While Katy Zobel was visiting from Denver, she asked her “PapPap” why he didn’t have any goats on his farm. For his young granddaughter’s next visit, Bill Collins borrowed two goats from Circus Farm in Ferncliff so she could pet and feed them.
Collins returned those two, but later bought six does, and soon afterwards, a buck. That was six years ago and now over 60 white or multi-hued goats graze in various fields on the the Pendleton area farm.
Weathersfield Farm had primarily been considered a place where numerous race horses were raised and began their early training. After 35 years, Collins, a retired horseshoer, realized that working with rambunctious yearlings and two-year-olds was becoming a challenge.
“The horses were getting to be too much physically,” he said. “Cathy [his wife] and I decided we needed something around here a little smaller. Although we still have a hand in the horse business, I’ve turned most of that over to Al Johnson [his equine business partner].”
Even though the Collinses have now exchanged 1,200 pound animals for 50 to 100 pound ones, the workload and demand hasn’t altered. Twice daily graining, haying in winter, watering, kidding (the term for birthing) assistance, bottle feeding when necessary, weaning and the inevitable maintenance chores associated with farm living keep them anchored at home.
Bill has attended seminars on parasite control and other topics to increase his knowledge of raising goats. Louisa County High School student, Hunter Watkins, helps around the farm on a regular basis.
“We raise Boers, a South African breed, and Kikos, a New Zealand breed, for meat goats,” he said. “I have purebreds, and also have crossed the two because Kikos are more parasite-tolerant. The cross gives me bigger goats that have very little kidding problems and grow faster.”
With a gestation period of five months, the Collinses are busy twice a year as does deliver twins or sometimes triplets. Most does readily accept their newest litters, but occasionally the mother rejects one or all of her offspring. Cathy has had to step in and bottle feed some as often as five times a day. A few newborns have spent cold weather in a box in the kitchen.
“This January we had so many born at one time, that we weren’t sure whether the mothers were nursing the right babies,” she said.
After about three months with their does, the kids are weaned and placed in another field with similar-aged goats. Three months later, most have matured to the ideal weight for transportation to markets in Maryland, Pennsylvania or Tennessee, either for meat or breeding stock.
To read the entire story, see the June 6 edition of The Central Virginian.