On the Farm: A flock of goats now complements the long-time cattle herd that had been a fixture on the Lawes operation
DINSMORE, Sask. — Kristie Lawes said she is not shy about trying new projects on the family farm, which gets her a glancing look from husband Jason.
“Projects is exactly right,” Jason said, laughing because he knows his wife’s enterprising nature and love of animals.
However, Kristie adds: “It’s good. It’s things that we do together and the kids know a lot more.”
The couple have three children: Brandyn, 20, Hunter, 10, and Blake, 8.
Passionate about animals all of her life, Kristie said she enjoys introducing livestock ventures to their 1,600 acre mixed farm southwest of Dinsmore.
Jason was raised on his parent’s farm nearby, while Kristie grew up on an acreage near Swift Current, Sask. She knew from a young age she was destined for a farm life.
While it was not her idea alone, she insisted that the farm’s mix of livestock increase.
“When I first came out here, Jason had some (Gelbvieh) cows and two cats. We’ve diversified and changed,” she said.
“My argument has always been if the kids are going to be raised here, they’re going to learn. I want them to grow up with some values and empathy of how to take care of things, to know where our food comes from and to understand how hard it is for this stuff.… I want our kids to realize how lucky we are to have what we have.”
Added Jason: “Hands-on is always better then reading out of a book. It doesn’t get any better than this for knowing what to do.”
Kristie’s latest project involves raising and selling chevron, or meat goats.
Along with their growing purebred and commercial herd of Gelbvieh cattle, last year the family started raising Spanish-Boer cross goats, which now number about 40 nannies and 50 kids.
Kristie said raising goats is more labour intensive than cattle because of the fencing.
“They’re like keeping water in,” she said.
The Laweses tried different fencing systems and settled on square field fence along with a closed circuit 5000-volt system.
Goats have been a good fit with cattle because they eat the buck brush and weeds that thrives and chokes out the grass in their pastures, as well as clean up old yard sites.
“In the long run, we’re going to create more grass for the cattle because they don’t compete for food and we can expand on our head of cattle,” she said.
Added Jason: “They can be in the same pasture because they’re eating content is so different and not competing for the same thing.”
The goats are shipped directly to auction in Tofield, Alta., in June once they reach 27 to 31 kilograms.
“There’s a really good market for them because there’s not enough goat meat in Canada to take care of demand,” Kristie said.
Added Jason: ”It diversifies us for another source of income. It helps us keep up with ethnic markets: quality and quantity of what people need and want.
“However, there’s always expenses to trying new animals and building new fences. These animals have to go to market to pay the bills to cover their expenses.”
The Lawes are well-known cattle producers and grain farmers in the area, but adding goats to the lineup has created interest.
“People are more curious about them. It’s something different for them to see. I think we might be known as the goat people,” Kristie said sheepishly.
“But I think it’s good. The kids get to bring baby goats to school. And they’re safe for kids who come out and check out the animals on the farm.”
The goats are also proving to have therapeutic qualities for residents in the long-term care facility at the Lucky Lake Health Centre, where Kristie works part time running the activity program for seniors.
“I usually bring a couple of them into the nursing home during kidding season. The residents love it,” she said.
“The goats are funny and jump around. Any kind of animal is therapeutic, but a goat is really curious of people and they’re a good size.”
The family also have a few horses, cats, dogs and rabbits on their farm.
However, Kristie’s love of animals sometimes gets the better of her because she has a difficult time not bringing them home from sales.
She once bought a “nice” rooster from an exotic sale to keep with the laying hens, but it turned out to be anything but nice.
“Got him home and found out he’s mean. He attacks people,” said Jason.
“We no longer have laying hens because it got to the point where nobody would collect the eggs. He was just so mean that nobody could get in there.
“But he’s my rooster now. I keep it around here for flashbacks so that she remembers not to buy this stuff.”