Goat snuggling offers respite

If the restrictions and pressures of COVID-19 have finally gotten your goat, a Lethbridge-area farm has the solution: goat snuggles.

Theo and Esther Slingerland, operators of the Lethbridge Cornmaze and Petting Zoo, have 49 baby goats that will be available for several days each week in July for visits, petting and snuggles.

“Once you get them and hold them properly, they will often just go to sleep on you. They’re pretty cute,” said Esther.

The idea of using goats as therapy has been embraced by others. A goat yoga operation in Maple Creek, Sask., is one Canadian example of how the young animals can be used to create calming yet entertaining effects on people. A Toronto farm and various venues in the United States also offer goat cuddle sessions. The warmth of the goats’ bodies, their soft bleating, curiosity and manageable size are all assets when it comes to interactions.

However, it is the first time the Slingerlands have incorporated the idea and initial bookings have been solid.

“We thought, well, we’ll give it a try, especially because people like to get outside with this whole COVID thing. So we built everything accordingly so we can do so safely, and we’re going to give it a go.”

Mother goats come in search of their kids, which were in the cuddling pen. The young goats will be away from their mothers for about an hour, and then it will be time for a meal. | Barb Glen photo

The farm has four separated pens and will allow groups of up to five people in each pen with three or four baby goats. They can spend up to an hour with the animals, after which the goats must return to their mothers for feeding.

“We’re not having the same goats every time. We have 49 babies and we’re going to rotate them,” said Slingerland.

As long-time operators of a petting zoo and corn maze, the Slingerlands have always had hand-washing stations available to visitors. Hand sanitizer will also be made available, she said.

The operation has a relationship with the Lethbridge Food Bank that is also part of the goat-snuggle plan. When the food bank has expired or unused items — such things as stale bread or wilted vegetables — it goes into a box a box for the farm and items are then fed to various livestock.

In turn, part of the proceeds from the goat bookings, which are $30 for an hour, will be donated back to the food bank.

One of the goat kids relaxes in the arms of Theo Slingerland. | Barb Glen photo

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