ENOSBURGH — Caring for one, two, three or even 11 kids is a serious job for any parent. Try 98 kids – albeit, goat kids – all born within days of each other.
That is the task set before Theresa Lawyer, Boston Post Dairy’s barn manager and goat farmer. Lawyer, who brought her own farm’s goats to join those at the Enosburgh business this year, is a busy woman. She breeds and takes care of 400 or so baby goats each year and farms year-round.
“It’s damned hard,” Lawyer said Wednesday, who estimated she works 14-hour-days during kidding season. “There’s days you love it and days you hate it.”
Ninety-eight kids is her record for one kidding period.
“Kidding season,” she said, “that’s when you want to be a dairy farmer.”
In February, she had 12 goats give birth on one day during sub-zero temperatures. “That’s 24 kids,” said Lawyer. Her three daughters, 10, 12, and 14, were on school vacation that week and went out to the barn to help.
“Without them, I don’t know how we’d have done it,” said Lawyer.
Boston Post Dairy keeps only about 90 goats year-round for milking and breeding, and Lawyer said she raises about 60 kids total. The others are either sold or go for meat.
For the ones Lawyer does keep and raise, she said it’s quite a process. For the first two weeks, for example, each goat kid has to be bottle fed milk. That may take five or 10 minutes per goat for 20 goats.
At two weeks, things become a little easier with a nipple pail, or a bucket with 13 nipples on it from which the kids drink in unison.
As adults, the goats are milked, fed grain and given watered twice a day, a several hour process. Other things keep Lawyer busy too – on Wednesday, for instance, she was fixing a motor on the milking parlor apparatus. A four-day-old kid sat in a bucket next to her so she could keep it warm as she worked.
“I could be here all day,” she said.
As of now, Lawyer estimates she has 40 or so kids left to be born this spring. She’s also currently breeding more goats, which will give birth in the fall.
Despite all the work, the goats are admittedly cute, especially as kids. Curious, friendly and surprising light to pick up, Lawyer and her sister Susan Blouin said goats often are sold to people who don’t understand how much work they require.
“People definitely need to do their research before they buy,” said Blouin, who does the bookkeeping, soap-making and store management for Boston Post Dairy. “They’re not a pet, they’re a farm animal,” she added.
They’re also mischievous. One goat, said Lawyer, learned how to climb the pool ladder she had been using to get in and out of her goat paddock, and others could climb the fence post corners.
“They’re escape artists,” said Blouin.
Goats also like to taste-test. There get their mouths on anything available. “It’s like a two-year-old kid (child) – they’re going to get into everything they can get into,” said Blouin.
In-between the kidding, the milking and the chasing of escaped goats, Boston Post Dairy uses its milk for cheese, soaps and other products. The goats are a relatively new addition, said Blouin. They arrived in 2010 to help bolster the dairy and maple business, and the hope is that they will allow Boston Post Dairy to eventually downsize and focus on selling its cheeses.
“We’d like to get smaller,” said Blouin.
For now though, goats will abound here. Lawyer started goat farming in 1996 and hasn’t stopped since.
“I got hooked into it and I’ve got so much invested into it,” she said.
That’s good news for all the animal lovers out there. Blouin said Boston Post Dairy welcomes visitors, schools and anyone who is interested to see the goats as well as the cows, chickens and other critters on the farm.
“[It’s] great, because the goats love people,” she said.