, she only had $1.47.
When the calf man was ready to leave, little Story, with tears in her eyes, told him the problem.
“Well,” he said, mulling it over, “I think I can drop the price.”
Thrilled, Story bought the goat, whom she named Nanny.
“I was the happiest girl in the world!” she said.
Nanny the goat planted a seed in Story’s heart, and about 30 years later—while raising four kids, taking care of foster children, and working for the school district—she once again bought a new goat. This time, it was a Toggenburg she named Daphne.
Soon Story’s ranch was teeming with dairy goats. She often gave goat milk to parents whose babies couldn’t drink regular dairy milk. In 2004, however, she changed course and started down the path that would lead her to where she is today—post-retirement, raising meat goats!
A HEALTHY PROTEIN
Considered the most productive goat breed in the world, African Boer goats were raised by Dutch farmers in southern Africa in the early 1900s but weren’t brought to America until 1993. That year, the American Boer Goat Association (ABGA) was founded, and the western world was introduced to their delicious meat.
Typically considered healthier than beef, goat meat is naturally lean with less fat and provides about the same amount of protein as beef, pork, lamb or chicken.
“We switched to meat goats because we didn’t have to milk them twice a day and because they take care of their own offspring—much the same reason why you would switch from dairy cows to beef cows,” said Story.
Story bought her first pair of Boers in 2004, and though she sold a lot of them to other people for meat, she didn’t try it herself for nearly a decade. She loved her goats after all.
But soon she got tired of everyone asking her how goat meat tasted, so she separated a couple of wethers (neutered males) and made sure not to get attached.
Once the meat was prepared, she was delighted with how delicious it was.
“I couldn’t believe I had waited so long! If you raise the animal right and feed it correctly, that meat is delicious,” she said.
Now she regularly shares the meat with friends and family. At a time when prices are high and many cuts contain hormones and antibiotics, home-grown goat meat is a welcome alternative.
“It’s like the produce you grow in your own garden—much more nutritious and you know what went into creating that product,” said Story.
GOATS FOR 4-H
Story now has about 50 head on her Palisade ranch. In addition to their meat, she uses them to breed babies for local 4-H students, who raise them and then show and sell them at summer county fairs.
“They learn responsibility, discipline, how to care for an animal and even about healthy food and managing financial decisions,” Story said. “Working with farm animals makes a huge difference in a child’s development.”
One of Story’s clients, who is a teacher, told her the 4-H kids in her class were more focused and did better on their tests than those not in 4-H. Kids build life skills, grow confidence and develop independence and compassion.
Kids can learn some of the same skills when taking care of a dog or a cat, but Story said a 4-H goat requires much more.
In the summer, Story and her husband travel all over the state to see their goats shown in 4-H shows. No matter whether the kids win or not, it’s a huge accomplishment to raise a goat, train it, exercise it, bathe and trim it and then stand it up in the ring.
“We love encouraging the kids,” Story said. “Seeing them grow and gain confidence makes everything we do worthwhile.”
WANT TO RAISE GOATS?
Goats aren’t really pets, said Story. They’re farm animals that are happiest when they have a little space to live in and can breed and have babies.
Goats are intelligent, curious and like to explore. They enjoy grazing on grass, oats and alfalfa.
Story suggested learning all you can about the breed you want to raise, particularly about vaccinations because without them, goats can get very sick.
In the end, it’s about enjoying the unique personalities these animals have.
“They’re smart,” Story said. “Sometimes they look at you and they can almost talk to you.”
Perhaps best of all—they get you out and keep you active. You may not feel like “doing chores,” as Story calls it, but when those animals depend on you, you have to go out and toss hay, fill water buckets, give shots or whatever else may be required.
Those adorable faces also just have a way of making your day, she said. Things can seem difficult, but go out and spend a few minutes watching a baby goat hop around on springs for legs and you may find yourself gaining a little spring in your step as well.
To learn about Story’s goats, visit SwanViewRanch.net.