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

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).

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 [email protected] or