by John Barnhart
John & Barbara Barnhart –
My family has had goats on and off since I was a child. I can remember back when I was in kindergarten, my teacher asked me if I would like to bring in a couple baby goats for show and tell. So one day, during break, the teacher took the class outside to find my oldest brother there with two baby goats with halters on. My classmates had never seen anything like that before.
As I got older, we had a few goats for milking. It was my job to milk them morning and night. My Father had sheep and goats for the rest of his days here on earth. When he passed away, the herd was sold as neither I nor my brothers could continue with them.
I worked construction which had me traveling all over the country. I had made a decision to be home and a career change made that possible. Now living on the farm where I had grown up, I wanted to get back into livestock. I started with steers, first. They were a lot to handle, so it was time to go smaller. Goats are easier to handle and besides they have a way to get into your blood. Started with a few Boer goats that everyone seemed to like, but was really not as impressed with their mothering skills.
In the mean time, I met and married my wife, Barbara. She found out she really liked goats too. However, these Boer girls were not showing a lot of promise. Tired of the uphill battles with them, we decided to depopulate and look for better alternative.
Knowing I really wanted to have livestock on the farm, we had been doing our research on Savanna goats and the next thing I found myself back in the goat business picking up a few Savannas here and there. My wife was also studying the Kiko breed. These too sounded to be great mothers and very hardy stock. Learning about the different meat goat breeds in general and the differences each breed brings to the table. We found ourselves attending several goat conferences and expanding our knowledge of the industry as a whole and how to grow a strong, sound and productive animal for seed stock and or commercial purposes. We decided to expand into the Kiko goats, as well.
As time went by, both the Savannas and Kikos are truly impressing us, both for different reasons. The daily rate of gain and mothering characteristics of both were so impressive. At this time, we had only 10 Savannas and 10 Kikos, percentages mostly.
Barbara suggested we think about expanding the goat operation. We had the opportunity to make use of some retired hog barns at my Father-In-Law’s. I researched goat and sheep barns: How others have set them up, uses of feeders and how to feed them, methods for clean water sources and ventilation. With a great deal of thought and work, the barns were repurposed for goats. We put in workable pens with thought of goat space, built special feeders to hold 4×8 hay bales with tray to catch fines and grain feed area and installed new watering system. The curtain sides work well for ventilation and lighting. We utilize two different veterinarians as needed or to consult with on changing needs of the herd. Nutritionists that specialized in small ruminants were consulted for proper dietary needs. Free choice mineral dispensers were installed in each pen. Pen size was designed around proper goat space giving the animal’s ample room to run and play. They stay dry and seem to be very happy in this environment. It is our intent to strive for kids born monthly to fill our buyer’s needs for these animals. The use of our bonding pen room, which is insulated to protect birthing in winter and promote bonding the does to her kids before returning to the large pen setting. This has kept our live birthing rate of 2.03 kids per parity possible.
Last May, my wife and I furthered our knowledge on goats, by attending the Master Small Ruminant Program at the University of Tennessee, Institute of Agriculture. We are planning to attend another seminar this May at Tennessee Tech University as they are having a Reproductive Clinic. Continuing to further your knowledge on this industry, in my option, is the difference in being a person who has goats and a great goat herdsman.
We now have a herd of 250 goats and growing. Made up of FB Savannas, PB Savannas, percentage Savannas, New Zealand Kikos, PB Kikos percentage Kikos and commercial does. It is our goal to raise the very best animals to fit the needs of our intended buyers, if it is for seed stock, percentage animals or commercial use. We really like the Savannas and Kikos, when cross breeding these two breeds on the commercial side the results are amazing.
We are pleased to see that Pedigree International is having “The 2018 Savanna Goat Spectacular”. This event is a great start to educating us all further on how to grow even better and stronger Savannas that we all love. Enlighten us on ways to be better as producers of this breed and promote our product to the others. Barnhart Farms is proud to be a Gold sponsor of this event. We truly do feel that education is so important and sometimes the best life lessons come from visiting with other producers. We look forward to seeing you there. We also invite you to come look us up on Facebook@kikoandsavannas. Please know you always have an open invitation to visit us at our facility in Wapakoneta, Ohio. We love to talk about and show our goats.