I farm in partnership with my parents, Richard and Lianne, on the edge of the Somerset Levels. I am the fourth generation of our family to farm here. Over the generations, the farm has had a variety of more traditional livestock such as cows, pigs and sheep. However the last animals on the farm, beef cows, left in the mid 1990’s and the farm since then has mainly been an arable enterprise.
I joined the business in January 2014 after working for a regional house builder and since then there has been quite a few changes on the arable side with Dad slowly taking a step back and doing less. He is still fully involved, just maybe not sat on a tractor at 11pm or in the kidding shed at 2am! I also have looked at different opportunities of diversification for areas of the farm that weren’t being used or were under utilised.
This is where the Boer goats fit in! On the farm we have about 100 acres of permanent grass with 70 of those being let out. The remaining 30 acres of steep grassland weren’t being used. It is ideally suited for the goats as it has a wide range of forage for them to browse on. Goats were chosen as an animal after a couple of years of research. I didn’t want cows as we didn’t have the infrastructure for them and didn’t want to invest the level of finance required. This was the same reason why pigs and chickens were excluded, these animals also have other issues. Sheep were considered but aren’t suitable for the ground I’m currently using for the goats. After visiting a couple of different people keeping goats, I thought that these could be turned into a viable business. I ended up going back to the second person i’d spoken to and bought our first Boer goats in the spring of 2018!
Spring 2018 is where the learning and enjoyment really began!! We’ve had our first kidding which started in March 2019. I couldn’t have got through this without the help of a couple of neighbouring sheep farmers, a BBGS subsidised kidding course, BBGS members on facebook, my ever supportive wife Zoe and a 10 year old American girl on youtube who taught me how to milk a goat at 10pm one cold dark March night when I couldn’t get a kid to drink!!
Why Boer goats? Why not?! They are lovely animals to be around, they have individual characters and generally have been fantastic to own. They also produce a fantastic, healthy and tasty product.
We are still very much novices with the goats but learn something new everyday. We currently have 62 on the farm, 26 of these are nannies who are currently with the billy (September). The countdown to our second kidding in spring 2020 and our expansion in numbers is well underway!
-Ian Graham of Oaklands Boer Goats.