Thursday, December 3, 2009

Join us for a visit with Margaret Hathaway

When most of us fell in love with goats or goat cheese or mohair or whatever, we just moved to the country and bought a few goats. Yeah, we had a few surprises along the way, but in the end, it all sort of worked out. However, Margaret Hathaway and Karl Schatz decided to do things a little differently. They fell in love with goats when they lived in New York City, and although they did like goat cheese, they wanted to fully explore the goat world -- meat, fiber, packing, even the Chicago Cub's Curse of the Billy Goat -- before deciding exactly what kind of goats they wanted. So, they quit their jobs in 2003, put all their worldly possessions in storage and started a year-long exploration of goats across the United States. Their first book, The Year of the Goat (which I reviewed on the blog last year) was published two years ago, and it chronicled their journey from NYC professionals to nomads to goat farmers.

Their second book, Living with Goats, was published last month. Margaret describes it as "the book I wish I'd had when I first became captivated by these animals." (Margaret is the writer, and Karl is the photographer.) It covers all the basics of goatherding: housing, fencing, feeding, breeding, raising kids, health, goat milk, goat meat, and a final chapter on other uses for goats, like fiber, packing, and showing. Lists of resources round out the book, including supplies and equipment you will need, breed registries, equipment suppliers, and other books about goats.

We first met Karl and Margaret when they visited our farm in the spring of 2004, which she wrote about in Chapter 14 of The Year of the Goat, and there are a couple pictures of us in their new book. I asked Margaret if she'd join us on the blog today, and she agreed. She'll be checking in today to answer your questions, and she has also generously agreed to give away an autographed copy of each book to two lucky readers. So, if you're interested in winning either a copy of Year of the Goat or Living with Goats, just leave a comment and let us know which book you would like to have. It's okay to say both, but you can only win one, and you have to leave your comment by midnight central time Friday. Winners will be chosen randomly and posted Saturday.

There are a few questions I've been wanting to ask Margaret myself, so I thought I'd take this opportunity ...

Deborah: After visiting goat farms all over the country and discovering all the different uses, why did you ultimately decide on dairy goats and why Alpines?

Margaret: When Karl and I were traveling, our favorite breed changed with every visit. We'd meet someone who raised Boers or Cashmeres or Saanens, and we'd get caught up in their enthusiasm for their animals. Especially when goats are well cared for and in great condition, it's easy to fall in love with any breed! We ultimately decided to raise dairy goats because I wanted to experiment with cheese making. We also wanted our farm to be a small, integrated homestead, and to do that, it was essential to have at least one milk-producing animal. (Lately, I've been lobbying for a dairy cow, too, but that's a whole other story....) We chose Alpines because their coloring and markings vary so much--I love that each goat has its own look. That said, we did add a Saanen doeling to the herd this spring, and one of our does is half Boer--we fell in love with her before we noticed her ears!

Deborah: What has been your most memorable moment so far in your life with goats -- good or bad?

Margaret: I think the most memorable moment with goats, for me, has been delivering our first kid. Our younger daughter, Beatrice, was only two weeks old, and Karl had just gone back to work from his paternity leave, when we heard the commotion in the barn. The doe was still pretty slight, so we weren't even sure that she was bred, and suddenly I was in the barn with an infant strapped to me in the baby wrap, my 22-month-old daughter, Charlotte, propped on a bale of hay, and a kidding kit, a couple of goat handbooks, and a big stack of towels! During the whole birth, I completely identified with the doe because my own labor was so fresh in my mind. I kept involuntarily pushing when she had contractions! The scene was total chaos--Charlotte cheering on the mama goat one minute and crying hysterically the next, Beatrice needing to nurse part way through, me wondering what on earth I was doing trying to juggle so many babies. Thank goodness it was a smooth delivery! Karl made it home a few minutes after the kid was born, so we were able to clean him up (of course it was a buckling) as a team. But it was a wild morning!

Deborah: Can you ever see yourself going back to life in the city?

Margaret: No, I really can't. I love the energy of cities, and I like to visit big cities at least a couple of times a year, but the farm is our home. The whole rhythm of our life is agricultural now--from the goats to the poultry to the gardens and orchard. We enjoy the work, and the feeling of satisfaction that we get from eating food we've grown or raised ourselves. This Thanksgiving we roasted our own turkey, mashed our own potatoes, served our own fresh and aged cheeses and some chicken confit and turnip pickles for appetizers--it was truly something to be grateful for, and it was wonderful to share the fruits of the homestead with our guests. I love that our daughters understand where their food comes from and are so comfortable with animals. Managing the whole menagerie can be tricky sometimes, but we wouldn't trade it.

Deborah: It doesn't sound like you live out in the middle of nowhere like we do. Can you tell us a little about where your farm is located?

Margaret: Our homestead is in southern Maine, about half an hour's drive from Portland. By day, Karl is the director of Aurora Photos, an international stock photography agency that's based in Portland, so when we were looking for property, we had to be within reasonable commuting distance. Because we're in such a densely populated part of the state, our ten-acre farm is ringed by subdivisions--we're a little island of agriculture in a sea of McMansions. We live in a farmhouse with an attached barn that was built in 1901, and we've been gradually rehabilitating the barn and the property for agricultural use, adding pens, stringing fence, tilling the garden and pruning the orchard. It's amazing to be able to bring life back to what once must have been a bustling farm! And despite the crowing roosters and the occasional turkey slaughter, our neighbors seem to get a kick out of our farming adventures.

Deborah: Did you always see yourself as a writer, or did you start thinking about it after you became interested in goats?

Margaret: My parents are both writers and they teach in an MFA program, so writing is kind of the family business! I did work on a lot of writing projects before--including a couple of ghost-writing projects and a (terrible) novel that I was working on when we lived in New York--but I think the goats helped me to find my writing voice.

Deborah: Will you continue writing? Do you have plans for additional books?

Margaret: Yes, I will continue writing and I do have plans for more projects. Right now, I'm working on some essays about life on the homestead and I'm blogging on our web site, I'm also planning a book project about life on the suburban homestead and how we're trying to find a balance between our agricultural life and being good, relatively normal neighbors. I'm not sure what shape the book will take, but it feels like a natural next project.

Okay, now don't be shy. If you have a question about goats, traveling, memoirs, or writing, post it in the comment section. And if you'd like to win one of her books, be sure to let us know before midnight Friday.


Sharon said...

Very cool.

I'd love a copy of The Year of the Goat.

Margaret said...

Good morning! It's a stormy day in Maine, and I'm just in from the barn, where the goats are pretty grouchy. As much as it makes the goats grump, I have to admit that I love blustery autumn weather. Looking forward to chatting with everyone!

Angela Rountree said...

How fun!!!

I'd love a copy of Living with Goats.

Abiga/Karen said...

Hi, Is it a personality thing to be able to make the goats submit and be milked? My daughter's goat just did not like anyone to milk her and never co-operated so we gave up. She was a first time milker. Would love to have Living with Goats to learn as much as I can! I can't wait till we can try milking again, now the hard part getting them bred this time. Blessings.

Mary Lou said...

want to thank you so much for taking the time to be on deborah's blog today--was wondering how many goats do you have,what are the breeds,and do you have help with the chores or do you do them alone-thanks again---hope you have a great day--would love a copy of Living with Goats

Birgit said...

Ooh, ooh ... Living with Goats (since that is what I want to be doing in the next year or two).

How many goats did you start out with and did you get them right away, or wait until some time after you were all settled onto the farmstead?


Margaret said...

Sorry it's taken me a bit to reply--while I was feeding my (human) girls their breakfast, a woman stopped by to barter for some milk and cheese. We're not an inspected dairy, so we can't legally sell our milk, but we do trade (this woman once gave us a filet mignon of a moose that she'd shot!). Anyway, I'm back!

Abiga/Karen: how long did you try milking your daughter's doe? We've found that the first few weeks of milking can be awfully challenging. In our barn, I seemed to be able to get our goats to relax much more easily than my husband at the beginning. (Maybe it was because I had already had experience as a lactating mammal!) For the first month, I did all the milking, but gradually the goats let Karl try his hand. We feed our does while they're on the milk stand, which keeps them occupied. And at first, we just resigned ourselves to the fact that there would be a lot of hooves in the milk pail! (We fed the milk to our laying hens, who can't get enough of it.) Good luck with breeding! Another thing we've tried, when our does are about to give birth, is to put them on the milk stand and just pretend to milk (put our hands on their teats, but don't squeeze) while we're feeding them--we find that it gets them used to the process.

Anonymous said...

This looks like fun!!

Okay, mine's a little silly, but Deborah said anything!!

I own four working Nigerians. I have one doe that loves to attack dogs. She came from Antiquity Oaks and Deborah told me a story of how this doe (Beauty) got into fights with her dog when she was little. So I always thought it was just her.

However, another goat lady (Togg owner) told me that all goats hate dogs and that my other three goats are the strange ones. Have you found this behavior to be true or false?

Also, do you know which Dairy breed can produce the most milk per body weight? I always get asked this!

I too would like to win a copy!!


Margaret said...

Hi Mary Lou--thanks for thanking me, but I should be thanking you--this is such fun! We have a small herd of 7 Alpines, though one little buckling won't be sticking around through the winter. Of the six we'll be keeping, we have two wethers that Karl has taught to pack (mostly they just keep him company on walks in our woods), two 3-year-old does that we're milking, and two new doelings that were born this spring. We just bred our older does and they both seem have settled! Chansonetta, one of our older does, is half Boer, but we were there when she was born and we'd fallen in love with her before we discovered that! One of the new doelings is a Saanen, and already she's quite a bit larger than the other, who's an Alpine. We don't have help with chores, unless you count our daughters (ages 3 1/2 and 19 months), but we find that with a herd this size, we can split things up pretty well. We milk by hand and Karl usually does morning chores, and the girls and I do them in the afternoon. Our older daughter, Charlotte, has been able to milk a goat since before her last birthday!

Anonymous said...

We have been talking of having two goats on our small homestead, mostly for milk. I'd love to win a copy of Living with Goats.

Thank you for sharing - such great information!

Tara said...

Holy Goat! You are my hero!! This is exactly what I've been dreaming of lately. We fallen in love with goats this past year. A friend of ours has a tiny farm about a mile from us (we live in a subdivision). She lets me be the morning milker for her two goats. I love the goats, their personalities, and the fresh milk. We are country people at heart and cannot wait to move to some acreage and run our own homestead. I have so many questions, but for now I'll just ask - what's your best advice for someone like me who can't have a herd of their own right now, but wants to start learning and moving forward with this lifestyle? I'm need to get both books, so I'd love to win either one!

Anonymous said...

Whoops! Didn't see that we had to say which book we wanted to win. :)

Please put me in the drawing for the Year of the Goat book!


KimS said...

Margaret, I'm curious as to whether you visited any Kinder goats on your travels. We'll be getting "back" into goats, this coming year, & I'm enamored with them. As I'm sort of a smaller person & 98% of the goat care will be mine, I think their size added to their milk / meat production sounds like a good combination. I'd love a copy of Living With Goats!

Margaret said...

Sorry, again for the delay. We had a crayon-on-the-wall/time-out situation. Never a dull moment! The girls are over at a friend's for a couple of hours, and the house seems incredibly quiet. In answer to your questions, Birgit, we moved into our house in the winter when I was three months pregnant with our older daughter, and by summer we had 4 goat kids, eleven laying hens, one rooster (who should have been a laying hen), and a new baby! We were so eager to jump into homesteading, that we did it all at once. It worked for us because the critters got established before the baby arrived, and since we started with goat kids, they were really just interesting pets at that point--they only needed to be fed and brought in and out of the barn. We were able to modify our barn pretty quickly, turning a corner that has outside access into a chicken coop, and changing a few things in an old horse stall for the goats. We bought portable electric fencing to contain the goats, which we continue to use. If you're starting with a doe who's already in milk, you might want to get established on the farmstead first, just so there aren't any surprises. (Aside from the normal goat mischief....)

Margaret said...

Hi, WorkingGoats4! I haven't found it to be the case that goats hate dogs--in our herd, the goats aren't in love with our dog Godfrey (he can be kind of a pest), but they certainly don't mind going for walks with him. He's not a working dog, so he's only with them when we're all together, but they've never been aggressive with him. Maybe a gentle butt if he gets too frisky (or licks an udder, which he's been known to do), but nothing we'd worry about. And working dogs and goats usually seem to live in harmony and even develop a bond. I can see goats disliking strange dogs, since they might see them as predators, but not a familiar one. As far as breeds that produce the most milk per size go, that's a tricky question. Nigerians, obviously, produce a lot compared to their body size. But I think in general it has more to do with individual mammary structures than with breeds on the whole. Every time I think I have it figured out, something comes along to disprove my theory (an Oberhasli who produces 18 pounds a day, for instance!).

BJ Gingles said...

Good morning. Your story sounds fascinating. How did your families react when you told them of your proposal to study goats for a year? What were you both doing previously? (These questions may be answered in your book.... so if I win I'd like "Year of the Goat") What is your main focus in your current lifestyle... ie sustainability, control over your food supply, simpler lifestyle, or a combination of those or others etc?

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the response! We have Dalmations that get to go out in the barn when it's time to do chores. If Benny (the male dog) chases the goats, Beauty will stalk him! She stares right at him and runs!! Benny never gets him though. And then sweet little Morgan (female dog) comes in and gets hit! Case of wrong place wrong time thing I guess!

Thanks for the all of the responses. Not being a breeder nor a milker, I never know what to say when people ask about milking! Thanks!


Margaret said...

Hi Tara, I love your enthusiasm! I think my biggest piece of advice as you're thinking about homesteading is to do a lot of research. It sounds like you're on the right track--especially getting the hang of morning milking! In our travels, we saw a lot of different goat operations, and one thing we learned was that goats can adapt to a variety of situations. There are a lot of "right" ways to raise goats, and the more you investigate before you actually have animals in your care, the easier it will be to find the best system for you. It's also very helpful to find a goat mentor--either in your local community or via the internet--whose management methods are similar to what you envision for your own farm. Good luck!

Connie Peterson said...

Hi, Margaret (and Dorothy, too). My sister got me linked to your page and I really enjoyed reading about your books. I am 65 and have a replaced knee that doesn't allow me to bend. I have figured out how to do all the stuff so that I can go back to milking (cow or goat) but my husband is also handicapped (broken neck - healed - that doesn't allow him to do much physical work), so my dreams of owning / milking a goat or a cow is pretty much one that won't ever happen. I used to have goats and cows and miss them very much.
The only way that dream could happen is if we won the lottery and could afford to hire someone to help with the necessary fencing needed - we have 6 acres so have the room - not the fence or the barn or anything else necessary for happy animals.

I would love a copy of the Year of the Goat so that I can learn more about all the lovely goats I love. If I could have a goat of my own, I would probably get an Alpine - one of the colored ones.

Thank you for all your help to those lucky enough to have (or get) goats.

Margaret said...

Hi kstrating, it's wonderful that you're getting back into goats! No, we didn't get a chance to visit any Kinder farms while we were traveling, but they seem like a great option. And maybe they're the answer to WorkingGoat4's questions about milk/body size ratio!

Margaret said...

Hi BJ! Before we left on our goat adventures, I was a manager of the Magnolia Bakery, a bake shop in Greenwich Village that's known for its cupcakes. Before that, I had worked in book publishing, but quit to write a novel (and then needed a job to pay my rent...). Karl was the online picture editor for Time Magazine's website. When we announced our plans, our families were a little incredulous, but very supportive. Being writers themselves, my parents saw our goat quest in literary terms from the beginning, but Karl's parents (an accountant and a physical therapist) were a little more skeptical. Now, however, they're all delighted that we're farming, and they love helping with projects. I think they especially love watching their granddaughters grow up on a homestead. (You're right, some of that is in The Year of the Goat!) In terms of our focus on the farm, I think it's really a combination of everything that you mentioned. We've pretty much stepped out of the American food system--we grow and raise about 60% of our food, including all of our dairy, eggs, and poultry, and we buy the rest of our meat from farmers we know. With very few exceptions, we avoid buying prepared foods, so we can trace the origins of almost everything that comes to our table. We're trying to live and raise our children in an intentional, sustainable way, and while sometimes it's a little overwhelming, it's always gratifying.

Margaret said...

Dear Connie, thanks for sharing your story! We actually know a number of people who milk their goats on elevated stands so that they don't have to bend their knees. That doesn't solve the problem of fencing or the rest of the infrastructure, but it's an interesting option we've seen on a couple of farms. I hope you and your husband continue to be healthy, and (of course) that you win the lottery!

BJ Gingles said...

Margaret, I visited your website and got a bit more of your background that answered most of my questions, except the reaction of your folks (and friends) and your current focus.

I have been a laptop farmer for quite some time now with more real world experience in beginning gardening (container mostly). I do dream of one day getting a farm of my own with chickens and goats (they seem more do-able than cows) and maybe a fiber animal or two such as angora rabbits or sheep.

For now my husband is quite content with the vegies I produce and is less sure of the animal dreams. He is definitely interested in controlling our food supply though to keep out the gmo's and drug tainted meat, so I think he will eventually see the wisdom of a homestead.

I am interested in your journey to where you are now (understanding, of course, you are still on the journey).

BJ Gingles said...


You posted as I was writing....No need to answer more except that I am still fascinated by your story. I would love to homestead and drop out of the standard food system as it is now. I am beginning on the path and it is nice to see someone who has travelled it ahead of me.

Margaret said...

Hi again, BJ, have you thought of starting with a couple of laying hens? Around here, we jokingly refer to them as "gateway livestock." They're relatively quiet and low-maintenance, and there's nothing like fresh eggs to whet a person's appetite for more. Depending on where you are in the country, there are also a lot of CSAs that do meat shares, which is a nice way of stepping out of the system without having to step into the barnyard.

Claire MW said...

Hi Deb & Margaret,
What a treat to read your blog today! Having recently finished reading "Year of the Goat," I'd love to be entered in the drawing for the new book! Perhaps oddly, I think the story about Panzer was my favourite part of the book, and I got all teary when he died. We now have 2 angora goats, 2 Nigerians, 2 pygmies and 1 mini Nubian. They are all such fun and full of games.
I have a question about our angora buck. He has never pooped properly. He is on the same feed and deworming as all our others, who all make nice little normal goat pellets. Val makes a big wet blob, sort of like a horse. We've had him tested for CL, Johnes, etc and nothing showed up. He is a good weight, but his back end is always really awful and messy. Any suggestions on what else I should check? We are using him with the pygmies in an attempt to have our own pygoras since I am a spinner.
Thanks for the visit Margaret, and thanks to you Deb for sharing a wonderful guest on the blog today!

Deborah Niemann said...

Hi everyone,
Thanks for joining us this morning! It's been busy around here - online, as well as the real world Antiquity Oaks, today.

Abiga/Karen - If you're dam raising kids, some goats don't like to be milked as long as they have kids on them. Once the kids are weaned, they usually settle down in a week or two. We've probably had about 50 different milkers here, and we've only had one that didn't settle down. We sold her to someone who knew about her issues, and they took all kids away at birth and never had a problem milking her.

Claire -- Panzer's story got me all teared up too! My guess about your angora buck is that he might have some sort of nutritional deficiency, since he's growing fiber, unlike the other breeds. Knowing nothing about angoras, though, I'm not sure what it would be. I'd suggest investigating copper though, because I know my NDs will get a coarse coat and lose color if they get deficient. Maybe Margaret learned something about angora's special needs in all of her travels.

Margaret said...

Hi Claire, I'm so glad to hear that you enjoyed The Year of the Goat, and that you liked the part about Panzer. He was a strange, special guy. Wow, that's really weird about your buck. If you've already tried giving him an electrolyte solution and dry hay (instead of browse or any grain) for a few days, my advice would be to call the vet, but since it sounds like you've already done that, I'm interested to hear what the vet thought.

Abiga/Karen said...

Thanks for the the advice Margaret and Deborah! We never weaned the babies so maybe that was a problem. We would separate them at night and then milk the mom in the am, then let them back in with the babies. When would you wean the babies and then do you have to keep them separate all the time? One of our does did not like to be touched up until delivery even though we kept at it. In labor she wanted our touching and then after it was like ok go away now and don't touch me ever again. One of her babies is just the same now. They like to be petted but don't touch their udders or tail areas. I guess we might have to work more with them too. It is so neat to read all these comments and answers.

Deborah Niemann said...

Abiga/Karen -- Goats should not be weaned before two months. I try to keep bucks on mom for three months, if I'm keeping them. I leave does on "forever" if I'm keeping them, and I separate at night, like you were describing. Personality is definitely an inherited trait, and if a goat doesn't have the personality for our system, we don't keep her.

Something Margaret said in her first book was that it will take you five or ten years (sorry I don't remember the right number) to get the type of herd you want that meets your needs, and that's what we're seeing now in our herd. We've pretty much bred the kind of goats we want in terms of personality, teats, and -- well, I always want more milk, so we're still working on production! But personality and teats were a huge issue for me in the early years, so we culled heavily if a goat didn't meet our needs in those two areas. Now that we've got a great group of does with nice, easily milked teats and great milking personalities, we're working on production.

Teri said...

Hi Margaret and Deborah!

My husband and I have both read Year of the Goat, but we'd sure love to win the Living with Goats book. We live a very similar lifestyle out in Oregon with our small daughter, chickens, pigs, five Alpine goats...

My questions for either of you(or anyone else on the blog!):

We'd really like to maintain our animals' health through natural/herbal products, methods. But I've had a hard time finding resources and information about such things. Do either of you have any resources you'd share, and do either of you practice regular herd/flock health maintenance with herbs or other natural remedies?

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Hi! I would like to win a copy of "Year of the Goat." It sounds familiar from your posts of last year. My question for today is: How were you able to publish your novel? I also have "a really bad novel" about NYC when I was in my 20s. Still have hope for it!

Denise said...

Hi. Not wishing to be anonymous, I would like to win a copy of "Year of the Goat." Also, how did you get it published?

momanna98 said...

When you use the word "cull", do you mean just sell, or do you actually mean kill? Just wondering what you did with all the extra goats who aren't good enough to keep.

Margaret said...

Hi Teri, it's nice to hear from you again! I'm afraid that I'm not very helpful on the subject of natural remedies. It's an area that we're interested in exploring, too, but at this point we're still using the wormer that our vet recommends. Does anyone else have good resources?

Margaret said...

Hi Anonymous and Denise! My terrible novel was never published, thank goodness! I think it was good to get it out of my system, and it was great practice to get into the discipline of writing, but I'm glad that it never went out into the world. As far as publishing The Year of the Goat went, I sent a preliminary proposal for the book to the woman who is now my agent, and she liked the story enough to help me craft it into the proposal that went out to publishers. It was sold as a proposal (rather than as a full manuscript) and I was given about a year to write the book. It took another year for the book to come out, which is pretty standard, since it has to go through several layers of editing, then layout and printing. It feels like a whirlwind of deadlines, but the process actually moves pretty glacially: we left NYC in 2003, the proposal sold in 2005, and the book didn't come out until 2007.

Lori said...

Goat lover here, and I would love a copy of either book. I am also going to add them to my Christmas wish list!

momanna98 said...

Oops, forgot to say I'd love a copy of that book. :-)

Michelle said...

I've always loved goats even though I have Shetlands now. Long ago, I had two different Saanens as pets, plus a pygmy for my husband. I would LOVE to win "Living with Goats," maybe I will again someday! Now, back to reading this blog post....


Ah ha!! 38 comments so far. Looks like a lot of people want one of the books. They sound wonderful. I'd love either. Thank you for the amazing gift, Margaret.

BJ Gingles said...

Margaret, thanks for the tips. I am working on my husband to try and get him to accept chickens. We live on 1/5 an acre but I still can find room for a coop and run that would suit. I think, in time, I will have my chickens. We would have to move for any other livestock so I am saving all my wants to get the place of my dreams, just enough acreage to be sustainable.

I have a lot of homework to do first though.

Deborah Niemann said...

Teri -- We tried Hoegger's herbal dewormer four or five years ago, and it seemed to work at the time. However, it doesn't work any longer for us. I've read that parasites don't get resistant to herbal dewormers, although I don't see why not. They certainly become resistant to chemical dewormers. I've started using Molly's, and it seems to work. I've also tried DE and Basic H, with mixed results. The Basic H definitely works as a fly repellent, so if an animal ever gets injured, you can spray that on the wound to avoid fly strike (maggots).

Momanna -- "Cull" just means to eliminate an animal from your herd. In our case, we sell them. Not good enough for us doesn't mean that they aren't good enough for other people. Goats with teats that are too short for us generally went to people who machine milked, so size didn't matter to them. I know someone who bought a finished champion and then returned her because her teats were too short for her to milk, although the original owner had no problem milking her. Obviously that doe was beautiful in many ways; she just had short teats, which are only worth 4-5 points (out of 100) on the scorecard. That's why I recommend that people buy goats from a herd that has similar goals. I bought a "cull" from that same breeder, because her emphasis was on show, although she had some excellent milking lines in her barn. Five years later, that doe is my best milker and brood doe, but she was last every time she walked into the show ring. I could go on with examples, but you get the idea -- not everyone defines a "good" goat the same way.

CattyJackie said...

I too live in southern Maine, it was a beautiful warm day after all.
I would love to have a couple of goats on our land. I've always wanted to be able to make my own goat cheese and it would be wonderful to have the fiber. I would love to win either book, they both sound wonderful. Thank you

Anne said...

Year of the Goat was very inspiring to me and I read it at a very difficult point in my life. I had built a barn and acquired a few Nigerian Dwarf goats, but couldn't qualify for a construction loan so I was homeless and lived in a tent, in my van, in motels for 10 months. Held tight to my dream of farm living. Now have a 24 x 32 home built by a dear friend(mortgage free). First kids due this spring. I want to play with cheesemaking. Also have chickens and 2 alpacas. It's not easy on a waitress's wages..I'm not rich, but my life is. Just want to say your book Year of the Goat helped me to keep the dream alive! Thankyou so much! Would love a copy of Living with Goats.

Heather said...

So glad that Margaret is your guest on this blog. Loved "Year of the Goat" and would love to win the second book.

Margaret said...

Hi CattyJackie! Wasn't it a glorious day? It was 64 degrees at our place and all the critters were a little disoriented (me included). If you're ever interested, we do home cheese making workshops at the farm--we'll be posting the Spring 2010 schedule to our website soon. And we always welcome visitors, if you want to stop by for a little goat love!

Margaret said...

Hi Anne, I can't tell you how touched I am by your email--it means so much to hear a story like yours. I'm so glad to hear that you stuck with your goat dreams, and I love that our journey has been a part of yours. I wish you all the best with your critters, and many blessings in your life!

SkippyMom said...

oooh I would love "Living with Goats" Squeeee!

Great post, thanks for sharing.

Claire MW said...

Thanks! I will try the electrolyte solution. Haven't done that yet. The vet isn't sure what is causing the problem. There is a shortage of large animal vets in Iowa and some are not incredibly knowledgeable about goats. Ours is moderately knowledgeable but still we are learning together. He does have a mineral block (we have tried 2 different brands) and both have had copper. I hope it's not that, but will look into it also.
Thanks for all the great info today!

Deborah Niemann said...

Claire -- most goat people don't use blocks because goats don't have very rough tongues, so some goats can't get enough of the minerals. Problem #2 with blocks is that some animals get so desperate, they can chip a tooth trying to get the minerals off. And then I just remembered I met a lady from Iowa at the Bishop Hill Fiber Guild Spin-In a few years ago. She raised angoras and said she had to give supplemental copper when they were on a well, because there was so much sulfur in the water. Once they got hooked up to city water, it wasn't a problem any longer. We need to give copper boluses to some of our goats because of the sulfur in our well water. Not all of them need it, but some definitely do. We use Sweetlix loose minerals, which is enough for some of them.

One vet told me that coccidia don't always show up on fecals, so if you've got Dimethox or Albon in your medicine cabinet, you might try it for five days and see if that helps.

Someone once told me that messy poops are caused by a magnesium deficiency, but I was never able to find any info on that, so . . . ?

momanna98 said...

Deborah, how do you know which goats need the cooper bolus? We also use sweetlix minerals.

Deborah Niemann said...

Sweetlix is an excellent mineral, but sulfur binds with copper and makes it harder for some goats to absorb enough of it. Unless you have sulfur in your well water or you live within 50 miles of a coal-fired power plant (deposits sulfur on pasture), that shouldn't be a problem. If you push a lot of alfalfa, which is high in molybdenum, that can also bind with the copper. Symptoms of copper deficiency include fading of the goat's coat (gold goat turning white), a scissor tail (no hair on the tip of the tail), shedding hair or balding on the face (usually only in spring), and all sorts of reproductive problems, including no heats and failure to get pregnant or stay pregnant.

I lost several goats to copper deficiency and was running about 20-25% aborted pregnancies and late-term miscarriages before I knew enough to demand to have a dead goat's liver tested. Four different vets told me copper deficiency was impossible. Normal copper is 25-150 ppm in the liver, and that goat had 4 ppm! Even then, the vet refused to give me prescription copper -- said it was an isolated case, even though several other goats had classic symptoms. So, I get calf boluses and divide them into smaller capsules. In two years, I've had one goat give birth early (and she had not been bolused), so essentially, the reproductive problems have disappeared.

Funny coincidence that I'm talking about this today: On page 119 of Living With Goats, there is a picture of me holding a goat while the vet draws blood. She was my first goat to have trouble getting pregnant, and that particular vet had no answer other than to give her hormones. It didn't work, of course. Isn't it funny that Karl and Margaret happened to be visiting at that time, and Karl got a picture!

Anonymous said...


Saw that you mentioned goat's coat fading with a deficiency. That makes me wonder.......

For the two winters I've had Beauty, her coat has lightened in the winter. When the spring comes and she gets in the sun, she turns back to her natural brownish black.

When this happens, I begin to worry, but they spring comes and she's back to normal. Did she do this for you? Is it like tanning - when she doesn't get a lot of sun, her hair lightens? Any thoughts on this?


Anonymous said...

Hi Deb & Margaret,
Thanks for today's visit! I've enjoyed reading the blog postings. I already have both of Margaret's books and loved them. So, my question is, for a young person starting out who has stengths in writing, and who is also good at science, AND who eventually wants to have a sustainable farm -- what should the focus be in college? Develop the writing formally and learn about the farming "on the job", or study sustainable farming in college and develop writing skills from the heart and through experience? Either way has it benefits. I don't think there's a right or wrong way of proceeding. I'd be interested in what you'd suggest. Thanks so much!

Joan S., IL

Deborah Niemann said...

WG4 -- Hmm ... she was one of the goats that miscarried towards the end of her pregnancy. But since you don't breed her, her copper status should be fine now, unless you have sulfur in your water. Even then, since she doesn't have the added stress of pregnancy, it's probably not a big deal. From all the reading I've done, talking to scientists who've actually studied copper, I think their need for copper goes up during pregnancy, so I doubt she'd be at a dangerously low level. However, if you're worried about her, give me a call. I've published a couple articles about copper in Ruminations. I should reprint them on my website.

Joan -- I think she should become a vet, but that is a totally selfish request. We could use more vets who love goats! I have to drive 1-2 hours in an emergency to see a vet who knows anything about goats, which is why I've had to learn to handle most things myself. There is a huge shortage of large-animal vets in this country.

Hrist said...

I would love a copy of Living with Goats, if I'm not too late!

I am anxiously awaiting the day that I get to leave the city (at least another year and a half until I finish school!) and I've been researching like mad. One thing I'd like to eventually try is training goats to pack or pull a cart, but I've had next to no luck finding resources - any suggestions on books or websites with guidelines for training, making/buying harnesses, picking a trainable goat, etc?

Joyce said...

Sorry I missed the guest blogger, but reading through all the questions and answers was wonderful. I recently purchased two dairy goats after being inspired by you Deborah, looking forward to my own milk and cheese in the spring. I would love a copy of The Year of the Goat.

Margaret said...

Good morning! I fell asleep early while snuggling with the kids last night (so so common around here), but I'll be checking in today, so keep the questions coming! Deborah, that's such an amazing coincidence that we were there when you were beginning to figure out your herd's copper issues! I love that photo--it really shows what teamwork you have to have with your vet when you're raising goats.

Joan, I think if you start out with a curious mind, writing is actually much easier to learn on the job than farming. For someone who is scientifically minded, veterinary or animal science would be a great way to go. There are a lot of examples of people who have turned large animal science into elegant prose--from James Herriott to Temple Grandin. (Of course, there are just as many poets who've dealt with agriculture. And I suppose that Virgil probably trumps these guys....)

Hrist, have you looked at the book The Pack Goat, by John Mionczynski? It's more about packing than harnessing, but it's a great resource. And I know that Karl found some plans for a goat cart online, I believe through Cornell University. If I remember correctly, they had a few pages on their website for 4-H clubs that wanted to build goat carts. Generally, people use dairy wethers for packing and cart racing, and for best results, they start training them as soon as they're weaned. It's a fun project--good luck!

Jordan said...

I just found this blog a few weeks ago from another homesteading blog, and I'm loving it! I'm a former city girl. Bought some land and a house a year ago and am trying to start a goat business. My blog is at:
I'd love to win either book, and I suspect I'll buy what I don't win!
Thanks, Jordan

angie said...

Hi Deborah and Margaret,

Long time lurker; first time commenter on Deborah's site.

I am a future homesteader / market farmer currently living and working in Chicago while we fix up our farm in Southwest Wisc during weekends and vacations (and save money). We plan to move in March 2011.

Just last night, I borrowed a copy of The Year of the Goat from my instructor at the Farmer Training class ( and started it on the El (Chicago subway) to work this morning! I was excited to see you are commenting on Deborah's site!

I'd love to win either book. You both have inspired me greatly to choose to follow my dreams. For that I thank you!

Anonymous said...

Hello - Happen to see a question about resources for carting/packing goats. Working goats happens to be the one thing I know, so I thought I'd drop in and add some links!

Books on packing -

Book on carting -

Online resource - carting -

Hope this helps!

Debra Bult said...

I would love to own a copy of "Living with Goats"! I'm still a city-girl, but I've been trying to educate myself on all things GOAT for the last couple of years in preparation for a move to the country in the next few months. I'll need a resource for next year when I'll start my herd!

Deborah Niemann said...

Joyce -- It's great that you have your first two goats! You didn't see today's story about Pearl's adventure, did you? Although goats do have a reputation for getting themselves into trouble, Pearl is especially troublesome.

Hrist -- You're not too late. The deadline for the drawing is midnight tonight central time, so you're entered!

Angie -- Welcome to the blog! How exciting that you're planning a move to the country.

Jordan -- I popped over to your blog for a quick visit and noticed you're an engineer. So is my husband, and he loves farm life. I'm looking forward to hearing more about your goatie dreams as they become reality!

Debra -- Great to hear from you. Glad to know you're still thinking about goats.

Kristin said...

I'm sorry I missed out on all the fun yesterday. I found your blog thru The Year of the Goat. Which had been lent to me by a friend after we just started a small farm ourselves with 4 goats and at least 150 chickens! I had sent you an email which you refered me here- and I can't wait to learn from the both of you. I would love to win Living with Goats to learn some more. Looking forward to reading what happens over there on Antiquity Oaks!

sheepyhollow said...

I'm a retired engineer living with dairy goats for 3 years. I recently discovered "The Year of the Goat" and enjoyed it...I felt I was traveling along with you. A very good read! I love my goats! I'll have to follow-up with Margaret's new book, Living with Goats. Much success!


Related Posts with Thumbnails