According to the Chinese Zodiac calendar, 2015 is the Year of the Goat.
Trisha Gustafson and her husband, Brad, will have no trouble celebrating. The couple raises Chilako Nubian goats on their 160 acre “hobby farm” in the Mud River area – and there’s always plenty of live action going on.
“Right now we have 22 Nubians on our farm. They’re like the ‘Jersey’ of the goat world and we just love their antics,” said Gustafson, who often photographs them.
“They’re really fun to be around because they do the most entertaining things. Each one has its own personality so they are more like dogs that way. They love attention and have a pecking order in the herd.”
They all have names to suit their personality.
“All our goats are registered with formal names but I’m surprised they don’t have an identify crisis with all the nicknames we give them – based on their distinctive behaviours.”
The Gustafsons have two livestock guardian dogs who stay with the goats and protect them from harm.
“We have a lot of coyotes where we live, and they are really sneaky, I find. They seem to always have a plan, they try to lure one dog away so they can get closer to the goats. We’ve seen cougars and bears and there’s been lynx tracks although lynx don’t usually go after goats.”
Nubian goats are cute but they also are valued for their milk. And Gustafson soon learned how to make artisan soap which she sells in local stores and markets.
“Brad milks the goats and I make the soap,” says Gustafson.
“Their milk is not super in volume but it is very creamy. Nubians have the highest butter fat content so it really does make beautiful soaps. It’s labour intensive we use high quality essential oils, so it’s not cheap to produce but it’s very luxurious.”
The couple’s love of Nubian goats began with a herd of horses.
“Originally, when we bought the farm five years ago, we planned to have a small hobby farm which would help us to be as self-sufficient as possible. We had a friend who needed a temporary place to keep horses – we ended up looking after 17 horses for about six months. As a thank-you present, we got a small herd of Nubian goats.”
Calling it the “best present ever,” that’s how their adventure with goats started, she said.
Anyone wanting to raise Nubians is advised to ask lots of questions and buy from a reputable breeder/owner, says Gustafson. She likes to share information on the care and feeding of Nubians with her social media friends.
“Goats love alfalfa, they are browsers like deer. Sheep and cattle are grazers and they will eat down a pasture but goats like to nibble the tops off everything instead.”
Page wire fencing keeps the goats in a large but contained area – but they love to play and socialize outside, says Gustafson. Like many northerners, though, they like to stay inside during the winter.
“We make them go out, otherwise they’d stay in this time of year. We put their water a couple of hundred yards away so they get fresh air and exercise. They do get a winter coat which comes out in the spring.”
The Gustafsons regularly post photos and stories about their goats’ latest antics and adventures. Trisha Gustafson came in fourth last month in an international online photo contest which featured a photo of their goat friends.
For more information about the Gustafsons and their goats, go to their website at www.chilakonubians.com.
The “celebrity” goats even have their own facebook page at www.facebook.com/ChilakoNubians.