“I just love my goats,” chuckled Patty Horner from Rockin’ Rock Ranch in Salem, Ark. “I could just spend hours out with them and the babies. They are all jumping and hopping around the field and me. They are just fun to be around,” she added.
Obviously for Patty, goats are more than just a money making endeavor, although right now she says they are that too. “The price for goats is up tremendously from last year, which were said to be high – this year they are even higher.”
Patty first fell in love with goats when she and Rich lived in North Carolina. “Our neighbor had goats and I spent so much time going down there that he put a gate in between our property,” she remembered. “I would spend time with the goats so when he was going to have to be gone, he asked me to watch them and take care of them. Then I was hooked.
“He gave me three goats then, and I haven’t looked back,” she explained.
Now Patty has nearly 60 momma goats and 15-20 doelings she has kept back to increase her herd size. “The goats started kidding in March and are doing great. I now have about 60 kids out there too.”
The goats on Patty’s farm are bred to kid during the spring each year. “I don’t have any goats bred to kid before March each year,” she explained. “The weather is usually better in March and we leave the mommas in the pasture.
“There is shelter in each field and we check them a couple of times a day,” she said. “Goats don’t generally like rain, however, they have done fine in the snow and cold this year.”
Most of the momma goats raise twins, according to Patty. “Sometimes the first year does will have a single, but then they have twins,” she said. “If they continue to have a single, after a few years I will cull them out.
“Some does have even had triplets, but I prefer twins. Three babies just don’t grow out as well and it’s hard on the momma goat,” explained Patty.
Patty raises meat goats and goats for4-H kids to show. “I have Boers, which is what usually do the best at local shows; Kikos, which are known for their parasite resistance and mothering abilities, and some Spanish goats,” she said. “I really like the Kikos because they are a fine-boned meat goat. They are smaller, but in the end there is more meat because there is just not as much bone.
“Also, the babies seem to get up and around faster, making healthier babies across my field,” she smiled. “Boers I have to watch closer during kidding. I will even put them in the barn if the weather is predicted to get bad. They just aren’t as easy keeping as my Kikos.”
Patty uses dogs in her fields to watch over the goats. “We have Anatolian Shepherds, which are a breed originally from Turkey that have been used for goat herds for several thousand years.
“I currently have five dogs that stay out with the goats,” she counted. “They are wonderful dogs with amazing instincts and intelligence.”
Patty has always had dogs. “We got dogs the same time we got goats in North Carolina, because our neighbor had actually lost a baby calf to coyotes. Some of the dogs have been raised with the goats since they were puppies,” she smiled.
“Knock on wood, we have never lost an animal to predators while we’ve had the dogs watching over them,” she explained. “They are so smart and have actually been known to kill a coyote. He got in the field with the goats and the dogs took care of the problem.”
The Horners also raise Angus beef cattle. “The two species work really well together on the farm,” explained Patty’s husband, Rich. “Cattle eat what goats won’t and goats eat what cattle won’t,” he said. “They really are a good combination on our farm. Also, parasites from each breed are a dead-end with the other, and won’t reproduce in the other species.”
The Horners have about 60 momma cows they raise with Patty’s 60 goats. “We have 200 acres, but only have about 60 fenced for the goats,” she explained. “We use high-tensil electric fencing, and it has worked well for us. In the future we hope to start rotational grazing with the cattle and the goats, but we have to get the rest of the farm ready first.”
“I love my goats, but the number I have now is probably the most I can handle,” explained Patty. “With more numbers, it’s tougher to see them all each day, and that is something I enjoy. I like giving the goats some special attention and I like that raising goats is still fun for me.
“I don’t want to make it so much work that I no longer enjoy it – that defeats part of the purpose,” she reasoned. “There are lots of possibilities for goat production in the future and in this part of the Ozarks,” she added. “I am just happy to raise what I do and am excited about educating more and more people about goats, their meat and the production.”