Crofting: Too Much Advice

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.

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2 thoughts on “Crofting: Too Much Advice

  1. We found many of the books we borrowed from the library to learn about keeping laying hens, or raising steer, seemed to be a catalog of everything that could go wrong. We plunged ahead, we started keeping laying hens about ten years ago, we have never had any major issues, we have always provided good feed and fresh water and made sure that they are put away at night for their own protection, in return we have always had a plentiful supply of brown eggs. We decided to raise steer for our beef, again we never had any major issues, we had the vet out a few days after we got our first calf, he needed a shot because he had shipping fever, a common enough ailment in young calves. Again with the steer, plenty of good feed and hay, lots of fresh water, two steer will easily drink twenty five gallons of water on an average hot summer day, a shelter with clean straw and everything went fine.
    I think it is good to read all of the books, get an idea of what you are getting yourself into, talk to others who already raise animals/birds and go see what they are doing, make sure you can afford the feed, and can commit to the time involved, meaning if you want to go away for a week, someone is going to have to do the feeding/watering etc.
    Raising hens and livestock is rewarding and if you have an opportunity to do it, and want to do it, you will enjoy the experience.

    Bean

  2. An internetfriend of mine had the advice for new farmers that they should not read anything for the first year and just learn by doing. Maybe ask an experienced farmer if the animals seemed to be unhappy somehow but not read on your own. According to him books often put too many obsticles and just focus on disease and problems and in his view if you have not experienced the joy of animals you will be scared to death if you start with the books. I have broken his rul though, I have read tons about chickens and the care of chickens and although there is talk of disease and problems that has not scared me. I am more the type of person who feels more secure if I have read everything that is possible first so I know best and worst case senarios.

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