A friend asked advice on buying a milk goat. I gave the usual health-check advice, as well as suggesting that they make sure the doe is not nervous around their children. And then there was advice from others on getting one’s goat.
“That’s too expensive!” “What will you do about pasture?” “They eat everything!”
No, $75 is not a lot for a mature milk goat with a good kidding record. She’s not registered, but if they only want the goat for milk, and not to show or to sell purebred stock, it doesn’t matter. They have some acreage, and they are setting up an overhead tether for the time being; young, strong people can easily get a fenced pen together in a day. I’ve known my husband to fence a 20×50 foot pen by himself in two hours. A well-fed, healthy goat will not eat “everything.” Mine are quite choosy about what they will and will not eat in the pasture or meadow. My only advice was to pull any buttercups, as ranunculas are poisonous to some animals.
I have scared myself sleepless with reading about caring for animals. My first lambing season, I was as nervous as a new father. I have spent countless hours worried about transporting animals, fencing animals, feeding animals, delivering animals. Most of the time it was wasted energy and thought. Common sense and a good veterinary guide – I use Juliette de Bairacli Levy’s The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable, (Faber and Faber) and the rare internet search. The worst thing that has ever happened is when pneumonia started in my flock one damp spring, and I lost three ewes. Rather than risking the rest, I took the surviving animals to a friend’s farm where she could give them penicillin and isolate them until she knew if they were infected. They survived.
One of the advantages of an old farm that has been fallow for a decade is that the land is usually clean of parasites and disease, and unless chemicals were stored improperly and have leached into the soil, it is close to organic. It is a lot of work, and we are behind where we meant to be by now, but it is still a good farm and has much potential.
My friends are in a similar situation; with some work and discernment between good advice and worry-wort advice, they will have a nice little farm to see them through.