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Breeder finds her niche with goats

By Staff | Jul 26, 2015

-Farm News photos by Barbara Wallace Hughes Dawn Anderson, who raises Boer goat breeding stock, offers a treat to one of her black head Boer does while other members of the herd wait their turns.

By BARBARA

WALLACE HUGHES

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BADGER – The sign at the end of the driveway says it all: Girl and the Goat Farm.

Dawn Anderson raises Boer goat breeding stock, which she acquires and markets nationwide.

This friendly red Boer doeling was a bottle baby at Dawn Anderson’s farm.

She maintains a herd of about two dozen goats near Badger in Webster County, and she buys and sells animals online across the country. Her newest bucks are a red from Arkansas and a black dapple from Pennsylvania.

Road trips are just part of the business.

“Goats are pretty easy to haul,” Anderson said.

Since she primarily sells breeding stock, “I cull pretty hard,” Anderson said.

She allows “second chances,” but if the production isn’t there, “they’re down the road.”

wDawn Anderson’s Boer does take it easy during a recent afternoon. They are part of a herd of about two dozen goats that Anderson raises near Badger in Webster County.

On the other hand, Anderson said, “there are some commercial does that will never leave this farm.”

Although first-year does may only have one kid, nearly all Boers will produce two kids in subsequent breedings, she said.

A superior meat goat, Boers are known for rapid weight gain, heavy muscling and high fertility.

A former dog trainer and groomer, her introduction to the caprine world was a bit accidental.

After she had to get rid of her contentious horse, Anderson said she missed having an outdoor animal. A co-worker at the now-closed Land O’Lakes Answer Farm suggested Anderson talk with his uncle, who raised Boers.

That was 2008, and once she met the goats, she never looked back.

“I just can’t imagine not having goats,” said Anderson.

Anderson credits Practical Farmers of Iowa for helping her successfully grow her business. She became involved with PFI about four years ago.

Anderson was a cooperator in a PFI project researching the health benefits of apple cider vinegar in goat production and in a forage trial for cattle and goats. Two years ago, she enrolled in PFI’s Savings Incentive Program.

Enrollees have to attend four PFI events per year, complete a business plan, meet with their mentors three times, contribute regularly to their SIP account and complete quarterly check-ins with the organization’s staff.

Once all the program requirements are met, SIP graduates receive a dollar-for-dollar match on the money they saved, up to $2,400.

Anderson used her $4,800 to buy a truck and trailer, as well as a pair of goats for her herd.

Writing the business plan, she said, “was an eye-opening experience” that is enabling her to move forward with concrete ideas.

One of those involves learning to do her own caprine AI, she said, “since hardly anyone is doing it.”

The closure of the Land O’Lakes research farm in late April, where she was involved in calf milk replacer research, was a mixed blessing.

As the sole operator of her farm, two acres and two dozen goats “was all I could handle, working full time,” Anderson said.

Ideally, she would now like to double her herd and find more land.

Anderson, who has an associate degree, is also considering going back to school to study psychology and animal behavior.

She thinks goats would have greater appeal if more people were familiar with them.

“I don’t think a lot of people have a lot of experience with goats,” she said. “People need to do research … They need to visit goat farms and see that different people raise goats differently.”

In the meantime, goats not only provide a livelihood for Anderson, they are a great way to unwind from the stresses of the day.

“Goats are,” she said, “the most lovable creatures.”

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