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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Moral of the Story

Adapted from Sketchite

Adapted from Sketchite

There are certain times during the year the bugs in Maine are horrendous, so you often find yourself swatting, slapping and just being aggravated for a few weeks. The problem is that in this area of Maine, you are constantly saying … well, I can’t do this or that outside because it is below zero, raining, too hot, too muggy, snowing, the bugs will carry you away, etc. The list never ends for why you can’t do something in the great outdoors. For those that know me, I am always working on something from framing a new barn to building a greenhouse or repairing the swimming pool. I am also constantly harping on my family that there is always going to be a reason not to do something, so just get out there and 'gettah' done. The thing is, the more goating we do, the more I find myself in these predicaments because we want our operation to run smoothly and we want our goats to be happy for as long, or as short, as they are on the ranch, regardless of what role they play in our business.

Typically I roll out of bed at about 4 – 4:30 as Spring approaches. Sun is coming up, I have had enough sleep and my wife is just in her slumber, not to be disturbed. It works well for me because I am up and available to work most days with Lorenzo (one of my remote colleagues across the ocean in Barcelona, Spain) for a few hours early before everyone else reports for the day. Headquarters is in Calgary, Alberta. Of course, on this particular day, I took a slightly different approach.

This week I am working on a roof, for the lean-to attached to the barn expansion. Each night, my helpers say there is something going on or come up with some other excuse like the bugs are terrible. So, this morning I woke up, rolled out of bed and went outside to work, putting up metal roof panels on the lean-to by myself. Now mind you, they are three feet wide and it isn’t a solid roof. It is simply wood strapping, so you can’t get on the roof, you have to lean way out to drive the screws into the panel. Three feet doesn’t seem like a long way but it is further than you think when you are standing on the top step of the ladder (YES ... a no-no) but I had three points of contact (my toes, my free hand and the tip of the drill!) and teetering on one foot on your tiptoes to reach the furthest screw point on the panel.

This is where it gets good … so I am in that position, thinking I “goat” this, tippy toes, one foot, left leg out balancing myself in midair like a cheetah’s tail would in hot pursuit (Brady thank you for teaching me the art of similes in everyday language!) and on the top step of a six-foot ladder leaning way out to get that screw in when all of the sudden, the ladder is no longer under my foot … There is a brief moment where your neither falling nor solidly on the ladder and in that instant your decision to work by yourself screams through your head all at once. I am now pivoting in midair half on the roof and half off the roof and I hear the ladder crash to the ground.

Now wait, I want to reiterate I am working by myself at 5 AM in the morning and the whole rest of the house is sound asleep and the lean-to in question, attached to the infamous goat barn, is 150’ away from the house, where no one can hear me if I do scream like a pansy for help.

So back to the ladder that has now crashed to the ground and the teetering big guy hovering neither on the roof nor hanging from the roof, sandwiched in a two feet by two feet square area where I can’t easily let myself down eight feet to the ground nor scramble up onto the roof that is only strapped with two-inch wood strips and not sheathed with plywood.

So I manage to get my foot up behind me, and onto the strapping, in my two feet square area and push/pull my way to the roof, eight feet off the ground, scramble around and sit on the two-inch by six-inch tall stringer holding the roof together. Out of breath, looking down on the crashed ladder, what can I do but just sigh and laugh. Now the older ladies of the herd wandered back to their morning hay as the dust settled but not those darn 4-legged kids. I am quite certain, as they used the newly discovered launching pad, were making fun of me from the ground. They were probably whispering things like, “bet he wishes we were big enough to put the ladder back up” and “what if he gets stuck up there all day, who will bring us treats?”

But now what? Jump, scream for help to the fam jam (as Miss Kelly would say), cry, weep, curse … yes cursing (I am a sailor not like Lorenzo who takes every chance to get out on a sailboat he can, even dragging his wife Grisel when he can) always makes you feel better about not falling to your death or breaking a leg/arm in the process. Still now what … screaming is not going to work as the family is all asleep and too far away to hear me.

Oh wait … as I ponder my situation in the morning hours and consider just how long I may be stuck on said lean-to roof, it dawns on me, I have my cell phone in my pocket. Yes, definitely laugh and say really, you just figured that out?!? In the moment all you can think is I am not laying on the ground with a leg broke or worse. But hey, this is why I keep my cell phone in my pocket even when working because a few years back my sister in law (name that shall not be named ... Elaine) didn’t have her cell phone and she laid there for quite a while after slipping and falling on the ice. In the end, she crawled back to the house after dislocating her shoulder. Dang … I have my cell phone in my pocket so … I place the call to the wife who must be sleeping, yes likely in REM sleep … for the love of God answer the phone ... success, she answers the phone … I am saved … NO … she sends Kevin to set the ladder up for me … but wait, what 17 year old wouldn’t have something sarcastic to say to his dad after being woke up to come save his dad who is stuck on the roof. He walks out in just his skivvies barking, “Hey dad … need some help … how did you get yourself into this predicament.” Thanks Kevin for noticing the obvious!

So the moral of the story … and no the moral of the story is NOT to, NOT be out at 5 AM working, while the whole house is sleeping, nor to NOT stand on the top step of the ladder, nor NOT to stand on your tippy-toes, on one leg with your cheetah-like leg extended way out to balance you (again thank you to the master Brady for his simile rich language) … it is, in fact, to make sure you have your cell phone with you so you can beg for help! The things we will do to get the job done so our goat herd operation runs like a well-oiled machine doesn’t stop with the day to day operation; rather, they extend to all the crazy things we push ourselves to do to squeeze just one more task in for the day.

(Josh and Kathy Crise, and their grown children, Amelia and Kevin, operate Marble Creek Acres in Lee, Maine. For interest in a future year’s Kiko waitlist, questions or if you have topics you might like to read about in a future Goat Rancher, we can be reached at 207-619-3758, email mainekikos@gmail.com or marblecreekacres.com)
By Josh Crise

By Josh Crise

Featured in the April issue of Goat Rancher (pages 24-25).

Featured in the April issue of Goat Rancher (pages 24-25).


Sunday, March 1, 2020

We can live without animal protein ... But why would we?

Protein is one of the vital sources of nutrition we need for a balanced diet in our everyday lives. Should a catastrophic disaster strike the United States, or any other region of the world, a balanced diet would be the least of our concerns. The body can live without protein for a maximum of 70 days. After that, the body begins to break down muscle fiber so it can survive. Of course, we have 100s, likely 1000s of choices for protein to help us survive, should Zombies take over … yes, I enjoy a great sci-fi from time to time. But no really, my choice of protein, specifically animal protein, on the homestead, should a disaster hit, is the goat. Yes, you read me right … the goat, specifically the Kiko goat. I’ll come back to this a bit later.

My journey leading me to where I am today, and goats, likely began more than 40 years ago, I just didn’t realize it. Today, I live in rural Northern Maine, on a homestead that is bursting with three generations, and who knows, maybe the fourth generation in the coming years (my wife says “not too soon”). I am originally from California, however. Yes … definitely worlds apart. I have heard that once you marry a “Mainah”, it is only a matter of time before you find yourself in Maine: “Maine, the Way Life Should Be”, so the sign says as you enter the state. I met my wife while serving in the United States Navy. Yes, we are both Veterans. We didn’t retire but we both served six-year commitments. Lots of barrel rolls as we navigated life but eventually we landed the plane in the Maine woods.

Let’s go back to the aging first generation for a quick moment. Some might say we are crazy but there are so many cultures out there that seem to have it so right. Why is it that in America we believe that we all have to live in separate homes, from generation to generation? Sure it can be a testament to our sanity but think of everything that can be accomplished by learning from one another. And second, by working together we are able to consolidate our resources to get that much more done. Now we get to the good part. Not only do my retired parents live with us but so does my retired Navy Veteran father-in-law. Yes, you read that right! The third generation is around too though. Although my son is now a welder working a few hours away, he is home almost every weekend and my daughter commutes to the University of Maine and lives at home, doing her fair share and more to keep the homestead afloat. Definitely a full house with the current generations. Hopefully, there will be a fourth-generation on its way in the coming years.

Although I don’t label myself a prepper, I do believe in being prepared. A Prepper, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary is a person who believes a catastrophic disaster or emergency is likely to occur in the future and makes active preparations for it, typically by stockpiling food, ammunition, and other supplies. Being able to survive in an emergency would be so much more difficult without some level of preparation. I can’t say I have a well thought out plan, at this point, but I do believe you should have access to a certain amount of supplies to assure you can make it through an emergency. At least the basics. You know, access to water, food, including a source of meat protein, first aid, protection, etc.

Sure we are like many rural “Mainahs”, with maybe a bit too much preparation in some areas, while not as prepared in others. I am lightly teased by my brother who currently resides in California and many others I work with about the hardware I might keep on hand, yet many keep some of the same hardware around, maybe just not in the quantities we do. However, because I live in Maine, mind you, as I shared earlier, rural Maine, I am the target of mild harassment that quite frankly makes me laugh. Maybe it is my personality or maybe I just don’t care. Likely the latter but you have to find it ironic that so many believe that something might happen but take no steps to be prepared, just in case, there is some sort of catastrophic event. I say each to his own but likely we will say I told you so. But let’s get back on track and chatting about my choice of meat protein on the homestead.

For me and the extended family, goats, as a source of protein are ideal for a number of reasons but let’s explore how we arrived at our decision to raise goats. First, as kids, neither my wife nor I grew up on farms so we had no experience whatsoever with farm life or goats. Remember back to that 40-year journey, well it starts with limited exposure to farm animals in my youth. Sure I spent my youth involved in doing tons of cool stuff. Mostly tasks that involved using my hands in some way, just not traditional farming. So raising critters, came down initially to what we thought we could reasonably handle or manage. Honestly, goats are not quite as scary for the intimidated linebacker rancher, as say, cows might be. On the same hand, seeing a linebacker rancher running from bees like a screaming little school boy isn’t pretty, so finding the right critter to get started with, was vital, to maintain my masculinity. I needed the whole family to be involved to make a go of ranching. Since we hadn’t been around cattle, goats seemed more reasonable, and let’s just say sheep never even made the list of possibilities.

Sure goats bring a host of potential problems if you are not cognizant of the health of your herd, but in general, goats provide a much greener footprint than other big farm critters, like cows and horses, requiring fewer resources overall to maintain. Of course, horses don’t fit the typical mold for table steaks so they didn’t make the list either for meat protein. I know … yuck … I can’t believe I even wrote it! Also, housing or shelter is often repurposed for goats so it can provide substantial cost savings as well, for those who might be looking to add meat protein to their established homestead or a homestead that is just getting started. Goats require less open space and are more inclined to eat forage (typically preferable to pasture) making them able to readily survive and thrive on the brush that tends to grow in abundance all around us and during any apocalypse when no one is around to mow the lawn, trim the trees and remove brush.

Not only do goats provide a source of meat protein but they provide a potential source of income, in today’s market via meat sales and breeding stock (with lots of work to make it thrive), and would be useful as a means of trade in a catastrophic disaster. Just recently in the background of one of our favorite sci-fi shows, we could see a farmer leading a goat around. Pure survival instincts there! They also have the ability to travel long distances, so if you had to you could let them free range completely on their own. They also do very well in a wide variety of climates, from the far north to the humid southeast and arid southwest. Without getting into all of the specifics (that’s for another day), goat meat is healthy too. Hands down healthier than beef, pork, lamb and chicken, and gives fish a serious run for its money.

Not only do Kiko goats offer an opportunity to provide meat protein for my family during a disaster, because they tend to kid at least twins and often more, they also present a scalable option to produce enough meat regularly to sustain meat indefinitely with careful thought and a solid plan to manage the herd. As producers, we tend to make sure we don’t get too attached but I do have to admit, goats do have personalities so you can’t help but get a little attached. Maybe not a “man’s best friend” replacement but they do offer a bit of companionship. So for us, we offer goats a great life while they are here, able to range free around the homestead and enjoy herd life yet provide a healthy, scalable and sustainable meat protein alternative, when “it” hits the fan. So, we can live without animal protein in a catastrophic event but with such a near-perfect solution available to us, the question is...why would we?

(Josh and Kathy Crise, and their grown children, Amelia and Kevin, operate Marble Creek Acres in Lee, Maine. For interest in a future year’s Kiko waitlist, questions or if you have topics you might like to read about in a future Goat Rancher, we can be reached at 207-619-3758, email mainekikos@gmail.com or marblecreekacres.com)
By Josh Crise

By Josh Crise

Featured in the March issue of Goat Rancher (pages 19 and 32).

Featured in the March issue of Goat Rancher (pages 19 and 32).


Saturday, February 1, 2020

The Goat that Keeps on Giving

Amelia making friends with the locals

Amelia making friends with the locals

Shortly after beginning our journey into the goating world in 2015, I was blessed with the unique opportunity to travel to India with my dad. We started our two-week stay in India by traversing as tourists. We experienced the hustle and bustle of the city touring through New Delhi by rickshaw, explored beautiful temples, took the most amazing two-hour train ride to Agra where we were able to view and experience the breathtaking architecture of the Taj Mahal (a once in a lifetime must-see). To top our expedition off, we made the pilgrimage to Mahatma Gandhi's final resting place, as many tourists do, to pay their respects to one of the most distinguished leaders this world has seen.

While these opportunities were all once in a lifetime, they weren’t even the best part of our trip. Through my dad’s company, SMART Technologies, in partnership with ME to WE, we participated in an amazing program where we stayed in one of the poorest states in India. Each member of the SMART team had the opportunity to bring a family member. The goal of our team was to help break down and rebuild sections of a school in a very poor area. Each morning we traveled to the school, where in teams of four and five, we tackled the day’s tasks. These tasks included, demolition - wearing hard hats and swinging sledge hammers to break down walls, hand-making bricks - mixing the solution, setting it in the mold, and letting it dry through the day, and then rebuilding walls with the very bricks we made! The fascinating part of all this, the rooms we worked on for a short time would one day be the technological epicenter for the school.

Each day we traveled to the school, we passed farm after farm, animal after animal. We saw everything from donkeys, pigs, chickens, their sacred cows, and of course, goats! Along every roadside we saw hundreds of goats working to trim back the hedges and bushes, to keep the roads clear. The goats were of particular interest to my dad and me, as we had just started to raise our own goats.

The task of managing goats in India is quite interesting; many ranchers and small families employ very different tactics in India, that many of us are not familiar with in the United States. There are likely many practices that both Americans and Indians can learn and adopt from each other. Watching these animals on the sides of the road was quite fascinating. No fences, no electric fence chargers, no ropes or chains, and often no people. How, then, do these animals not wander off, staying in their designated area for the time being? Often the strategy we saw utilized in India was hobbling.

Hobbling has a negative connotation, but interestingly enough, the goat is not harmed, only ‘hobbled’ for a short time. The practice of bending one of the goat’s front legs at the knee joint and tying it back. This inherently hobbles the goat for a short time, keeping them from wandering too far. On the farm, we see our goats eating in this manner often, bent over on their knees as they work their way top-down on plants. As the goats’ legs are tied back, they cannot travel long distances; they simply move a few feet at a time, as a group, working a particular ditch or embankment. At the end of the day, the rancher would return, untie the goats’ legs, and the goats and rancher would go on their merry way.

On one special day, we went into a tiny farming village. An elderly lady invited us into her home, where we sat around a homemade fire stove, making chapati bread, discussing whether our bread would qualify us for marriage. We carried water in pottery on top of our heads from the stream, just as the women of the village did several times a day. And it was here where we learned of the true importance, especially for women, the goat holds in many of these small villages.

Through ME to WE, women throughout small, poor communities all over the world are gifted a goat. The goat starts these women on a unique journey that thrusts them toward success and sustainability, for both their families and on an individual level. These goats may breed as many as three times during a two year period, giving the women an opportunity to sell offspring, making money and empowering them as a woman, in a country where women are often oppressed by many standards, or raising the goat to maturity, to nourish themselves and their families when it comes time to process the animal.

ME to WE focuses on five pillars of impact in hopes of creating generations of change. The pillars of impact changing lives and transforming families and communities around the world are education, water, health, food-security, and opportunity. The goats provided to these women play a role in four, if not all five, of these pillars. Through the partnership program, the women, in turn passing the information on to their families and community, are given a unique education on sustainable living, that all starts with a goat. The nourishment the goats’ milk and meat provides for the families helps to ensure optimum health, as well as, food security. The goat also creates incredible opportunities to generate an income and accrue savings. In some cases this savings is used to send a new generation to more formalized schooling, including university.

Despite India’s global economic power, the country continues to struggle with overpopulation, environmental degradation, ethnic and religious strife, and a vast population living below the poverty line. I truly believe the single greatest social return in the eradication of poverty is education. Tailored to the needs of India’s many communities, the goat provides financial means for many women and their families throughout the country. By giving these people the skills to make themselves independent, Me to We helps to empower entire communities.

You, yes, even you, can help to empower these women and their communities. Through ME to WE, you can make charitable donations throughout the year. Each year my dad and I commit at least $50 apiece, which amazingly, goes toward the purchase of a goat for a woman coming of age in a poor community. We have done this now for the past three years. It brings me great happiness and contentment to know I can help a young woman, just like myself, to one day thrive and prosper.

This is in no way a call to action, merely an opportunity to share a unique experience with like-minded goat people. Every donation, no matter the size, has the chance to change so many lives. Providing a woman with the resources needed to generate a sustainable income, allowing her to provide for her family, leading to a lifetime of change, for her, the community, and the world is truly the goat that keeps on giving.

If you’ve been inspired to make your own impact, visit: https://forms.we.org/donation. For more information, please feel free to reach out to us.

(Josh and Kathy Crise, and their grown children, Amelia and Kevin, operate Marble Creek Acres in Lee, Maine. For interest in a future year’s Kiko waitlist, questions or if you have topics you might like to read about in a future Goat Rancher, we can be reached at 207-619-3758, email mainekikos@gmail.com or marblecreekacres.com)
By Amelia Crise

By Amelia Crise

Featured in the February issue of Goat Rancher (pages 27-30).

Featured in the February issue of Goat Rancher (pages 27-30).


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Maternal Instincts: Both Kiko and Human!

Mama, Mama, Mama I want some

Mama, Mama, Mama I want some

About four years ago my father, Joshua Crise, began his research for what would prove to be both a successful and satisfying adventure. Goats! Meat goats, in particular, were the next bit of life that would make their way to our small ranch in Lee, Maine. But first, he had to decide what breed would best fit our environment, as well as, our lifestyle. In late 2015 to early 2016, he had it narrowed down to two breeds: Kikos or Boers. In the end, it was an easy choice. He landed on Kikos for several very important reasons/attributes.

Kikos have been bred since the 1980s, starting in New Zealand, for some very key characteristics that made the decision of which meat goat breed to raise very easy. The Kiko Advantage! Kikos have exceptional maternal instincts, great parasite resistance, are both aggressive foragers and breeders, fewer hoof problems, vigorous and fast-growing kids, less producer input, and great carcass yields. All of these characteristics have proven to be true in our experience and we are extremely satisfied with my dad’s decision to raise Kikos.

Here we are three to four years into raising Kikos and I have finally pulled the trigger and decided to invest in my own stock. In October, we traveled to Indiana and participated in the Cream of the Crop Kiko Sale. I came home with two beautiful does, Balu, and Judo, who was confirmed pregnant at the time of the sale. Upon contacting her previous owner, I found that her due date was between January 1st and January 15th: a fifteen-day span where she could kid. This was a very different experience for us. In our previous kidding seasons, we knew the exact day all our does had been bred, so we knew roughly when their due dates would be, give or take a few days.

The days leading up to January were slow but also went by very quickly. All our kidding seasons leading up to this point had gone very well. However, as the days grew nearer to January, I, in particular, started to become very antsy and worried about delivery, largely because the span between when she might have kids was so large. Now, remember, we picked Kikos because of their fantastic maternal instincts; keep this in mind.

Goats have some very telling signs that help allow their people to know when the kids are coming. Some of these signs include hoofing the ground, making what seems to be a nest, some become withdrawn, some want more attention, their bags begin to fill and tighten, and they also may become vocal. Another sign can be gauged from the ligaments on the back part of the goat, right near the tail. These ligaments feel almost like two pencils running along the outside of the tail that drop off towards the rear. Within about 12-24 hours of kidding, these ligaments will completely disappear as things begin to loosen for the kids to make their way into the world.

We had heard of this technique before, however, we had never used it on any of our does as we always knew almost precisely what day the kids were coming. However, with Judo, a virtually new goat to the farm, we had no idea what we were going to be looking for. About four days before January, Judo started hoofing the ground; she had yet to do this. All of us thought she must be close! Her bags had begun to fill in, they weren’t huge, but we all remembered that Asia, another one of our Kiko does, had very small bags when the kids first hit the ground.

The days started rolling on by. Still no kids. Judo had been moved to her own kidding stall with a secluded, fenced-in area for her to move about. The heat lamp got turned on each night just in case those kids decided to make a surprise arrival in the night, not unknown to us. Now you see, we have a security camera system in place at the barn, in all of the kidding stalls, and around key places in the barn area, but wouldn’t you know, the cameras were acting up and not working properly. Would you get on that Dad!

Now we were into January and still no kids. For days I had been thinking today is the day, today is the day, but to no avail, still no kids. At that point, we decided to do some more research on the ligament method. We did a lot of reading and watched several YouTube videos. Through trial and error, and luckily Judo was very patient with us, we finally found the tell-tale ligaments. Over the next couple of days, we checked Judo’s ligaments four or five times throughout the day. If ligaments were still ‘feelable’, then she wasn’t close to kidding.

January 2nd I came home around 9:00 PM. My dad had sent me a text that I should go check Judo’s ligaments. Sure enough, her ligaments were starting to disappear. My immediate thought was that she was going to kid in the night. The ligaments weren’t completely gone but disappearing, and I wasn’t sure how long it would take for them to be gone and then for the kids to come after. So, we set up a night watch. We set alarms in two-hour increments through the night to check on Judo. Now remember again, we picked Kikos in part due to their keen mothering ability, but nevertheless, my mother and I couldn’t help but worry, so we trudged to the barn in the “arctic” temps to see how Judo was doing. While it was in the teens, and considerably cold, I think it felt even colder every time we went out there after getting out of our warm beds.

On the morning of January 3rd I went and checked on my girl around 7:00 AM. Still no kids, BUT, the ligaments were completely gone, nothing to be felt anymore. She wasn’t really showing any other signs at that point, so I went back inside and continued watching a movie to pass the time. At that point, my dad had figured out a way to make the security cameras work by capturing movement and then sending a recording to our phones. The recordings were delayed; however, they did the trick!

I was bound and determined to be there for the birth of my first kid or kids. I put on three layers of pants and six layers of shirts and jackets and trekked to the barn with three blankets and a folding chair. I sat outside for about 45 minutes, off to the side of the stall to give Judo some privacy. My dad made his way outside, and at that point, I was freezing. I could barely move my fingers, and I couldn’t feel my toes. Begrudgingly my dad convinced me to come inside, to trust the camera system.

At about 11:00 AM, inside my warm house, the security camera caught a segment of video and I knew it was time! Judo was kind of propped on her side, a position that many of our does had kidded in. I raced outside in my seven layers of shirts and jackets…to find Judo was back outside eating...facepalm. False alarm? A contraction? I really didn’t know! I went back inside and kept all my clothes on so I didn’t have to get dressed again and went back to watching my movie.

Shortly after, another segment of video came through showing the same thing: Judo propped on her side, kind of moving around uncomfortably. I raced back outside, and this time Judo was still on her side, grunting and groaning. I knew for sure it was time for the 2019 kidding season to begin!

The last kidding season it was all hands-on deck. Everybody was out there pitching in somehow. This was not the case this year. My mom was gone an hour away to work, my brother was at his job two hours away, my grandpa was at his job 20 minutes away, and my dad was upstairs working from home, on a call with someone on the other side of the globe. Normally, he would be able to sneak out to help with something like this, perks of working from home, BUT, of course, he was in a meeting, and actually giving the presentation and could not leave. Wouldn’t you know it, my grandma and I were the only ones available to be there in case Judo needed help, both of us only ever helping dry the kids off before. We picked Kikos for the very reason that they were great when kidding and rarely had any problems, but there I was, still worrying that we were going to have problems. I just wanted a healthy kid or kids! Of course, I was worried. Naturally, I was even more worried because the experienced people couldn’t help.

A few more contractions that didn’t bear any fruit and then it was finally time. With another push, I could see what I thought was a nose sticking out. I quickly texted grandma that she should come out. I hadn’t had her come out yet because it was so cold; I didn’t want her to freeze before the fun had even started.

Side story to all of this, Judo had only been on our farm three months at this point, however, she had taken to all of us. Generally, when new Kikos come to our ranch from another farm they have not been handled much, as they likely came from a large farm. We could immediately tell Judo had been handled. She was constantly under foot and always wanting our attention. Goats really are just like dogs; they even nudge your hand when you stop petting them. Needless to say, she was the sweetest out of all our does when kidding. She wanted to lay right next to me, so that’s just what I let her do. I sat on the bench and she ended up laying right on top of my feet.

Grandma and I were both at the barn. It had been about 20 minutes and it seemed like Judo wasn’t making any progress. A little nose was still sticking out, but nothing else. At that point I am getting worked up. I know the kid was in the right position, but it seemed like it was taking way too long. All the other does had a few contractions and then out popped the kids quite fast. So, I started doing some Googling. Phew! We were still in good shape. Google told me that I should only begin to worry after about an hour. Still doing good then!

We could tell Judo was very uncomfortable. She was getting up and down into that propped, leaning position. She had a few more contractions and then finally we got a peek at the nose and two front feet: perfect position for a nose dive. Things were idle for a few minutes and then the real grunting and groaning began. Grandma whipped out her camera; she was in perfect position to capture the whole birth.

A few very intense and loud grunts and then out popped a completely white kid. All white! This was a huge surprise! Judo is belted in color; her hind end is brown, the middle is white, and her front is brown. So when all white came out I was completely shocked. Somehow it must of been the milk man or the mailman. Everything seemed to be in order, and Judo immediately started doing her job: licking her kid clean so she would be nice and dry.

At that point we weren’t sure if there were any more kids coming. Judo was still pretty large, so we had a gut feeling there was at least one more. We let Judo keep licking. Baby was already wiggling around trying to find her legs. Judo had been standing up for this part. Suddenly she flopped back down into that propped position and started groaning. Either another baby was coming, or she was passing the afterbirth.

I picked up the first baby and began to dry her. It was in the teens outside so we wanted to make sure they were nice and dry so they didn’t freeze. So while Judo was preoccupied with something else, we assisted to make sure the first kid was all wiped off. I’m sure the kid would have been fine on her own, but hey, I was still worrying over here and I needed everything to go perfectly.

A few groans later, happening very quickly compared to the first, an all brown baby slipped right out. Again, completely taken by surprise when she was a solid color! At that point Judo was completely hollowed out. Her sides were caved in and she looked like nothing could be left inside her. Twins! My first goat kidded twins: perfection.

Judo worked on the second kid, licking her all over. We let her do this for awhile and then I switched and took the second baby so we could get her nice and dry too. Knock knock knock… Thank goodness, it was my dad! He finished his presentation and came out to help. It was perfect timing. While Kikos are very good at the whole kidding process, we still assist sometimes because it would be terrible to lose a kid, especially if we could have helped prevent it. It was perfect timing for him to come out because the last thing we make sure happens is to tie off and cut the umbilical cord, and then iodine the area to prevent infection. I was so glad my dad stepped out at that point because I had never done that part before.

Smooth sailing…that’s how I would describe the entire process. As much as I worried and fussed over everything, things went perfectly. With the kids dried off and tied off, Judo worked efficiently nudging them and stimulating them to make sure they were both up and moving and searching for milk. Both were already trying to suckle anything they could find. With just a little guidance, both kids had latched on: colostrum and first milk!

My Judo kidded two beautiful little doelings. The first, the white one, I named Ichi, which means ‘one’ in Japanese, because she was born first. The second, the little brown one, I named Kata, which in karate, are the positions you learn: both keeping with the kind of Asian/Karate name Judo holds.

Everything went perfect. SO much better than I could ever have imagined. Through all my anxiety and fretting, the Kiko breed pulled through, and with amazing accuracy in regard to everything we have seen in our research. Judo has been protecting her kids for the last three and a half months, though they now hold their own quite well. Ichi and Kata continue to gain weight phenomenally, keeping up with Nani, our monster doeling from last season. They are so much fun: energetic, full of life, and love to play with their humans.

All I can say is that I should have trusted everything I read about these powerful maternal instincts. These are truly amazing animals. Solid pick Dad in choosing Kikos!

I’d also like to pat myself on the back…I purchased a pregnant doe at an auction, with Dr. Fred Brown sitting behind me, whispering, “that is a good buy, you can’t go wrong with that investment.” He wasn’t wrong. Thanks Fred for the encouragement. She kidded two girls! That was everything I hoped for and more. She’s already proven to be a moneymaker. Boy, do I really know how to pick ‘em!

Hopefully, I will have just as great of luck in May when we go to the Mountain Premier Invitational Conference and Sale in West Virginia if I decide to further expand my little co-farm!

(Josh and Kathy Crise, and their grown children, Amelia and Kevin, operate Marble Creek Acres in Lee, Maine. For interest in a future year’s Kiko waitlist, questions or if you have topics you might like to read about in a future Goat Rancher, we can be reached at 207-619-3758, email mainekikos@gmail.com or marblecreekacres.com)
By Amelia Crise

By Amelia Crise

Featured in the January issue of Goat Rancher (pages 12-14).

Featured in the January issue of Goat Rancher (pages 12-14).


Sunday, December 1, 2019

Knock you on your butt, electrified fencing to protect your herd

Fencing that runs through wooded areas is always susceptible to being damaged by falling trees and limbs. Repairs must be made quickly.

Fencing that runs through wooded areas is always susceptible to being damaged by falling trees and limbs. Repairs must be made quickly.

As December and ultimately Winter approaches in the Northeast, I find myself making lists and checking them twice, to see who has been naughty or nice! Wait, that isn’t quite the right list. Instead, I am meticulously working through our farm-related to-dos … well let’s face it, I like to believe I am anyways. I am always trying to check off an item or two a night and a few items over the weekend, with the hopes of being prepared for the cold months better than I was last year and better than the year before and so on, with special attention to the protection of my herd. For me, that also means rushing around trying to get another item done before it gets dark each night. I am a firm believer that if I can squeeze in just one more item each day, that the list the next day is that much shorter, and eventually the list is gone. Maybe a pipe dream?!? That doesn’t mean you should cut corners but I do like to set a goal and try to pick up the pace to get it all done before it is super cold outside. Unfortunately, rushing around to get your list completed, sometimes leaves room for a short story. A digression, to provide some smiles before continuing on the topic of protecting the herd.

Bonding -- I think bonding is an important part of team and community building … and laughter at each other’s expense is even more important. I also believe that with so many of us working several jobs, filling a variety of roles at home and work, or wearing multiple hats, it is always great to come up for a short breath to be amused at the expense of one another. So with that said … chores are an important part of the daily routine but when you’re trying to check off one more item you are left with rushing around to get the chores done before the sun goes down. So without further ado, a little later than this time last year, I broke a dozen eggs, carrying them in from the chicken coop. It was super icy, we had about two inches of rain followed by three inches of fluffy white snow. To say the least, it was a mess.

So imagine a good size fella, doing a bit of a Wile E. Coyote backwards slip, running in place, as my feet become airborne and leave the earth, achieving more than four feet in the air, parallel to the ground, eyes to the sky, the bucket full of precious cargo, swinging in a long loop over my head and me losing my grip on it about 45 degrees behind my head and the bucket and all the eggs flying through the air and crashing to the ground an instant before I smashed to the ground on my backside?!? Not pretty. No egg in my face as some might wish but soaking wet and no more eggs to bring in or to sell to our local community. Definitely amusing for Kathy and Amelia, who had the chance opportunity to watch it all in slow motion. You’re supposed to ask are you ok?!? But you can’t help but laugh out loud first because seeing anyone defy the rules of gravity, even if for only a few seconds, is funny. Did I mention I was wearing those ice walker-anti slip spring things on my boots? Not much help were they, for the amateur pole vaulter. With that said, be safe, while you are working on those chores, getting ready for the winter, and in my case working through a list of to-dos to make sure the herd is protected from Maine predators.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program. Checking the integrity of my electric fences is always on my list but as more and more unstable weather fronts seem to be coming through at this time of year, we find ourselves out repairing damaged fences more and more. Just this weekend we were out cutting three, 12-15” diameter, trees off the fences after a recent rain and wind storm. Our fences are not only critical for keeping in our Kikos but they are even more critical for keeping predators out as we currently do not maintain a pack of Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGDs) for protecting our herd. Yes, you read that right … NO LGD pack currently.

We have a variety of predators that our herds might be faced with throughout the year. Fun fact, although likely not considered a top predator, there are no poisonous snakes in Maine. Yippee, one less animal to watch out for when we are trekking around the ranch. We do have one of the largest black bear populations at 30,000, bobcat, coyote, fox, lynx, weasels and fisher. Unofficially, mountain lion or cougar have been seen fairly often in our neck of the woods but as I noted, not officially an animal documented in the state of Maine. We also have some super big coyotes. The sort that makes you look twice when you come across them. You know they can’t be wolves, although there are wolf packs just across the border in Canada. Still, these canines are quite a bit larger than coyotes. More and more videos, images and sightings of Eastern Coyotes or Coywolves have begun to surface. The coywolf is a hybrid cross between the Eastern wolves of the Great Lakes region and the Western coyotes. I suspect we have a few Coywolf starting to run around the region as well.

Like many farms, ranches or acreages, we are faced with making the decision to take on additional costs to have a pack of LGDs, guard donkeys or guard llamas. Of course, there are many that would suggest guard donkeys or llamas just aren’t the same as having dogs, like Akbash, Anatolian Shepherd or Great Pyrenees to guard or protect the herd from predators. I am not here to defend or debate the pros and cons of using any of them. In our case, we opted for heavy-duty fence chargers, 16 Joule or better. The sort of fence that knocks you on your butt to deter predators and keep our goats from wandering. Of course, a happy goat typically doesn’t test fences unless they are in rut but better safe than sorry. We know it isn’t a perfect solution but so far we have had decent luck keeping predators at bay, even the occasional human!

As many might say, chickens are the gateway animal to farming and often lead to other endeavors. It did for us. Although we only have anecdotal evidence to date, what we noticed is that in the years leading up to having Kikos, when we just had chickens, we lost 3-4 chickens a year to fox. After putting in an electric fence to keep the goats in, we stopped losing chickens to predation almost completely, having only two lapses. Once when we had a near lightning hit that took out our fence charger for a few days and the second when we had a bottom line that was found to be too high off the ground, allowing a fox to come in unobstructed. During that time we lost a couple of chickens but nothing like we had in previous years. As I said, only anecdotal, but it leaves us with making sure we maintain the integrity of our fence to assure the protection of our goats from predators.

I can’t say that knock you on your butt electrified fencing will work for everyone in keeping out predators, in all cases. If moose were a predator we would be in trouble because we have had them stroll through the top strand and stretch it until it breaks. We have just found, to date, it works for us on a small acreage in rural Maine. That doesn’t mean I do not constantly have getting LGDs on my mind to better protect my investment either. The integrity of your fence should always be top of mind to ensure the safety of your herd, whether keeping predators out or keeping your herd inside the fence. No solution is perfect. Each situation needs a plan that represents the threats that are typical for the region to ensure the success of your operation.

(Josh and Kathy Crise, and their grown children, Amelia and Kevin, operate Marble Creek Acres in Lee, Maine. For interest in a future year’s Kiko waitlist, questions or if you have topics you might like to read about in a future Goat Rancher, we can be reached at 207-619-3758, email mainekikos@gmail.com or marblecreekacres.com)
By Josh Crise

By Josh Crise

Featured in the December issue of Goat Rancher (pages 16 & 18).

Featured in the December issue of Goat Rancher (pages 16 & 18).


Friday, November 1, 2019

What's that smell?

Qato, our junior herdsire, demonstrating his flawless Flehmen Response at the start of breeding season.

Qato, our junior herdsire, demonstrating his flawless Flehmen Response at the start of breeding season.

Goats are unique: from their color and body structure to their personalities. They can make you laugh. Sometimes you end up in the wrong place and get a bump or a hard knock, so at times, they definitely can make you cry. They are a ton of work and more importantly, they are a ton of fun and bring a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.

Now let’s go back a year, five years, ten years, or even thirty years. You’re a new goat owner. You’re puttering around at the barn. Let’s face it, that’s what we goat producers do best. All of sudden you see your big, broad, burly buck curling his upper lip and stretching his neck up…almost like he is sniffing the air? And you chuckle, maybe snort, or even laugh out loud; and think, what in tarnation is that big guy doing this time?

I’m sure we are all very familiar with our goats curling their upper lip. We often see this occur during the breeding season, especially when our bucks are getting a good whiff of the does. What you may not know is that this action has a name: at times, some very informal and funny names we come up with on our farms. Okay! You probably figured the action had a name, but you may not know the actual name of the action. This action is called the Flehmen Response. This response is exhibited in many different animals including horses, giraffes, big and small cats, donkeys, cows, and even rhinos.

Fun fact, flehmen means “to bare the upper teeth” in German. This to me is rather ironic as when our goats do this, we only see the fleshy, upper palate…no teeth! This response is generally associated with bucks during the mating season. Interestingly enough, this response is exhibited by both males and females, at any time of the year. We see this response in both males and females, during any time of the year, because this display is simply to gather more information about something the animal smells.

In doing a little research, I discovered what I generally find when doing some goat research. It can be very difficult to find statistics and information on goats. Sheep are the far more common studied small ruminant. While they are very similar, there are some key differences physically, behaviorally, as well as, physiologically, but that’s a talk for another day. As for the Flehmen Response, there are virtually no differences.

Now, for a little physiology lesson. I’m no scientist, but here’s what I dug up. The Flehmen Response draws air into the Jacobson’s Organ, or the vomeronasal organ (VNO), an olfactory sense organ common among many animals. The organ is named for the vomer and nasal bones, which are found in humans as well…wouldn’t it be funny if humans ran around doing this too? Animals that exhibit this response have a duct behind their incisors that connects the oral cavity to the VNO. A chemical cue is then obtained when the animals take this position.

The main function of this response is to transfer air containing pheromones and other scents to the organ. This information is then used in several ways. Largely in goats, the response is used to identify reproductive status. A male will generally use the Flehmen Response as an olfactory mechanism to understand whether the female is in heat by smelling her urine. In other species, the response has been correlated with reproductive synchrony, as well as, a sign of maturity in elephants.

What we have recently found on our small farm in rural Maine is that this response is simply a self-communication method. Goats use this response when they smell something they are interested in and use it to gather information about this fascinating smell. Now, generally, we see this in our males, but sometimes in our females, as well, for several reasons. Urine, feces, and birthing fluids are often investigated using this response. You just don’t get a chance to see does curling their lips and putting their nose in the air, in response, like we do bucks. So it is comical to watch.

Well, we have a new development here at Marble Creek Acres, but first, a little background. Back in May of this year, my mom, Kathy, and I traveled to West Virginia for the Mountain Premier Invitational Sale. Now, these auctions are usually my father, Josh’s, responsibility, with supervisory support from my mom, my brother, and I. He does the research. He works the sale catalog. Due to a last-minute change in our goat caretaker (Gpa), my dad had to stay home and care for the kids. As a result, my mom and I set out on our first solo goat endeavor.

This was our first time at the Mountain Premier Invitational, their second invitational, and it was a big hit. We hope to go again next year. The sale was also a great success for us. We brought home two beautiful does, a blue girl I added to my own sub-herd named Azul, and a tan girl named Opal that my dad added to his herd. While the sale was very successful, the ride home was rather interesting. Opal rode the entire way home buried under the hay in order to stay away from Azul (which sounds just like the way she was acting). Needless to say, we eventually made it home and our two new girls have integrated well into the collective herd in the last five months.

Now back to our newest development, a change we observed in Opal. Opal began, and remains, a standoffish goat when it comes to people. Now, we are operating a business, but having friendly goats only adds to our success in the long run; we have worked very hard to make progress with some of our more anti-human goats, Opal being no exception. Over the last few months, we have enticed her with treats in order to make friends. Slowly we have made progress. She still runs from our touch, but as she thinks we carry treats all the time, she now constantly sniffs and nuzzles our hands to figure out what might be concealed in our hands.

And that’s just it. In trying to figure out what we have, Opal has taken to demonstrating the Flehmen Response every single time she sniffs a human. Whether we are ungloved, wearing work gloves, carrying snacks, it doesn’t matter. She immediately stretches her neck out and curls that upper lip. This phenomenon threw us for a loop. This was the first time one of our goats had produced the Flehmen Response when sniffing a human, and at that, doing it every single time she smells us. To this day, she is the only doe we have ever seen doing this. An interesting thing we have uncovered...if you buy mint cookies covered in chocolate from Walmart, then proceed to rub your fingers on the minty smelling coating, and then allow Opal to sniff your fingers, within seconds she draws back and curls her lip. When she’s decided she can’t figure out the smell, she comes back in for another trace smell to try and figure it out again.

Every day on the farm is quite an adventure. As I said before, we are working towards operating a successful business. That being said, it doesn’t feel like ‘work’. Yes, there is constantly physical work to be done on the farm, but there is always a bit of fun involved at all times. As we operate a small farm, we interact with each goat daily. By doing so we can observe each animal and get to know all their personalities: every single quirk and thing about them that makes them unique, including a doe who throws her head back and curls her lip when interacting with humans…trying to figure out, “human what’s that smell?”

(Josh and Kathy Crise, and their grown children, Amelia and Kevin, operate Marble Creek Acres in Lee, Maine. For interest in a future year’s Kiko waitlist, questions or if you have topics you might like to read about in a future Goat Rancher, we can be reached at 207-619-3758, email mainekikos@gmail.com or marblecreekacres.com)
By Amelia Crise

By Amelia Crise

Featured in the November issue of Goat Rancher (pages 32 & 42).

Featured in the November issue of Goat Rancher (pages 32 & 42).


Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Feed & Forage --- Winter is already knocking on our back door

Collapsible feeder in action with Amelia taking a representative core sample to determine % of the protein in our available hay.

Collapsible feeder in action with Amelia taking a representative core sample to determine % of the protein in our available hay.

As Fall approaches (still August at this point when sitting down to write this … type this?), feed and forage are top of our mind. With Winter around the corner --- Yes already! --- and it definitely seems to be arriving earlier and earlier here in Northern Maine, or at least Fall has arrived much earlier than normal, we are left wrestling with prepping our small rural homestead and goat operation for Winter. This includes considering how we will feed hay out over the cold months and what sub-groups we will feed; hay-only, grain (herd sires, bucklings, doelings, does, lactating does, late pregnancy does, etc.), likely some combination of both to meet the nutritional needs of our goats, especially with the lack of available forage to help offer a stable protein intake; making sure we have the right balance of feed and whether we have the right amount of protein available in our Winter hay.

We know producers around the New England area approach feeding differently depending on their setting, their husbandry practices, and their production goals. Let’s face it though, goating is hard work, no matter how we slice it and typically we are all looking for new and innovative ways to refine and evolve our approach to ease perceived pain points in our operations. At Marble Creek Acres, we are no different. Last year we made a change in the way we feed out hay to our goats throughout the year, by rolling out Ketcham’s Collapsible Big Bale Feeders. One on each side of our Winter barn. A near-perfect solution for our approach with a couple of tweaks to support our approach. Though, we are unsure if there are any perfect solutions for feeding out hay to goats. When these collapsible feeders are set up correctly, they definitely reduce the amount of waste that often can be associated with goats. We have found that the collapsible feeder is also a much better solution in preventing kids from getting their heads stuck compared to other solutions and approaches we have used in the past. The narrow 3” vertical rods can be challenging for big Kikos but they definitely prevent heads from getting stuck and having to make early morning and late night rescues out in the cold wintery mix.

The available daylight is already perceptively decreasing each day, the pastures and forage are slowing in their available output and the herd is taking fewer and fewer trips out to forage. As many producers are likely doing at this time of year, with the change in climate, you might be reflecting on how your goats are managing. Maybe they are healthy but they are not putting on weight as much as you expected. If you are saying that, there could be a number of reasons why. For us, we are scrutinizing the quality of our hay this year, more than we have in the past. We suspect most producers supplement their herds with at least some hay year-round. If your goats are to do well, it is vital that they get the right amount of protein. No brainer, right?

Most of us assume if the hay looks good then it must be decent. We buy our hay in advance but do not currently store it onsite but this still leads us to be thinking about the quality of our hay, specifically protein content and whether the quality will be better than it has in past years. With support from our local University of Maine Cooperative Extension, for the first time, we are taking hay samples with a corer to send off to a lab for analysis. You’re thinking, “you have never checked the quality of your hay. That’s insane!” Better to start now, than not at all, right?. Crossing our fingers it comes back higher than what we suspect. Knowing the actual number will better inform our decisions moving forward this year. For a deeper dive, although a few years old now, a great article, https://bit.ly/2kqffqt, published by Dr. Jean-Marie Luginbuhl at North Carolina State University, provides a great overview of the nutritional requirements, specifically the protein needs of meat-producing goats. In years past, it has been clear that the quality of the hay provided enough protein to support maintaining our herd but not necessarily enough to increase the weight during the Winter months so that our meat goats could better pack on the pounds and stay nutritionally fit to ensure healthy breeding, kidding and lactation.

About this time of year, while the temperatures are still pleasant in the evenings, and there aren’t too many bugs out that might carry us away, we like to conduct a panel workup of preventative health checks. Keep in mind, we are operating a fairly small herd, just about 25 Kiko goats in total, during the Winter months. Each producer operates a little different but we like to weigh each of our goats, so should we need to administer any medications we have current weights available; check and trim hooves as needed to make sure hooves are healthy but also to have the data needed to cull those goats that don’t cut the mustard; body score to make sure we don’t have any fatties or any Kikos that are underweight (under- or overweight can result in a poor kidding experience and singles); and check FAMACHAs while we have goats handy as an early warning to any bloodthirsty parasites that might be building up in their systems (of course we do regular checks but this is that one time when we check them all at the same time under the same conditions).

Although it is great to capture all of this data, we are most interested in the body score at this time of year. Sure, the weights are important but having a good sense of whether our goats are filling out nicely, preferably a body score in the range of 4 but not a 5, is ideal. First, this lets us know who in the herd is converting protein efficiently and will reach market weight faster. And second, who might need a little more attention throughout the Winter and leading up to kidding season. Understand, we are a proponent of low input but if we want to be successful, we need to at least be cognizant of our herd’s needs during the Winter months, at least up in Northern Maine. I suspect this rings true for many of the northern states and Canada.

Armed with the results of our hay analysis and current data from conducting our health screening workup, we are able to make educated decisions about the herd over the Winter by supporting them with the right balance of grain (as needed) and hay. Developed by Drs. Gipson, Goetsch, and Hart at the American Institute for Goat Research, the Nutrient Requirement Calculator, https://bit.ly/2lFjq1I, enables producers to formulate a well-balanced nutritional diet for your meat goats with just a few short steps. By providing an efficient feeder, understanding the quality of my hay (protein) and current weights we are able to target broadly the nutritional requirements of the sub-groups on our ranch. Like many producers, we are not fans of graining indiscriminately. However, we recognize, especially in the north, that so much of what Kikos consume is used almost completely for just staying warm, from basically Thanksgiving to Easter, so knowing how much protein is available and supplementing with what makes the most sense for our climate and husbandry approach are important factors as we plan for Winter.

The leaves are starting to turn, apples are ripening and the nights are getting cooler and cooler. My wife and daughter are convinced this year’s kids have even started putting on their Winter coats! As we approach Labor Day, the calendar indicates August yet the weather suggests something entirely different. The Old Farmers’ Almanac predicts the Northeast is in for a “wet and wild” Winter with a good amount of snow! With Winter knocking on our back door, it is time to start wrapping up any outstanding projects and leverage our data to ensure the long term success of our herd.

(Josh and Kathy Crise, and their grown children, Amelia and Kevin, operate Marble Creek Acres in Lee, Maine. For interest in a future year’s Kiko waitlist, or any other questions, we can be reached at 207-619-3758, email mainekikos@gmail.com or marblecreekacres.com)
By Josh Crise

By Josh Crise

Featured in the October issue of Goat Rancher (pages 10 & 11).

Featured in the October issue of Goat Rancher (pages 10 & 11).


Sunday, September 1, 2019

Involving Youth Early

Mad scientist helping with the goat pill evaluations.

Mad scientist helping with the goat pill evaluations.

With this month’s Goat Rancher focus on “Youth”, it’s left me reflecting on what our home would have been like if I had taken the Kiko meat goat leap when our kids were youngsters. We were always involved in school activities, including music, sports, and other after school outdoor activities but neither my wife nor I were raised on farms so goating was and is foreign to us. There’s nothing you can’t read and research to learn or reach out to locals (mind you local could be anywhere in the world with the technology we have available at the tips of our fingers today), knowledgeable producers, ranchers, farmers, specialists or outreach programs to help you get up to speed.

We did dive in with the gateway farm animal, chickens, while our kids were still in high school. Our daughter came to me and asked if we could raise chickens. I said you read and do the research and we will get set up and then get a few chickens. Of course, a few chickens turned into a lot more over time. That led to Kikos a few years later. The question I am left with is, would we be more heavily involved in FFA, 4H programs or the show ring if we had started much earlier? Knowing our children (young adults at this point), I am not sure. Of course, my Kiko decision limits the show ring (gladly)! However, we attend agricultural fairs around the state of Maine and I see various ages mucking stalls, working the ring and showcasing with pride their chickens and other barnyard animals, including goats. However, our daughter, Amelia, is still heavily involved even today, cautiously starting her own herd and my son still pitches in from time to time staying involved on the weekends when he is home, from building naval ships in Southern Maine.

This leads me to how you keep your kids (pun intended) involved from an early age, and not just involved but keeping them coming back for more. For us, it was POO! Yes, fecal counts, microscopes, and parasites. It all started when the kids and I got involved with the University of Maine and the FAMACHA training we attended through our local livestock extension. We attended training that included an overview of parasites, FAMACHA scoring and conducting our own fecal counts. There are so many organizations offering free training to help you get started, including conferences and extension programs. Don’t forget about blogs, YouTube or Facebook! All are great ways to read up and get up to speed. The training was cool but I was more interested in the study that was being conducted by the University of Maine. However, it did put the itch in the back of my mind, that later became part of our goat husbandry practices.

The short of it is that the University of Maine was offering to cover all costs to be a part of a research project around understanding the efficacy of various wormers in use to combat parasites in goats. I would recommend to anyone who has the opportunity to work with your local livestock extension or university to take advantage of it. You can learn so much. Of course, since then I have learned a ton and won’t focus much on the study itself other than to say, my gut reaction was whoop, whoop, free ride, this is a great opportunity!

So without further ado, I dove in and collected fecal, from very uncooperative Kikos each month for the entire herd (about 20 goats) for an entire summer. I understand it isn’t practical for 100+ herds or even smaller but even spot checks on suspect goats will help you understand your herd better. The collecting went as expected. We received great data and started to understand what parasite thresholds a goat can manage and when they start to have issues. Understand, I am not a veterinarian and not making any recommendations around when to provide a wormer and when not, but like most producers, we have to make some educated decisions because there aren’t vets around 24/7 or in rural, remote areas as often as we would like. Of course, parasite thresholds also leads to questions around resistance or resilience. Maybe an article for another day. However, the research project came to an abrupt end and I was left wanting, so I reflected on that original training and decided it was time to invest in a mini-lab to conduct my own fecal counts.

Keep in mind, your fecal counts are not going to be perfect but they certainly will provide the necessary insight to take preventative measures should it be needed. Every goat is different so understanding their parasite threshold can mean the difference between losing a goat and making a course correction to save a goat. I can hear many of the long-time Kiko producers, saying you can’t coddle them. Cull them if they can’t make it on their own. I hear you. I hear you, and respect your approach. For me, I want as self-sufficient a herd as possible so totally in line with characteristics we want from Kikos but for me, I am still trying to understand my local environment and the various factors that pull and push, day to day, on my herd. So I take a few extra steps just in case so I can predict and quickly address the signs should I see something out of the ordinary.

This is where it gets truly fun with youth though, keeps them involved, brings lots of laughs (I mean who doesn’t like playing with goat poo) and teaches them process, to evaluate and to make decisions based on sound data. I am not going to focus on the evaluation aspect or making decisions around your data. For now, I just want to look at instilling a process, sticking to it and how it brings focus to youngsters that might be helping you. Recently our 8-year-old niece, visiting from California, couldn’t get enough of being outside with the animals, from getting chores done to collecting eggs.

There were a number of processes I picked up throughout the years, but one that was imparted during my days as a sailor in the US Navy is conducting spot checks. Maintenance comes in two flavors; preventative and corrective. Stay with the analogy for the moment but preventative care goes a long way in preventing the need for corrective actions or care. Preventative maintenance includes daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, bi-monthly (you get the point) checks on various systems to make sure they are running well and that they are maintained in an effort to prevent catastrophic failures which result in corrective maintenance or worse. And mind you corrective maintenance sometimes can’t be avoided, even with all of the precautions you might take upfront.

When you are to the point where you have a goat down, in many cases, it is too late. So like many, we do spot checks. And it takes a village, so it is definitely a “We”. We keep an eye on our herd for loners or goats that are just not acting quite right and I do regular FAMACHA checks. Not daily, but regular. On larger herds or when you are working full time and goating is your part-time gig, it just isn’t possible, to check every goat but with a regular preventative program, including fecal counts you can conduct spot checks on your herd and keep your kids involved and even do a bit of teaching along the way. Our daughter loves data, tracking and making lists to ensure the health of our herd.

A process is important to ensure the integrity of your data. Process teaches kids how to follow directions and using a microscope gives kids a real-world example of something that most kids learn in school in their science classes. All too often we hear, why do I need to learn this, I will never use this in the real world. Well now you have something to involve youth in, that is relatively straight forward, gives them a chance to collect and play with poo, follow directions, count and analyze data and make decisions to support the health of your herd. In the end, our niece, couldn’t quite bring herself to collect poo the way the Crise clan collects it but she had a lot of fun and can’t wait to come back next year.

If you want to get kids involved, teach them a ton, and have some great laughs, then get them out collecting and analyzing poo!

Materials
- Disposable gloves
- Fecasol solution
- Beaker graduated in milliliters
- Stir stick
- Scale with a sensitivity of .1 gram
- Gauze 3” x 3”
- Disposable plastic pipet
- McMasters egg counting slide
- Paper towels
- Compound microscope

Note: Total egg count (both chambers of McMaster’s slide) x 50 = EPG (Eggs /gram)

Procedure

- Collect fresh fecal sample
- Weigh out 2 grams of fecal
- Add 28 milliliters of Fecasol to beaker
- Add weighed fecal to beaker with Fecalsol
- Break up fecal and stir
- Strain slurry through cheesecloth into another beaker
- Squeeze out as much liquid as possible
- Pre-wet McMaster’s slide and shake off excess water
- Mix strained fluid well and draw up into pipet
- Fill both McMaster’s chambers and avoid adding bubbles to counting chambers
- Let stand for 1-2 minutes
- Methodically count each egg type

(Josh and Kathy Crise, and their grown children, Amelia and Kevin, operate Marble Creek Acres in Lee, Maine. For interest in a future year’s Kiko waitlist, or any other questions, we can be reached at 207-619-3758, email mainekikos@gmail.com or marblecreekacres.com)
By Josh Crise

By Josh Crise

Featured in the September issue of Goat Rancher (pages 45 & 46).

Featured in the September issue of Goat Rancher (pages 45 & 46).


Thursday, August 1, 2019

Finding your Niche --- USDA Private Label

Farm visits bring out the freezer on wheels.

Farm visits bring out the freezer on wheels.

Have any of you considered what your fiscal year looks like? Do you use the standard calendar year? Is your fiscal year based around tax season? Or do you base your fiscal year and your planning around the start of breeding season or kidding season? There is so much to consider as we begin to plan but it also leaves me reflecting on the past year, not specifically about planning but what went well and what I want to repeat or continue doing in the next year. What activities am I specifically engaged in that help me get the most bang for my buck? Pun intended. As the final kids are being picked up and heading out to various farms this week, some as far away as 750 miles, I am left with what is working and thankful to be able to close on a number of sales this fiscal year. But what’s next? What do I want to continue to focus on? What do I stop doing? Aside from planning and getting ready, how or what do I do to keep revenue flowing in the offseason? A little here, a little there, as you know goes a long way until the next kidding season. We are not a large operation, nor do we have space currently to maintain more than about 20-25 head over the winter so every idea plays a key role in our ongoing success.

That leads me to one area that needs more focus but seems to be making a difference in our long term growth … USDA Private Labeling of our goat meat for sale. And really just a few extra phone calls and emails. Okay and maybe some reading and research too but it offered me the opportunity to sell USDA private labeled goat meat direct from my home. Sure, there are lots of considerations; proper insurance, licenses, etc. and I encourage anyone reading and considering USDA or for that matter state private labeling to do their own research and investigation to make sure you cover yourself appropriately, but adding this niche to my farm added some depth and breadth that has provided some extra revenue throughout the year.

But let’s back up, how did I find myself even considering USDA private labeling goat meat for sale? I mean truthfully, we hear about commercial operations, but I am not sure I have ever seen anyone speak to private labeling. Honestly, I never even considered it a possibility until … well ... my wife dragged me to the farmers market in another part of the state. Yah, my journey to explore USDA private labeling started with a simple trip to the farmers market. My wife was nagging me … ok nudging me. I say that in the most loving way. She just wanted out of the house for the day on a short adventure, and let’s add, at least I hope, to spend time with me! Admittedly, I am NOT what you might call a creature of habit but I am task- and goal-oriented so when I set my sights on getting something done, and yes lists might be involved in getting it done, I don’t like to deviate, I just want to get it done. Side trips are disruptive to me getting it done and so I struggle to just go have fun when there is something to be finished or moved forward. With that said, that side trip helped me find a niche to further market goats and goat meat in the offseason for our operation. Mind you, I live in rural Northern Maine and quite frankly there just isn’t as large of a need for goat meat but I am gaining traction. Just last week I sold $70 in goat meat off the farm during a farm visit.

Let’s explore the farm visit. A great opportunity for an upsell or add-on. Many producers find the farm visit painful. I enjoy them. It is an opportunity to meet with like-minded folks and well, let’s face it, an opportunity for an upsell. Some producers put a donation bucket out while others set a schedule for hours, or set an appointment. We invite visitors pretty much any time. We have even had visitors ask if we take donations or if there is a fee. Our answer has always been no but what we have found is that it is a prime opportunity to sell goat meat direct from the freezer and farm to table. I have a small 7 cubic foot freezer that I made a small, custom dolly for so we can roll it around. And we added custom cut boards to it to help divide and keep the meat organized in the freezer. We place a few of every cut in the baskets at the top and the rest below in the bottom to make it easy to peruse. Of course, a commercial freezer with a clear glass top would be ideal but you have to start somewhere, right? We have added truck magnets to the front and top, price lists and business cards to dress it all out. When customers come by for a farm visit, we remove the sheet covering the freezer and roll it to the front of the barn for easy access and proper lighting. It provides a terrific opportunity to close with a sell, provide a price list for goat meat and hand out a business card for future business.

My experience may be different than others but I am a firm believer, if you do not ask, you can’t get told no, so I found myself reaching out to local butchers and meat processing facilities to see what steps I needed to take to get set up. Keep in mind local is relative when you are in rural Northern Maine. I found out along the way when getting my small business license, that at least in Maine, you only need USDA approval to sell across state lines so I may be able to find a processing facility closer that offers state-approved private labeling. However, after finding the right processing facility, in my case Herring Brothers (Establishment 9760) of Guilford, Maine, (to read more about our operation, and specifically our USDA Private Label, visit https://bit.ly/2xqXI4e), they informed me that I needed to create or have created a label with some pretty basic information, including the USDA Inspection stamp with Establishment number, “Keep Refrigerated, May Be Frozen”, contact information including company name and any other pertinent positioning I might like to have on the label. I did find out along the way that any assertions I made, needed a special letter to the USDA for approval which I supplied to the processor who filed it for approval with the USDA. About 4-6 weeks later I had my approval and then had my private labels created and sent to the processor to have on hand anytime I have goats to process. Of course, they will process and package the meat to whatever cut and weight you require. And then you are off and running. For me, there was no immediate boom or run on meat sales but we have steadily sold goat meat farm to table for over a year now.

It’s not for everyone but if you are looking to break into a niche market that appears very promising, you might look into getting your meat approved with the USDA with your own private label. It’s not an overly difficult process. Sure there are hoops to jump through but I can think of many other processes that are much more difficult out there and it is a terrific way to provide an add-on during every farm visit, whether they are there to pick up breeding stock or just out to see your operation. You know as well as I do … every dollar counts.

(Josh and Kathy Crise, and their grown children, Amelia and Kevin, operate Marble Creek Acres in Lee, Maine. For interest in a future year’s Kiko waitlist, or any other questions, we can be reached at 207-619-3758, email mainekikos@gmail.com or marblecreekacres.com)
By Josh Crise

By Josh Crise

Featured in the August issue of Goat Rancher (pages 17 & 18).

Featured in the August issue of Goat Rancher (pages 17 & 18).


Monday, July 1, 2019

Goat Recipes Made Easy

Taco night with the Crise Crew!

Taco night with the Crise Crew!

If you are new to goat meat, its mild flavor, and lean fat content, then you may be interested in how you might integrate it into your everyday meals. We get questions on a regular basis asking us how we cook our goat meat as well as what is the best meal to try it in for the first time.

There are tons of recipes on the internet you can search for and try but we like to keep it simple to start. For example, try replacing your hamburger with goat burger in traditional meals like stews, spaghetti, chili, or tacos. Below I share a couple of our favorite recipes. Super simple and easy to prepare. Can’t “goat” wrong with these dinner time staples.

If you want to explore cooking and eating goat meat further, I recommend reading this short article, https://locavoremagazine.co/books-goat-cooking-and-eating-by-james-whetlor/ by James Whetlor or buy his book, https://www.amazon.com/Goat-Cooking-Eating-James-Whetlor/dp/1787131181 to learn even more about the history of goats and cooking with goat meat. It is eye-opening and entertaining. James does a great job, giving a brief history of the goat and sharing some of his favorite recipes.

For me, I like to keep it Simple Stupid. Why complicate it when there are so many great and easy staple recipes to get you started. I have never been much of a Chili fan but this first recipe is absolutely one of my favorites and super simple to prepare ~ borrowed straight out of the Shape ReClaimed recipe book. You end up with a hearty, robust flavored meal that everyone at the table can enjoy. Remember, just tweak it to your liking by adding shredded cheese, beans, tortilla chips or sour cream.

Chili Con Carne

1. In a pot, brown ground goat burger with onions and spices over low-medium heat.
2. Reduce heat to low, add tomatoes and mix thoroughly.
3. Simmer one hour and adjust salt, pepper and Franks hot sauce to taste.

Ingredients
- 16 oz goat burger
- 4 tbsp chopped onion
- 4 tsp Cumin
- 4 tsp Chili powder
- 1 tsp Garlic
- 6 cups diced tomatoes with juice

Yield: 4 servings

Another longtime staple in the Crise family diet for many, many years, is anything considered Mexican food. Hard or soft shell, corn or flour tacos is one of our favorites. This second recipe is served right off an Old El Paso, Taco Seasoning Mix packet. Don't forget to dress those tacos with refried beans, shredded cheese, lettuce, diced tomatoes and onions or sour cream to take it up a notch. Let’s not leave out the hot sauce. I prefer a verde salsa but the rest of the family is typically after a more traditional salsa.

Hard or Soft Shell Tacos
1. In a skillet, brown ground goat burger.
2. Stir in water and seasoning mix; heat to boiling.
3. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered 2 to 4 minutes, stirring often, until thickened.

Ingredients
- 16 oz goat burger
- 2/3 cup water
- 1 pkt Taco Seasoning

Yield: 4 servings

As I shared initially, these are some of our favorite traditional burger replacement meals. What are you waiting for, try some goat meat for yourself. Did you notice how lean the meat was after you browned it in the pan? No grease to drain off ~ must be healthy!

(Josh and Kathy Crise, and their grown children, Amelia and Kevin, operate Marble Creek Acres in Lee, Maine. For interest in a future year’s Kiko waitlist, or any other questions, we can be reached at 207-619-3758, email mainekikos@gmail.com or marblecreekacres.com)
By Josh Crise

By Josh Crise

Featured in the July issue of Goat Rancher (pages 42)

Featured in the July issue of Goat Rancher (pages 42)