He doesn't fit the stereotype of your storybook farmer wearing overalls, a straw hat and riding on a big old red tractor. In fact, like many farmers today he has a university education and is knowledgeable in animal husbandry, nutrition and growing crops . His name is Jim and he's a goat farmer.
Actually, Jim’s farming is not limited to goats. At his rural property near Uxbridge Ontario, Jim runs a mixed farm, raising goats, rabbits, chickens, calves as well as a few token horses and a mini donkey. By his dress he may look like a city guy, but he certainly knows his stuff as evidenced by the health and harmony of the animals on his farm.
Jim has been providing Savon Du Bois with fresh goat's milk for our soap since the very beginning of our business. His award-winning goats produce exceptionally creamy milk, giving our soap the gentleness and moisture that is our hallmark. It might have been more convenient for us to use powdered milk or buy cartons of goat's milk from the grocery store, but we could never match the quality and freshness of the milk we get from Jim. Often, we are making a batch of soap with milk that was just milked from the goat that morning.
We visited Jim's farm recently to learn more about his goats. He raises Nubians exclusively, which is a breed known for its long floppy ears and the high protein and fat content of their milk. They are sometimes called “the Jersey cow of the goat world”. Jim has been breeding purebred Nubian goats for 13+ years and currently has 20 of them actively milking. Now that the cooler, wet weather is here, they are predominantly indoors as they find the high wind and rains stressful as they cannot easily detect predators and as such become fearful. They are housed in groups according to age and gender in order to avoid bullying and stress. They peacefully share their space with a few free range chickens and barn cats, who roam in and out of the pens freely, going about their business.
The barn is stocked with all of the goats' preferred foods which along with hay includes various weeds and swamp grasses. There is a well-known saying that goats will eat anything – including tin cans. While it is true that goats will try to eat many things, they are actually very finicky eaters and received the “bad publicity” on their eating habits because they prefer to eat what other livestock will not, such as tree leaves and aggressive weeds such as Canadian thistle and Stinging Nettle ahead of the normal grasses that other livestock consume. While in the fields they graze on buckwheat and late planted oats , but their favourite treat is dry, fall maple leaves. They all come running when Jim pulls out a bag of leaves and sprinkles them around for the goats to munch on. Competition for these crunchy treats sometimes results in a bit of posturing and head-butting, even amongst the females. Jim is strict in making sure that the hay he feeds his goats are free of pesticides by harvesting it all himself.
Jim houses the adult bucks in another barn, away from the does. They are a spirited bunch with scruffy beards and curious personalities. One of the bucks, Webinar, is currently the top male goat is Canada for production and type as determined by goatgenetics.ca. In fact many of Jims does and bucks are ranked in the top 10. Genetics combined with husbandry may be why many of Jim's goats remain productive for many years and are capable of producing milk for upwards of 600 days, rather than the more typical 300 days.
In spite of gates and fences, coyotes are an ongoing threat to Jim's herd. When in the fields, a donkey provides good security, but in the barn, precautions must be exercised. The most effective deterrent that Jim has tried is music! He keeps a radio playing in the goat barn at all times. While the goats are enjoying the latest Christian songs, the coyotes are fooled into thinking there are people around and run off to search for food elsewhere. Currently, the goats are in the Christmas spirit, listening to holiday tunes on the barn radio.
Several years ago, one of Jim's goats was attacked by a coyote. She was seriously injured on one of her front legs, requiring it to be surgically removed. She was subsequently donated to Windreach Farm, a local facility catering to individuals with disabilities, and has been living there quite happily for many years, enjoying the attention she is given. She is a great encouragement to their visitors that even though she is disabled, she is still useful and special.
We are very proud to be partners with Jim and his goats. Not only does he provide us with a outstanding, creamy milk for our soap, but he is a genuinely nice person. He shares our values of local, natural, and quality and that makes him all right in our book.
- Lori and Jim