This time of year we get to talk to a lot of really nice people who are getting started in the goat business for the first time. Most of the time they have a lot of really good questions, but there are some things that you could only know to ask by experience. That's why we always try to give them a few pointers to help them avoid the mistakes we made when we were first starting. So that got me to thinking, what would I tell myself if I had to start over in the goat business?
(The paragraphs below are supplemented by blue words that are linked to previous blog posts that could be useful. If you're interested in the topic, click on these links to read other blogs on the subject.)
For starters, I would tell myself to do a lot more research and talk to a lot more people about what they thought would and wouldn't work. For example, when we first started, we had the great idea of using the plastic orange construction site fencing as a sort of mobile-goat-pen. What a disaster! Let me tell you, it didn't seem like nearly as great of an idea when we were chasing goats around on the blacktop trying to get them back to our property. If only we'd talked to someone who had been in the goat business for a couple years! They could have quickly told us what a goat pen ought to look like (and that ours didn't fit the bill)!
I would also tell myself to be much more selective about where I purchased my goats. Our first goat herd came from a herd dispersal. With goats like these, there was a reason this guy was getting out of the goat business! These were definitely not the goats to start the high quality, low maintenance goat herd that we had envisioned. As it turned out, many of these does were not capable of giving birth or even just staying alive without drastic human assistance. If I could tell myself to do anything different when I started in the goat business, I would have started with goats from someone who was breeding for the same thing we wanted!
If I were just starting in the goat business again, I would tell myself to go to more goat seminars! A couple years after we bought our goats, we started going to seminars. Oh how much easier life would have been if we had just learned a little more about simple things like internal parasites and goat minerals before we'd bought our goats!
If I could give myself advice for starting in the goat business, I would tell myself to keep some good records. Even if I was pretty sure that "the brown baby with the white spots belongs to one of those white does that hangs out by the water trough a lot", I might not be able to put all of those pieces together after a a couple weeks have gone by! A few ear tags go a long way for being able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your livestock later on.
Also, using the criteria of "well that goat looks pretty healthy to me" would not be my recommended way of deciding whether or not a goat needs to be taken to the sale barn. If I could give myself some advice for starting in the goat business, I would tell myself not to be afraid to cull the goats that need to be culled (by taking them to the sale).
So those are the trade secrets! If you are starting in the goat business for the first time (or you're just stubborn old-hand like me) these tips will make your life a little bit easier. If I had to start over in the goat business, this is definitely the information I would want to know!