I’ve been thinking a lot about how I manage my herd as it grows to its “full size.” As some may know, my herd is still in its growth stage since I've been building it from within. In this planning process I’m being mindful of working with the seasonality of our region, managed grazing practices, and use of our facilities.
My plan going forward after this kidding season will be to split our herd into two groups and move into a breeding cycle where our herd is kidding three times a year, about four months apart. This doesn’t mean we’re doing back-to-back breeding, but it means that each group will kid every other kidding season. Each doe will have the opportunity to breed every nine months, allowing for time for gestation, nursing, and recovery.
Why am I moving to this system:
From an economic perspective, this farm is also a business. It requires income to continue and serve our customers. Over the span of time, we should be able to produce the same number of kids as if our herd size was 25-30% larger. This means fewer breeding does to feed and manage, with more offspring to either add to our herd as replacement stock or to sell. As a family farm, it also helps keep my workload more manageable.
What I will be working on figuring out:
What I know I’ll need to do:
Lastly, a big shout out to Sandy Brock, of Sheepishly Me, a sheep farmer in Canada. Her approach to managing breeding and lambing for her flock provided me inspiration to think about how I could adapt practices to my goat herd and our grazing system.
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I’m honored, and a bit humbled, to share that I’m featured in the most recent issue of the Rural Route magazine, which goes out to farm families and others involved in agriculture in Wisconsin. You can read the full article below to learn more about how I got my start in farming, as well as raising meat goats and direct marketing goat meat in western Wisconsin.
I’d also like to give a big thank you to Amy Eckelberg from the Wisconsin Farm Bureau for asking me to do the interview and coming all the way to northwestern Wisconsin to take photos for the story in one of the hottest times of the year.
She also started to learn the art of taking pictures with livestock guardian dogs sniffing and licking you and figuring out how to get a good shot of grazing goats. This includes not just getting them to face you but attempting to not get too many goat rear ends or anyone taking care of business in the shot. I think Amy did ok, if you look at her pictures!
Enjoy the read!
P.S. The magazine also featured a number of grilling recipes in the Farm Flavor section from my personal food Instagram account: @GrillingLikeSteven You can check those out here.
If you want to see the whole magazine, click here to read it.
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If you're raising meat goats or are thinking about rasing meat goats, you can sign up for our online community here to learn more about what we do on our farm raising goats for meat.
Writer’s note: As a finalist in the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s Excellence in Agriculture competition, I had the opportunity to share my background and contributions to agriculture, but also pressing issues I see impacting agriculture today. Over the next few weeks I’ll cover these issues in my blog.
While I’m getting closer to my projected size for my farm, I know it also wouldn’t be possible without programs and resources that support beginning farmers. Farming takes a lot of capitol (meaning money) and assets (meaning equipment, facilities, land and so on). It is a huge investment to get started, especially when you don’t have access to family land and/or assets. I’m not suggesting my farming friends who are farming with their families have it easy, nor am I wanting this to come across as "poor me." The reality is this is a huge hurtle for our next generation of farmers who don’t come from farming families or don’t have option of using family land/assets.
While this is my story, I know there are many others who want to get into farming that have similar stories or who are still trying to figure out how to break their way in through all the barriers. In agriculture we spend a lot of time talking about farm transition plans within families, but we also need to be thinking about how transition plans could work for those who want to retire without family and with those who want to begin farming without access to family land and assets and succeed in doing so.
This issue of accessibility to farm is a major issue for agriculture, when we start to think about the average age of today’s farmers, which is an average age of 57 and 30% are over the age of 75 (USDA). And, many of these farmers are starting or want to retire. I started to recognize this challenge when I was working for CHS and met young farmers while writing profile articles for the cooperative’s farmer magazine and working with its young farmer leadership program.
Through farm organizations, we need to be supporting and promoting programs for beginning farmers through
A few of the ways I’ve been helping raise awareness and address this issue is through sharing my voice as a beginning farmer with lawmakers and at our Farm Bureau district policy development meetings and with Congressional visits.
Additionally, while I’m by no means a seasoned farmer, I’ve been sharing my own advice with beginning farmers. This last summer I hosted a farm visit with a women’s conservation program, Wisconsin Farmers Union’s Women Caring for the Land program, and even helping share resources and facilitating networking with an informal farmer group I started and coordinate: the Wisconsin Meat Goat Producers Network because there is no formal state goat farmer organization.
Beginning Farmer Tax Credit (2017). Iowa Finance Authority. http://www.iowafinanceauthority.gov/Public/Pages/PC204LN48
Farm demographics (2015). USDA. http://www.start2farm.gov/usda/knowledge
Young farmers still concerned about adequate land. (2015). American Farm Bureau Federation. The Voice of Agriculture.
I own and manage Cylon Rolling Acres in northwestern Wisconsin. On my farm I raise Boer - Kiko meat goats on pasture.
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Cylon (pronounced Si-lon) is the name of our township in St. Croix County, Wisconsin. Sorry fans, our farm is not named after the robots of Battlestar Galactica.