By Lydia Denney / firstname.lastname@example.org
Once the dance floor for their wedding, the small barn on the Chasing Dreams Goat Farm in Centralia is now home to Jeannine and Sean Kelley’s herd of Nigerian Dwarf goats.
In 2014, Jeannine got her first goats, Snickers and Doodle, and made her kindergarten dream of being a goat farmer come to life. The farm is named after drawings of a barn Jeannine drew as a child.
“It was kind of a silly thing, but now I kind of like it,” Jeannine said.
Jeannine grew up in Tacoma, but every other summer she would visit her aunt in Idaho who owned goats. She always envisioned herself as a farm girl despite growing up in a city. Right now, Chasing Dreams has 11 goats. However, one of their goats, Fern, is due to have her kids soon.
“A lot of people say that it’s like taking care of a dog, but it really isn’t. It’s a lot more work than that,” Jeannine said. “You can’t just walk in to any vet and say, ‘Here I’m having a problem.’” Nigerian Dwarf goats don’t require a lot of space, but as an owner you have to be willing to read and educate yourself, Jeannine said.
The Kelleys keep a large binder with all of their goats’ information including their registration through the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA), the goat’s lineage and their vaccination records. All of their female goats are “milk starred,” which is a title given through the ADGA after an extensive, year-long milk test that checks a goat’s milk production, butterfat and protein. Not only are Nigerian Dwarf goats trainable, but they can also produce good milk and cheese, Jeannine said.
Nigerian Dwarf goats are special when it comes to the variety of hair colors they can have as well as the possibility of having blue eyes. Goats have to be bought in multiples, Sean said, and they can also be around other chill animals, for example, the chickens that share the goats’ space in the Chasing Dreams barn. Next to the barn, the Kelleys have created a playground to keep their curious goats entertained. “If they’re bored, they are impossible to keep fenced,” Jeannine said. “It also helps if you have a pair because they will entertain each other.” In January, Jeannine posted a video of her goats wearing pajamas that she made for them. The video was bought by CBS and included in a scene of the TV series Madam Secretary.
Last year, the Kelleys’ goats had 13 kids and a waiting list with potential buyers. After the kids are weaned at around eight weeks, Jeannine sells males for around $150 and females at around $300.
“I’m very particular about where (the kids) go,” Jeannine said. “When I’m selling them, I make sure that the people are willing to do what they need to do.”
The Kelleys act as their own vet most of the time, but they also have people close by who know a lot about goats.
“It’s very important in the goat world to have goat friends,” Jeannine laughed.
For Jeannine, that person is Jody Ashton, a fellow goat farmer and owner of MM Prairie Goats. Jeannine and Ashton are both members of the Southwest Washington Dairy Goat Association.
Goat friends are needed to help each other, rely on each other and talk each other down during stressful times, Jeannine said. There are many struggles goat farmers face to owning goats including coyotes, racoons, eagles and rodents.
“My struggle is that there are a lot of Nigerian goat farms out there, not necessarily quality ones, so I have a hard time selling my babies,” Ashton said. “Jeannine and I have registered, quality goats and other people don’t and so they sell them for less.”
Jeannine is aware of precautions she has to take when breeding goats, like transferred diseases, the goats’ age and how many goats her farm can accommodate at one time.
“You just have to be aware when you buy them that you’re buying them from a quality breeder because there are so many different diseases,” Jeannine said.
Goats also have a herd hierarchy, so it is important to understand that when bringing new goats into the environment. At Chasing Dreams, Snickers is the herd queen.
“(Fern) is second in charge, her babies will automatically be protected because of that,” Jeannine said.
In addition to being goat farmers, Jeannine is a loss prevention officer for the Fred Meyer warehouse in Chehalis, Sean works for Lincoln Creek Lumber and Ashton is a fifth grade teacher.
“My favorite thing is you have a bad day, and you walk out here, and you cannot have a bad day,” Jeannine said. “I go out in the middle of the field, sit down, and (the goats) just hover around you. It’s therapy.”
More information about Chasing Dreams Goat Farm can be found on the farm’s Facebook page or website, www.chasingdreamsgoatfarm.com.