Don’t Let ‘Em Get Your Goat

Follow stories from our readers about the challenges of raising goats, consummate handymen, opossum precautions, and a neighborhood turkey.

Photo by Rachel Leystra

When I was in seventh grade, I went through a rough patch in my life. I didn’t really have any friends, I was often bullied, and I needed a healthy distraction. When a new member joined my 4-H Club, I signed on to her goat project. I fell in love with the goats instantly, and told my mom I wanted one. She quickly pointed out that farm animals weren’t allowed within the town limits. Later, someone encouraged me to petition the village board to be able to keep goats in town. So, I wrote a letter to the board, and presented my proposal.

I tried to change the city ordinance so I could raise three goats and five chickens in town. Though the board denied the request, one member suggested I apply for a conditional use permit instead. I presented information and answered questions from the board members and the community during two meetings spanning 2 to 3 months. When it finally came time for the board to vote, I was a nervous wreck. The final vote was 4-2 in my favor.

Ecstatic, I spent the next month searching for breeders to find the perfect goats: an American Alpine I named Alanna, and Brooke, a Nigerian Dwarf. From that moment on, through my senior year of high school, I raised these goats and showed them around the state of Wisconsin. Showing goats exposed me to new people, and I made a lot of friends from all over the U.S., as well as at school, where I joined the Future Farmers of America (FFA). My goats and I were featured on a local news channel, and our story was published in a magazine. I continued showing them at the county and state fairs in Kentucky, and even took them to a national competition.

Those on the outside have often viewed my dedication to showing goats as simply a hobby, but they couldn’t be more wrong. They don’t see what goes on behind the scenes; they only see a goat ready for show. They didn’t see me cry when the goat I’d won through an essay contest died. They didn’t see the girl who sat in the barn for days waiting for her favorite goat to kid, and how it wasn’t an easy labor.

Why am I bringing all of this up? Because this journey, with all its ups and downs, quite honestly saved my life. Showing goats wasn’t just a hobby for me; it was a huge part of my life.

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