Nancy and Silvia Shirley use heat-treated colostrum and pasteurized milk to bottle feed their goatsBack in 2002 Silvia Shirley joined 4-H and decided to raise a goat. The next year she acquired one more, then four more, then nine. Now Silvia and her mom, Nancy, by birthing and buying, have a herd of about 45 LaMancha milk goats.
The Shirley farm is located on 2 acres just outside Flippin, Ark. Nancy works full time and Silvia attends ASU-Mountain Home and will work full time this summer. But they never get too busy to fuss over their goat herd. Like Nancy said, “We love doing it.”
It’s not hard to tell that the goats are fussed over. With a simple command, kids come running from all directions. Nancy and Silvia say most of the “friendliness” of the goats is due to the fact that they pull the kids off their dams as soon as they are born and bottle-feed them. In addition to having goats that come when called, a bottle-fed goat is also a selling point to buyers. Goats are susceptible to CAE, bacteria that causes arthritis in goats. So what the Shirleys do is raise their kids on heat-treated colostrum and pasteurized milk.
Nancy said, “We heat the colostrum up to 136 degrees and keep it at that temp for an hour. It kills all the bad bacteria. Usually we freeze it and then use colostrum from the year before.”
Nancy and Silvia have their goat milk tested on a regular basis. Nancy said, “Monthly we send milk samples off to Kansas and we test for butter fat and protein and somatic cell counts. We’ve got two that made top 10 in the nation the last two or three years – that’s top 10 in butterfat.”
The Shirleys love to show their goats, too. It’s easy for them to pack up a couple dozen or so in the back of their Dodge van. Nancy said it’s a good way to go because they can keep a direct eye on the goats. The goats don’t like to sit down – they’ll stand up for the whole trip, even if it’s a four-hour drive. Going through a drive-thru is a real experience.
About traveling with the goats, Nancy said, “You just open the door and tell them ‘Up!’ and they’ll jump in. They love drive-thrus. They all plaster their heads against the windows where the people are. We’ve had McDonald’s give them cookies. The goats go nuts. We always order extra fries for them. They’re junk food addicts.”
Silvia said, “One of the reasons I like showing is because I can go visit with people. Winning doesn’t hurt, but we like the people.”
Silvia has been experimenting lately with making goat cheese, cream cheese, ricotta, feta, mozzarella and cottage cheeses. She’s tried enhancing the cheeses by adding dill, olives or making a ranch cheese. Although, the Shirleys aren’t certified yet for selling their cheeses, that’s one of the things they’d like to get into in the future, along with making goat soap. They can, however, sell up to 100 gallons per month of their goat milk.
Since the herd keeps growing and the milk keeps coming – one gallon per goat per day – there should be plenty of goat milk for drinking and cheeses. Right now they’re milking about 18 goats daily. Twenty-seven have been born so far this spring, with several sets of twins and one set of triplets. Nancy and Silvia would like to venture into having more Alpine goats and recorded grades goats in their herd. They would also like to raise more meat goats in the future.
Watch for a white Dodge van with the windows full of smiling goats. Maybe Nancy and Silvia should put a sign on the back that says, “Will stop for fries.”


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