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We've Got Goats!!

Chris and I found ourselves at the National Kiko Registration’s goat conference a couple of weeks ago. We drove eight hours to Cookeville, TN for said conference. We decided a few months back to attend, and with the gas shortage, and my recovering from a very recent major surgery, we didn’t know if this conference would actually work for us. There’s still so much work we need to do on the farm, and I haven’t been much help. This is also why I haven’t put out any recent updates.

We debated on the show, he said he would bring gas cans that we could use/fill up if need be. I didn’t think that was smart in the off chance it got really bad and we needed that gas to get to work. In addition, I really didn’t want to drive the truck so as to ensure we didn’t buy any goats. But how important is this conference, and can we find another one? If we’re not going to buy a goat, is it even worth it? We knew Bohannon Kentucky Kiko’s would be there, and we loved talking with them, plus maybe we would meet others who could continue to point us in the right direction. There’s so much for us to learn. So we looked at the information they would be discussing,

*Goat industry outlook

*Nutrition for reproduction

*How to Have Crop Failure on Your Worm Farm

*Holistic Animal Health Care

* Before You Turn the Weed Eaters Loose

*New Kids on the Block

*FAMACHA, Body Condition Scoring, Aging

*Legal Issues for Goat Producers

*Why Choose Kikos

*Spotlight Kiko Sale (needless to say, this one was the highlight of the conference)

Yes, we would like to learn about all of this. So we decided we needed to network, and learn. But again, there’s so much that needs to be done… and then Chris showed me a picture of the town and I was sold. I packed crazy fast and was ready to go before he was done with farm chores.

So eight hours on the road and we spent the whole time marveling about the fact this was how we were spending our weekend. It was also a great opportunity for me to sell him on my desire for stealth camping. I think he’s coming around! Yay me!! This will come in handy for all the future goat conferences we're planning to attend.

Because we're so new to this, we went to all of the classes. Chris is the goat person, and I realized at this conference just how little I have learned about these goats since they have called our farm, home. I told him early on I didn't want to buy any more goats, we already have 21 here, it's just not necessary right now. Instead, we decided to write down all of the goats we liked, to see how much they sold for, and how popular they were. We talked to a few newcomers like ourselves, and met a few people in charge of putting this conference together. We learned really fast, no one there was from our region, and so some of our questions just wouldn't be answered because we have a major climate difference. We learned about different fencing options, something that would have really saved us money, and a lot of time for Chris. We learned about Livestock Guardian Dogs, and that a cow would be a great fit on our farm, but I've heard no on that one about 1000 times now.

But look how cute they are... it's called a Mini Jersey

After the first day, we were exhausted, and my mind was raging with all the new information we had just learned. For example, in 1991 they said about 5 million meat goats were imported to the US, in 2017 OVER 45 million meat goats were imported to the US! What?!?! I was shocked, I don't know anyone who eats goat, but I do know a lot of people who love goat milk. However, most meat goats, don't seem to produce that rich and creamy goat milk we've all come to love. So they used this analogy, goat meat is to the US meat industry as soccer is to US sports. Soccer is the #1 sport all around the world, but it's lost on so many of us here in America. (I am aware of the interest it's gaining, but it's still not baseball, Go Cubs!!). Goat meat, just like soccer, is enjoyed all over the world, basically, we're the only country not consuming it, or watching soccer for that matter. But just like soccer, that trend seems to be changing. Speaking of trends, in 2020 California, (the trend setting state) was the leader in goat inventory, and currently the price per pound is surging to $4! $4 per pound of goat meat! They said there's a major drought in our inventory around the country, which is probably attributing to the rising price of goat meat. We also have more foreigners coming to the US, and since we're alone in not consuming this meat, I can only assume they're creating this industry. How cool is this? And we got in to it at perhaps the right time, and not on purpose.

Our goat farming adventures started when I was picking up some of our breeding stock meat rabbits. I was alone for the 4 hour round trip, Chris stayed behind to finish building the cages and hutches we needed. The people we bought these rabbits from had goats, I don't know what kind, I assume they were Nigerian Dwarf's. They were running around, eating the leaves off the trees, and I just thought they would make the perfect addition to our growing farm. Since I had so much alone time on my way back home I decided to use that time to figure out how to get Chris to say yes to my next adventure. Here's how the conversation went, "Oh my gosh, they had goats, they were sooo cute, we should get goats"!! Chris, "goats"? Me, "yes". That was it, and about a week later I lost interest, because I realized just how much work the rabbits actually were. I was also realizing the idea of vacations was gone, and we travel! Chris on the other hand was busy learning about goats. He had learned about Boer goats, but had read they like to die, they were a lot like the meat rabbits and had no will to live. Then he read all about Kiko goats, and just fell in love with the idea of goats. He had contacted a local Kiko goat farm, Lozier Family Ranch, to learn more. And then two months later, on July 6th, we picked up our fist commercial breeding Kiko goats. They were still in milk, and so I got to milk for the first time ever.

This is when we officially decided to become a farm. Since picking up the goats, we went from wanting to be an everything farm, to just goats, back to an everything farm that show cased goats, and now we're back to focusing on the goats. We did end up getting Nigerian Dwarf's because they have the best milk, and they're cute. We have a lot more to learn about them as well.

The more we learned about the goats, the more we realized we needed to invest in some seriously top quality goats, because if you want to be relevant, you have to make a name for yourself, and we're aiming to have a great name. We want people to seek out our goats. So, as painful as it was, we spent the money. We purchased three new show quality Nigerian Dwarfs with blue eyes and those cute spots. One of them comes from a Dam with her milking star, that's a big deal, that I just learned about. As for the Kiko's, we decided to purchase one 100% New Zealand buckling, whose dad is gigantic and beautiful. I can see him going down in the record of famous bucks some day. We also purchased two 100% New Zealand does, one is a doeling, so we can't breed her this year. Giuseppe, our Kiko herd sire, will be able to breed this year, and we're super excited about this. His kids will range from commercial - register-able, pure bred, and 100% New Zealand Kiko. We shared this at the conference with some very experienced breeders and they confirmed we made the right choice.

By the second day of the Kiko goat conference, we were so tired we almost opted to miss out on some of the information they provided, which would have been a HUGE mistake. If day one blew my mind, day two was something that made me look at our operation in a completely different way. After the presentations, and the hands-on work shop we did, I wanted to talk to Chris about everything, but I needed to gather my thoughts. The spotlight sale was the perfect break for my busy mind, or so I thought. This sale was crazy! We learned Chris has an amazing eye for what a good Kiko goat looks like, I'm good, but he's great! Most of the goats we picked out, we couldn't afford. A few of the does sold for over $3,000! One doe sold for about $7,000! Then there was a buck that will probably go down in history for the most expensive Kiko buck sold... $10,000!

This one, I'm proud to say I picked him AND his three daughters, two of which sold for just over $5,000, and the other one, also the first one before anyone knew what was coming, sold for $3,200. The excitement was unreal. They later announced this was the largest attendance with over 300 people, the highest selling buck and doe, and possibly the highest average price per lot. The total price for all 86 goats - $184,800. So now my mind was raging, and we had an eight our drive back to Michigan. When it comes to talking business with Chris, I don't love doing it in the car, but I do appreciate having his full attention. So I didn't really want to make the drive, I wanted to discuss our options.

During our eight hour drive, we talked about the possibilities, and what exactly we want to do with this farm. We agreed the focus should officially move to the goats. The real questions we need to ask ourselves was; how big do we want to grow? Do we want to sell goat meat? Can we sell goat meat? Should we breed for ethnic holidays? Is that possible with our climate? The next day, I called the USDA, I enrolled us in a meat goat class in Oklahoma, and we walked our property. I also looked at land for sale, in case he wanted to get crazy with me, and really expand. I found out the USDA has a program called EQIP that offers loans and grants to farmers of all sorts to get started and/or fix a problem on their farm. Chris was slightly hesitant to get too excited with me and dream big, and rightfully so. I had been struggling with some major FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). I had been watching my friends in Chicago pick up where I left off, going to baseball games, getting together for parties, basically living the life I was living pre-pandemic. I just didn’t expect things to bounce back this fast. My FOMO was cured last weekend when I heard most of them planned to move to the West Coast. I have ZERO desire to go back to the West other than for a brief visit. So now I’m free to move forward with this business we started, and feel satisfied about it. It's such a relief for me! So now I’m back from my weekend of birthday celebrations and bachelorette shenanigans, and ready to focus on these goats. It’s pretty much too late to start milking our goats this summer, and we are loaded with weddings and graduation parties, but next year I fully intend to milk. I really want to create a line of goat milk soap and bath bombs. I tried my hand at cheese making last year, but it was missing that creaminess that you usually find in goat cheese, which is where the Nigerian Dwarfs come in. We have equipped ourselves with the best breeding stock we could afford, because we’re just not in the market for a $10,000 herd sire right now. I’m very confident in our potential to be one of, if not the best, Kiko and Nigerian goat breeders in Michigan!

So keep your eyes out for us, because we’re the farm to watch!

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