As springtime winds down, and with summer just around the corner, change is in the air at Vermont farms, including for these young kids -- just days old.
Raising goats on their small East Montpelier farm is an experience Karen Liebermann wants her children to grow up with. But managing hobbyist goat breeding, along with work and family, brings some challenges.
"I think the major challenge is being available," Liebermann says. "This year the goat was due on a Tuesday and I'm supposed to be at work on Tuesday, so I was thinking 'Oh, how am I going to manage that?' I haven't ever actually needed to be here but it's really fun to be here and it's a wonderful thing to witness. As it turned out, she gave birth on Monday afternoon -- I called the school, I had my son run home and we three got to watch. So that's a thrill."
And to her -- human -- kids -- the newborn goats are entertaining and delightful.
"When they come out they're all wet and floppy, they've been folded up and almost immediately they try to start standing up and there's this hilarious half hour/hour where they try and they wiggle and they flop back down, or they can get their front legs to work but not their back. Within a couple hours they're really able to stand and nurse. And then the next day they're standing very consistently but still very tired. And then day three they're jumping," Liebermann says. "This is day five."
But day five for these young kids means soon they won't be fed by their mother anymore.
"We want them to bottle-feed because we want them to be friendly and to bond to people. But that means that we, when they're about four or five or six days old, will separate them from mom, bottle-feed them, get totally attached to them and then have to sell them. So that's hard," she says. "The first time we had to sell babies there were lots of tears."
She says letting go is easier, though, when they know the kids are going to good homes.
"They will not be needing to be used for meat. I think we have two families that want them for -- I don't even know -- to graze their fields or keep another animal company," Liebermann says.
They've been doing this for six years now, and Liebermann says they usually milk one or two goats the entire time. This year it was only one -- but even one still means a lot of work for a small-scale farm.
"The hard parts become when the fencing needs to go up or maintenance or the 100 bales of hay need to be loaded into the barn," she says. "We don't have a lot of systems in place, and so we do a lot of things by hand that if we had a slightly bigger farm we would definitely have the tractor or we would definitely have the fence post digger. So yes, there are probably a lot of times when you do things really inefficiently because it's a small hobby."
For Liebermann and her family, each year brings new experiences, new challenges, new maintenance -- but also joy.
"It's a lot of fun but there's a lot of work too. So at some point I imagine that it might tip the balance. But for right now it's a great hobby," she says.
A hobby they hopes to continue even as the kids grow up and move out.
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