With any new adventure, there is always a learning curve. I’d like to think our family is pretty adaptive, we catch on quickly to new endeavors set before us. However, farming as taught us a few things we hadn’t bargained for such as soil chemistry, fecal samples, ear tagging and tea tree oil concoctions for goat mastitis. Yes, you heard that correctly – massaging a goat milk bag with tea tree oil and expressing the curdled milk in 28 degree weather so we won’t lose the mamma goat or her babies in the dark with a headlamp. Needless to say, we have learned so much in the past four years of having our farm and we know we have so much more to ascertain. In order to share what we have learned with you, it is only appropriate to share an overview of our journey and how we got here.
Where it Began…
In August of 2014, Nick brought home five chickens and two pigs. The initial scope of this agriculture project was for personal use only; receiving eggs and processing our own pork were on the itinerary. Immediately the kids were enchanted with these foreign creatures now taking up real estate in our back yard. Then there was me, someone that never had a pet more than a few weeks growing up (except a guinea pig that lived roughly two years and I emphasize the roughly part) and kills any plant left in her care, including bamboo. I was assured there wouldn’t be any responsibility assigned to me for taking care of them probably to the animals’ benefit. The chicken coop and pig pen were only the beginning.
Fast forward two years to 2016, where the farm grew from a backyard hobby to a fenced five acres, 12 free range chickens, a handful of goats and an official LLC was born. We struggled with a name for the farm, in a world where everyone was using their last names as the farm title. Since our family has never followed the “norm” why would we do so in this situation. The four year old, two-legged child (Lucas) produced a very unique name that stuck. At that moment, Jolly Roger Ranch was born.
Slowly over that year, we expanded our herd by picking up goats and pigs from the local auction and dabbling with raising our own chicks. Unbeknownst to us, this is where the major learning curve to our first generation farmer-selves kicked in since we were starting to build a legitimate customer base, we knew we had to step up our game. Countless hours of research were spent while the kids slept to figure out what the hell we had gotten ourselves into. So we decided to step up our goat quality by moving to the Kiko breed as the core of our herd. They are known for the meaty heartiness, parasite resistance and overall quality in the goat world. Heartiness was definitely a trait this plant-killer, “non-outdoorsy” girl needed. Since the demand of the farm started to increase, I increased my involvement by helping with baby goats or other small tasks that I knew wouldn’t harm the well-being of the animals, to hopefully evade the same outcome of that poor bamboo plant.
2017 was a very notable year for our farm, we expanded to 20 acres and were taking every opportunity to expand the quantity and quality of goats we had but was also our hardest year. The weather of 2017 was very hot and wet which created the perfect environment for parasites. We buried more animals than we could count and not for the lack of trying to kept them alive. We started to attend local seminars focusing on small ruminants (goats and sheep) to try to understand where the errors were in our operation. Through those seminars, we hit a turning point for our farm, we started a very strict protocol for all incoming livestock to the farm with quarantine pens, implemented a feed regimen, deworming practice and mineral supplement schedule. We found our culprit was these worms that attached to the goats stomach and then drained their blood supply and were going to do everything within our capability to rectify the problems we were encountering. We also started reaching out others in our community to learn from them as well and found they were having the same issue. By the end of the year, we started to see an improvement in our animals and anticipated we were on the upswing.
Where we’re going…
We intend for 2018 will be our best year yet. We have plans for expanding our goat herd to double its size, attending more educational opportunities to broaden our knowledge, and farm the gap with our surrounding community now that we have an outlet to share our journey with all of you!