Rogersville, Mo., native develops a goat farm that focuses on sustainabilityAs a kid, Susan Wilcox dreamed of being a farmer, teacher or forest ranger. She loved animals and the outdoors and didn’t mind getting dirty. Thirty years later she’s a middle school librarian in the Willard School District with four children, but she’s also very much a farmer.
“I started as a social studies teacher, then got into historic preservation and finally into library science. I never would have thought in a million years that I’d be doing what I do today,” she said with a laugh. She’s a self-taught, do-it-yourself farmer with every right to be proud of her accomplishments.
About 3 years ago Susan and her children moved to 523 acres her dad bought in the late 1970s in rural Rogersville, Mo., in Christian County. She liked the idea of becoming self-supporting but didn’t know a thing about raising animals or farm life. Looking for an easy way to raise commercial animals to help pay the bills, she first looked at alpacas, but they were a hefty investment. Goats were more affordable and relatively easy to handle, plus the market for goat meat was expanding. So, thanks to a lot of Internet research, visits to other goat ranchers, good advice from the Southwest Missouri Meat Goats Association and lots of trial and error, the family now have a growing herd of about 65 Boer, Spanish, Kiko and crossbred meat goats. A Great Pyrenees dog, Zeus, and other mixes of Anatolian Shepherds and Komondors keep coyotes and other predators at bay.
She started with 15 Boers but is working on a hardier crossbred goat. For now, she’s keeping females to build up the herd but sells the bucklings (male uncastrated goats) at 50 to 60 pounds at local goat sales in the area. Prices can fluctuate, but a good price is about $180 to $200 per 100 lbs.
Probably the biggest expense for goats, Susan has discovered, is good fencing – an absolute must if you don’t want your goats wandering the countryside. “The kid goats,” she said, “are the reason you do it. “You have all these cute little babies running and jumping around and playing, and you kind of forget about all the hard work.”
Goats are the commercial side of the farm. Then there are dozens of chickens, pigs, beef cattle and an expanding garden, all endeavors to feed the family wholesome, home-grown food. Above ground gardening in a soil-less medium has worked well, and Susan is now dreaming of specializing in one or two vegetables and selling them at local farmers markets.
“We are trying to become more self-sufficient, canning and freezing vegetables and fruit from our garden, raising our own meat and eggs,” said Susan.
Susan admitted she couldn’t handle the farm by herself. Everybody in the family has chores. Her youngest, David feeds the pigs and the ducks, Emily does the chickens and Olivia and Daniel help their mom take care of the goats. Everyone helps in the garden and with fencing and maintenance chores around the farm.
Her advice to other beginner farmers is to just go for it. Do your homework, search the Internet, go to workshops, read books and ask lots of questions. “Don’t be afraid to call people up and ask,” she said. “Of course, you can’t learn all farming from a book. Eventually, you just have to get your hands dirty and learn from the experience,” she added.


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