In line with my on-the-whim personality, we have added to the farm… again! We have welcomed three Nigerian Dwarf girls and two bonus ducks to our farm.
I have talked before about how I research any and all of our projects to their death. Months (and sometimes years) before we are anywhere near acting on projects I have a plan and am researching. Sometimes this works in my favor and sometimes, it is wasted energy. Especially since I usually throw all of that research out the window and end up winging it anyway.
This farm addition is no exception.
I had told my husband and parents (it’s a full family farm) that my next addition I wanted was dairy goats. I have dreams of having a few dairy cows but we are no where near ready to add dairy cows to the farm. We have too many projects in the works right now and that is a huge commitment to me, it seems. We have had cows on the farm before but I was not the main caretaker of them so my experience is pretty much limited to petting them here on the farm, admiring our neighbors Highlands across the dirt road and at the fair ha!
Oh and maybe a few times honking as ours stood in the road. Country living, ya know? This was also years ago so the fencing has since been removed. We would need to fence the property in again and that is just not something we want to tackle at the moment.
Goats seemed like a great entry level dairy animal to learn a few things with something smaller, more manageable and if we find that dairy animals are not something we want to continue with, they are easier to find a great home for.
I had told my parents and husband that I wanted to start getting the barn set up for animals again just in case I found some goats for sale. I had talked with a friend that was also interested in goats and we checked into a couple of people selling goats but none had worked out so I was kind of looking but not seriously looking, if that makes sense? I mean, we are working hard on building our farmhouse, just put in an orchard, are looking to grow our garden space this fall and still have the chickens that we want to move into the barn. Plenty of projects to go around. Oh, and Keith just started a new job outside of the home so our plates are pretty full.
I’ll be darned if the next day after telling my family my plans, a flower farm about 5 minutes down the way didn’t post three Nigerians for sale! And I just so happened to check Facebook minutes after she posted. Now the benefit to this was that Ila and I had already been to the farm and met the goats during u-pick. We also knew she had two little girls that loved these goats so they were well acquainted with children- another very important thing to me since Ila is pretty much always by my side. We can’t keep her off animals, she loves any and all animals so we need them to love her back.
I texted Keith immediately and messaged the seller to get price and information on them.
This was on an early weekday (I can’t remember the exact timeline) and they offered to bring them to us the following weekend. So, we scrounged around to get our temporary home in the barn set up.
Why Nigerian Dwarfs?
I had found a few Nigerian Dwarf goats for sell but they are usually (at least in my experience) pricier than any others. I read that they have creamier milk and a few other benefits to that specific breed.
Their small size and delicious milk made them seem like the perfect breed for us. I wanted something small enough to easily keep contained and handle since we are not in the place yet for any large animals.
Nigerian Dwarfs are also desirable in our area which plays into my reasoning of testing the waters and seeing if dairy animals are for us. If we decide it is not the right addition to the farm, it will be much easier to find a great home for them! Although, I’m already pretty partial to them and don’t see that they will be leaving us. We love having them here.
The ducks I didn’t know I wanted
When talking to the family we got the goats from, she offered to add two ducks to the mix if we wanted them. I told her we’d like that but then forgot. When they showed up with the goats, they also had the two ducks with them. I was excited!
I have wanted ducks but they seemed complicated and figured we would wait and get those once our farmhouse and other barn were done. We plan to build one a little closer to the farmhouse and use both barns together since they will surround the pasture. We plan to add several more animals so they will be well loved.
She made them seem simple to care for and really, they have been. We have just kept them in with the goats since that is what they are used to and they have done well! I worried that the cattle panels would not be enough to keep them safe but we have had no issues. Praying that stays true!
I didn’t ask many questions about the ducks when they came but now that I have had some time to get our routine in place, I believe they are males. They just hang out with the goats all day and night. I plan to add a few ducklings either this fall or next spring and hopefully start getting duck eggs in addition to our chicken eggs.
Fixing up our barn
Our barn is part barn with stalls and part storage space. My dad built it when they moved onto the property so it’s probably 15 years old at this point. It was built to accommodate our horses back in the day. We had two stalls on the back side of our 16×32 space and then a 16×16 enclosed area. It’s not fit for cows or any large animals to be inside the enclosed area but it would work just fine for goats and chickens.
Now our plan is to actually add onto this barn to accommodate larger animals as well because it is in a great location near pasture. Right now, we use the enclosed area for storage and feed. The back stalls have been closed in to serve as their barn. We made a small run for them out of cattle panels. As for right now, we let them out to graze in the pasture but since it is not fenced yet, we cannot allow them out all the time. We have plans to fence it all in but have y’all seen the price of fencing (or anything really) right now?! We’ll get there eventually.
The next steps in the barn is to fully enclose the barn to allow for a 16×16 sleeping space that will also have their hay, feed and water. I want to then line it with chicken wire and have the chickens, ducks and goats all in one space. The goats are used to chickens and ducks and have lived with them in the same space at their old farm. We are wanting to add an addition to the barn to eventually move the goats into alone that connects directly to a large fenced pasture. This would keep the goats separate from the ducks and chickens making feeding easier long term. We want to extend the run for the chickens as well and possibly give them access to the pasture as well. I have a lot of ideas but we will see what comes of it all. We work one step at a time and it usually takes a while to get things set up well enough to run efficiently. We are somewhat new to this so we are still figuring it all out.
We want to put the dairy goats to work on the farmhouse
Like I said, we hope to eventually breed our goats and use them for dairy goats. We have all females right now and they are not milk trained. They have all had healthy babies before which is encouraging but I am really wanting to use this time to get them used to us and being handled. Then I will start training them to prepare for breeding and milking.
We know a few people we might could borrow their male to breed. We have also discussed finding one ourselves to add to the farm but we will see what we decide when we are ready.
Until then, they are not just a pet. They have an active role on the farm. We have worked with them a little bit on this but plan to continue more. For now, they’re purpose is to help clean up the farm and around the farmhouse a bit. These girls LOVE the woods and grass.
For perspective, we are staying in my parents house which is in the middle of our entire property. The barn is behind their house and the orchard is beside both the barn and the house. In front is our ponds and pasture. To the left of this though is several acres of woods, previously used for privacy and hunting, that separates the farmhouse from the rest of the property. We want to clean these up where we can walk through them and eventually add a barn here. They have the most beautiful rocks, trees and even wild ferns growing that we want to preserve but also enjoy. I also have dreams to add some maple trees for tapping in the woods. The goats have shown to love grazing around the farm so we hope to let them clean up around the woods and any other overgrown areas, especially around the farmhouse now that our yard is starting to take shape.
Adding goats and ducks has added a lot of charm to our farm. Eggs, milk, and a natural source of property clean up will all be added to the farm as well. I love to have farm additions that serve multiple purposes and these girls are doing just that.