Kidding around: 4-H youngsters buy into goats

Farm Forum

EDMUNDS COUNTY — At the Lazy J Bar Ranch northwest of Mina, the thinking was that raising boer goats might make sense, since the meat would appeal to people of different ethnicities moving to the area to work at Northern Beef Packers.

Stephanie and John Jung have had 10 or so of the white and brown goats around the ranch since 2004. But four years ago, they bought 50 does, with an eye on producing meat.

The plan had to be adjusted, but things still worked out well enough.

Instead of selling the goats off the farm to others who would want their red meat — “It tastes very similar to beef,” Stephanie said — the Lazy J has been selling kid goats to youngsters who show them for 4-H and at other livestock shows.

Tapping the show market was something the Jungs thought about when they started to expand the herd. It just wasn’t the priority, Stephanie said.

Now, the Jungs have 100 does, and they are close to wrapping up the kidding season. Or, at least, one of their kidding seasons.

The first season was in December when five does kidded. A new round started last month. And the Jungs’ does will kid 10 or so more does again in May, Stephanie said.

In this batch, only about five of 52 does have yet to kid, Stephanie said. So far, they’ve yielded 110 kids, she said.

Most does have two or three kids each time they’re bred, Stephanie said. So the Jungs’ kidding rate is north of 200 percent, she said.

On the last Saturday of April, the Lazy J will have a production sale at which the kids will be sold. Last year, the Jungs sold 50 kids.

“It’s hard to tell the children no when they want to show a goat,” Stephanie said. “Last year, we didn’t have enough.”

This year, she expects the Lazy J will sell 75 kids at the April sale.

The first time goats were shown at Edmunds County 4-H Achievement Days was in 2011, Stephanie said. That year, Stephanie’s now-12-year-old son Kale Pharis was the only person who showed a goat in Ipswich. But it was a good one. At the state fair, it was crowned grand champion, Stephanie said.

Last year, there were about two dozen 4-H goats shown in Edmunds County, Stephanie said.

Chris Fischbach, a member of the Brown County Fair Board, said the number of goat entries at the Brown County Fair has been trending up the past couple of years. Finding a place to keep them all during the fair might soon be a concern, he said.

The uptick in boer goat popularity likely has to do with the fact they make good small animal 4-H projects. They behave more like cattle than sheep, and they tend to develop personalities, she said.

It doesn’t hurt that they’re cute. Newborn kids look a lot like puppies. And, Stephanie said, they cry like babies. That’s something that threw John for a loop the first time he handled kids and they started wailing, she said.

The couple was married in 2009 after having met previously at livestock events, Stephanie said. The Lazy J Bar also raises red Angus cattle.

The biggest challenge for the Jungs and their growing goat herd is that no local veterinarians specialize in goat care, Stephanie said. But, she said, vets in the region have been helpful.

There is hope for the meat market should the beef plant again open, Stephanie said. But it might take a little more patience. And it probably wouldn’t yield as much profit, either, she said.

“Plan B was a good thing,” she said of selling the kids. “In the back of our mind, we kind of thought that we could get into that market. But we just never expected it’d take off as fast as it did.”

Follow @ScottReports on Twitter.

Birthing kids

• At birth, a single boer kid weighs 10 to 12 pounds. If they are triplets, they’re probably seven to nine pounds.

• Boer goats have a gestation period of about five months. Does can have two litters every 18 months or so. But overdoing it can be tough on the mothers.

• At Lazy J, the kids live in the Jungs’ heated barn for the first week to 10 days of their lives because they need to be fed every four hours. After that, they can generally be left outside, though, sometimes, the kids are kept in the barn during extremely cold stretches.

• Kids are generally weened from their mothers when they’re 60 or 70 days old. And by the time they’re 4 months old, they should be about 70 pounds.

• A boer kid for showing will generally be sold when it is 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 months old. The price they bring ranges widely, but $500 is a fair average.

Source: Stephanie Jung of Lazy J