A far cry from the stubborn, often aggressive figures of children’s folk tales, goats are hardy, intelligent, inquisitive and even affectionate. Able to thrive on scrub and rank grass that may be too nutrient-poor for sheep or cattle, they are highly valued on every continent. It may surprise you to learn that more meat is eaten and milk drunk from goats than any other animal in the world.
We keep two rare breeds of goat on the farm, Baggots and Golden Guernseys. The first reference to the Guernsey goat is in a book about the Channel Islands from 1862, which mentions the golden-coloured cows, goats and donkeys.
The Guernsey cow is now world famous for its rich and creamy milk while the donkey is extinct. The goats were nearly wiped out, too, during the Second World War when the island’s occupying German forces began slaughtering all the livestock to feed themselves. A small group of goats was hidden away by the late Miss Miriam Milbourne and the breed was saved. It lives on today, although in very low numbers.
Both billies and nannies are either horned or polled (hornless). The breed also comes in a range of colours, from pale to foxy red, and their coats can be short or long haired. If you have some space and are considering keeping a few goats, I would strongly recommend the Golden Guernsey. Not only is it lovely to look at but it is also affectionate and docile. It is perfect for smallholders who want to milk a few goats for home consumption or cheesemaking.
© Photo courtesy of Costwold Farm Park.