When I was a child I dreamed of living on a farm. I do not know exactly when I decided I wanted to live in the country, I know it was even before my sister and I started taking horseback riding lessons and that was at age 8. It quite possibly was one of my very first wants in life...right after a pet giraffe. I never did get that pet giraffe as a child but as an adult I did eventually get the life in the country I have always dreamed of and have had the pleasure of living it for the last 13 years.
I think the thing I love the most about having acreage of my own is the possibilities are almost endless. All those wonderful possibilities also come with lots of decisions to be made though. Most important of these is what type of farm is this going to be? My husband and I made the decision quite a long time ago that ours was going to be a working farm. We will never get rich from it and I don't see us both ever being able to not have to work off the farm but we will gain self-sufficiency and make a small profit each year from it. That is our goal, and one that demands many decisions on the farm come from a business perspective. This is not always easy and I do my best to try and balance what I think is right for the individual animal with what is in the best interest of the entire herd and farm as a whole.
A couple years ago I was shopping for a new Boer buck for our goat herd. My husband and I went to quite a few different farms and talked to several different goat breeders. One lady we talked too has had success buying and raising meat goats and selling them direct to ethnic buyers. She has done the leg work and is no doubt a farmer with a very good business head on her shoulders. I have a great deal of respect for her and could no doubt learn a few things from her about making a farm profitable. While we were there she pointed out an old doe and told us with pride that she had kidded 14 times with at least twins and usually triplets or quads each time. She then told us that goat was going on the next truck to be jerky, mostly do to her age no doubt along with some udder problems she had developed recently.
This could just be the difference between someone who was raised on a farm (as she obviously was) and someone like me who spent my childhood with pet dogs and cats but a doe like that would earn a permanent retirement on my farm. I do have a few older does like Trouble and Hope that have certainly done right by me and this farm and they will live out the rest of their lives here. Still, we simply can not keep them all or this would quickly turn into a goat sanctuary and retirement home, not a farm with any possible hope of being self sustaining.
On the other side of that coin I know a couple people that have some beautiful goats but they hardly ever sell any female goats from their fairly large herds, most are kept from birth to death. I am not talking about a few pets but large herds. These people are clearly attached to their animals, as they give them every thing they have. While I certainly respect this and consider it noble, these herds just keep growing larger each year causing considerable financial strain for their owners. This has the potential to affect the entire herd negatively.
I try my best to find a balance between these two extremes. One with respect for the individual animal, but not over the health and well-being of the herd as a whole and not over our goals of being a self-sustaining farm. I don't want to make each decision with cold and callous profit margins in mind but I also do not want to let my sensitive heart lead our farm into bankruptcy either. If you are going to raise meat goats, many are going to go for meat... there is a reason it is in the name and not all dairy bucklings can (or even should be) sold as herd sires either.
Only the best few bucklings each year are left intact on our farm, all others are wethered. I also know we can't keep every doe born on the place no matter how cute they are. I will send a female goat that doesn't meet our standards to the sale barn just the same as a buckling. That is not to say I also won't go out of my way to place a particularly special and sweet natured animal that is healthy but not as productive on our farm in a good pet home over making a few bucks at the sale barn with them. I still have to be able to sleep at night.
We reduced the goat herd this year and I had to look at individual animals and decide who was going to stay and who was going to go. These are the type of decisions while certainly not easy are necessary on the farm. I sold most of our good four year old 50% Boer does in our herd. These were a good deal for someone else, productive does that are at their prime, while I kept their younger, higher percentage Boer yearling daughters. That was not the easiest thing to do, as all of those does had been on our farm since birth but maintaining a herd size our pastures can easily support is essential not only from an economic and goal achieving stand-point but also for over-all herd improvement and health.
So what are the difficult decisions you face on your farm or homestead and how do you make them?
9 hours ago