By Jared Janzen
BURRTON—Considering the expression “stubborn as a goat,” it’s not surprising that the people who raise them need to have a lot of grit and dedication, as well.
“When it’s kidding season, you literally live out here,” local goat farmer April Hoskinson said. “I had a hammock out here, and every 30 minutes I was on baby checks because they’re just small enough that they’ll freeze to death if you don’t help clean them up. You’re out here for two months solid.”
April’s six-year-old daughter, Lily, is a big help with the day-in and day-out responsibilities.
“She’s such a good help and enjoys it,” April said.
The family has close to 80 goats right now on their farm west of Burrton, which they call Double H Farms. That includes two billies, 40 nannies and about 35 kids.
April said each goat has a different personality.
“It sounds weird, but they really are different,” she said. “Certain ones are more lovey and gentle, and even their kids have calmer personalities. Then you have some that are so spazzy that they’re wild from the get-go.”
She can even distinguish them by their voice.
“You can be clear up at the house and hear one scream, and you usually know which goat it is,” she said. “You can tell them apart.”
This is the fourth year the Hoskinsons have raised goats. They started big with 80 nannies, then grew it to 100 for the next two years, before scaling back this year to an easier-to-manage number.
“Last year we had 92 babies, so it was pretty crazy,” April said.
April said they’ve learned to coordinate the kidding season so about 10 nannies give birth at a time, with a break in between groups. She’s also learned the signs better to know when a goat is close to giving birth. Most of their kids were born in late November or December.
“Our first sets—it never fails, the past four years—have been Thanksgiving babies,” April said. “So we have Thanksgiving dinner in the goat pen.”
Two of their goats with Thanksgiving birthdays are named Tater and Green Beans.
April and Lily both love kidding season.
“I don’t know who gets more excited about that when the first one finally goes, because you’re so anxious and constantly checking,” April said.
They had several goats born last week, including one Saturday morning just an hour before their interview with the newspaper. April said she thought just one nanny might give birth yet.
Lily has her own small herd of goats, including four nannies that produced eight babies this year. She pulled her own kids when they were born.
“One time I came out to check the goats, and Daisy had her babies, and I got her in the stall all by myself,” Lily said.
The time Lily spends doing goat chores goes toward covering the cost of her herd, and she’ll also be selling one of her kids to pay for feed. Lily helps feed the goats and check their eyelids to make sure they’re healthy.
“She’s learned at a very young age the hard work it takes and the money it costs,” April said about her daughter.
Keeping the goats healthy is one of the biggest challenges, April said, especially during the heavy rains of 2019 when they really had to battle worm issues. They’ve had a really good year, though, and have only lost three this year.
Neither April, nor her husband, Nate, had any prior experience with goats until four years ago.
“We just decided to try something new,” Nate said.
April said they only had 20 acres of land at the time, but they really wanted to get into raising animals. They figured goats would be a good fit for their limited space.
“They’re technically a little cheaper than cattle, and they sell really good,” April added.
The family also has a few cattle, chickens, guineas and pigs on their farm.
April and Nate agreed that goats are a high-maintenance animal to raise with all the time and medicine they require.
“We learned as we went,” April said. “There’s a lot of Facebook groups with goat people.”
She added that Dr. Ron Keeler from Ninnescah Veterinary Service had been a great resource in helping them learn the ins and outs of goat raising.
“They can be really finicky,” April said about goats. “They can be fine today and you walk out tomorrow and they’re just gone with no signs.”
The goats also need protection from weather and wild animals.
April said during the two-week cold snap in February, she was running outside to check on the goats every 15 minutes. They barricaded the goats in the shed with hay bales, and fortunately no goats gave birth during that time.
Two dogs, Ernie and Pearl, stay in the goat pin to protect the herd. Ernie has killed a pair of coyotes before and loves his job.
“If you took him away from his goats, he would have a mental breakdown,” she said.
“And he would whine,” Lily added. “He just knows that’s his job.”
The Hoskinsons’ goats should be ready for sale by mid-March, and none have pending sales yet. Some will be sold for meat and some for show by 4Hers. The Hoskinsons have had people come from all over Kansas to buy their goats and even some customers from Missouri.
“It’s fun hearing back from the kids that win, that have raised them up and kidded them,” April said. “They’ll usually text us and let us know how the goat is doing.”
Lily hasn’t had the opportunity to show any of her goats in competition yet. She just turned old enough for the peewee division last year, but shows were canceled due to COVID-19. She’ll be ready for next year, though, and is already getting some practice leading goats down the driveway.
April said that, as Lily grows older, she thinks they’ll grow their herd back up to about 60 nannies. Since Lily is homeschooled, her schedule can be flexible around her responsibilities with the goats.
For more information on the Hoskinsons’ goats, visit Double H Farms on Facebook.