Back in November, we celebrated the one year anniversary of the start of Bold Souls Micro Farm. I count from the day we got our chickens because that was truly the start of it all. Since the day we brought those first four hens home, we have added a few animals to our collection. Currently we have 10 hens of mixed breeds, 1 silkie rooster, 3 goats (1 Pygmy & 2 Nigerian Dwarf), 2 Welsh Harlequin ducks, and 2 dogs. Basically in the course of about a year we went from living in the suburbs with zero animals to living on an acre with eighteen animals. (!!!) It’s been quite a ride and my husband has been very patient and supportive.
Truly this is my vision and dream to run a micro farm. The other day my husband announced (in very rare fashion) that he has an opinion about where to go from here. He wishes to trade in the goats for alpacas. I have absolutely no idea where this came from, but apparently he is quite fond of these creatures. The only thing I know about alpacas is that they are similar to llamas. And the only thing I know about llamas, I learned from Napoleon Dynamite. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s secretly the reason he wants some.
I’m a pretty adventurous, up for anything girl, but I’m really not sure about these alpacas. And I know for sure that I don’t want to rehome my goats, though I do understand why he doesn’t care for them. They are loud and demanding (because we’ve spoiled them, apparently) and when allowed to roam, they eat everything in their path and their poop ends up everywhere. Mostly it’s Tallulah’s screaming that gets under his skin. She puts those screaming goats on Youtube to shame with her shrill, unnecessarily loud bleating. I mean it’s really out of control. It’s kind of like you would imagine a goat who is being eaten alive would sound, only she’s just standing there. The other two aren’t so bad, but Tallulah is giving the whole herd a bad name. So, like any responsible farmer, I decided to put together a list of the pros and cons of goat ownership.
- They supply the goats milk to make the soap that I use for everything from hand washing to shampoo to shaving. This is kind of a biggie.
- Income. Goats are not only cost effective to own, but they also make babies which we sell to pay for ALL of the animals feed for the year. And last fall Toro started going out as a stud, which brings in money to pay for all of the healthcare needs of the herd, which are minimal.
- They are good little lawnmowers and composters.
- They make good fertilizer for the gardens.
- They are really not that much trouble now that we built them a pasture.
- I want to learn to make goat cheese and without a free supply of goats milk it doesn’t really make sense.
- Their milk is good for the dogs, who happily lap up any that I don’t use.
- I really love milking. It’s kind of like meditating. It can be frustrating at first, but it’s really calming once you get it down.
- The pooping. Everywhere.
- The incessant screaming that makes you afraid to let them hear you walk outside, lest you alert them to your presence. I’ve even told my kids to quiet down INSIDE because they were going to get the goats started. They scream/bleat because they want to be let out of the pasture, where there is plenty of grass, but they don’t want that grass.
- A lot more cleaning is required because of them.
- They still wander off into the neighborhood when we let them out of the pasture to forage. Though we have figured out that if we keep Toro in the kennel, the girls are much less likely to wander.
Nothing against alpacas, but an animal has to serve a purpose to live on our farm. The chickens, in addition to their entertainment value, give delicious, healthy eggs and good manure, and they debug the property. I’ve noticed far fewer spiders in our house since we got them. The ducks give eggs, ducklings to sell, and they keep our property clear of the slugs that used to decimate our garden. An alpaca would serve a similar function to the goats, but they are bigger and cost more to feed. Alpaca breeding can be quite lucrative, but only if you start out with good papered animals. (Or so I’ve read.) Also it is common for them to lose their pregnancies. Poorly bred alpacas go for free on Craigslist all the time, which speaks volumes about the trouble they could potentially be. In fact, my vet’s assistant warned me about their difficult personalities… They sure are cute, though, and I’m sure they must be highly entertaining. Just Google “funny alpaca pictures” and you’ll see what I mean!
Decisions like this can’t be taken lightly, and it looks like the pros outnumber the cons. So for now the goats will stay, and we will remain alpaca-less. I have to say, I’m relieved. Even when they’re a pain, I hate the idea of saying goodbye to any animal. My kids hate it even more. They weren’t raised from birth as farm kids, and they name the animals and get attached to them. (So do I!) They bawled when we rehomed Buckley, even though he was so mean to them that they were scared to go in the yard alone!
Luckily with micro farming, you don’t have to get it right the first time. That’s one of my favorite things about farming on this scale. It’s not a big gamble, and it can be a learning process and an evolution. It’s okay to make mistakes because you learn from them! You get to craft it to fit your needs and your interests. It definitely takes some experimenting to get it right so that it works for you. I’ve always been a jump right in and learn as you go kind of person, which is why this suits me so well.
(Photo courtesy of blueridgeblog.blogs.com)