On the Farm: Chris Grab started with the Nigerian Dwarf breed in 1997 and later added registered Nubians to her flock
LEDUC, Alta. — Chris Grab enters her goat pen and is quickly surrounded by a welcoming committee of does and kids. The rambunctious Nigerian Dwarfs and larger, lop-eared Nubians rub and nudge for attention. They are personable, entertaining and friendly.
Grab, who raises and sells the miniature breed as well as the larger Nubian goats on her and husband Rudy’s 80-acre farm, Country Magic, near Leduc, scratches and pats many of them, addressing each by name. There’s Espresso and Lil Latte, full sister Nigerian Dwarf goats, and also the Nubians, Faith and Auzzie.
“My grandkids name a lot of them,” she says, adding that her farm has playfully become known as “Nana Camp.”
Adjoining the outdoor enclosure, the goats have an indoor space using a portion of the 39 by 45 foot metal barn.
The area houses a couple picnic tables, a multi-coloured playhouse with slide, and a brilliant orange bristle scratching post.
Grab repeats a comment she often hears from others: “Your goats have a better playground than most children.”
The goats are mainly her project, but she says Rudy supports her and helps with fencing, repairs and maintenance.
She has 28 Nigerian Dwarf and 10 Nubian does. Counting kids and bucks, the herd numbers more than 70 animals.
“It’s nice to have two breeds,” says Grab. “Some people want the larger dairy goats.”
She says it’s often difficult deciding on which goats to part with because they are such quality animals, and she becomes attached.
Six bucks inhabit a separate pasture.
Grab is looking into buying another two Nigerian Dwarf bucks from Ontario once they are old enough to travel at about 12 weeks, as well as a new Nubian buck.
She started with the Nigerian Dwarf breed in 1997, a decade after it was first registered in Canada. She brought in the registered Nubians later.
Grab has become known over the years for her quality stock, which she considers to be a source of personal pride. She sells to other registered breeders, acreage owners and 4-H members.
Goats from Country Magic can be found throughout Western Canada and in Ontario.
At Country Magic, they use locally grown feed with a high alfalfa content. They buy some and some is grown in a crop-share arrangement from 40 acres the Grabs rent to a neighbour.
Grab shares information on each breed. The Nubians are a large, graceful, even-tempered dairy goat. She points out their most distinguishing characteristics, which are their large, pendulous ears and convex Roman nose.
Grab’s appreciation for the Nigerian Dwarf, also referred to as knee-high goats, lies in that breed’s long list of good qualities, she says.
In addition to their engaging personalities, she says they give an abundance of milk, are hardy animals that come in a variety of colours, are inexpensive to feed and convert feed efficiently.
“They’re a hot commodity right now because you get a lot for the small package.
“Their compact size makes them easy to handle. They are absolutely hands-down my most favourite animal.”
It is possible to milk throughout the year, but Grab does so only periodically, using the creamy high butterfat milk from both breeds for personal cheese making. She and Rudy are not milk drinkers, but she says others like it due to its nutty flavour and being more easily digestible than cow milk.
Goat milk also provides an optional ingredient in another of Grab’s pursuits; soap making, which she’s been doing for more than 25 years.
“There’s something magical about taking a caustic substance and blending it with oils and scents to create something good for your skin. The goat milk soap makes a creamy, luxurious bar that is very moisturizing”.
The farm also provides a home for two miniature donkeys, twohorses, a llama, some chickens, ducks, quail, cats, and two purebred Maremma guardian dogs.
Coyotes and foxes are the most common predator.
“We’re well-fenced here, but in the past they have dug in. We haven’t had a problem since we’ve had the dogs”.
Chris and Rudy are both retired educators. They’ve transferred to various locations throughout Alberta while working in their careers for almost 40 years. They’ve primarily lived on acreages to accommodate Grab’s love of the farm lifestyle, which began when she was raised at Bluffton, an hour southwest of their current farm.
They choose Leduc in central Alberta 12 years ago when she was six years from retirement. They wanted to be close to a large centre but within driving distance from their three children and seven grandchildren at Leduc, Red Deer, and Calgary.