Pandemic increases interest in goats

Nigerian Dwarf goat breeders see increased demand for breeding stock, milking goats and self-sufficiency information

SPRUCE VIEW, Alta. — The COVID-19 pandemic has created awareness and concern over food security and the capacity to access other essential products and services. There has been surges in demand, hoarding, shortages, limitations, and restrictions placed on food and other necessities of life.

The pandemic has created tremendous interest in developing the ability to supply one’s own needs without external assistance.

“We’ve seen a huge increase in numbers of people interested in becoming more self-sufficient,” says Nicole Poburan, who with her husband, Stephen, and two young sons, Hayes, 7, and Kett, 3, raise and sell Nigerian dwarf goats at their 4Acres Farm in central Alberta.

They have a herd of about 55 animals with plans to increase that number this year.

“We sold out of breeding stock months earlier than other years. And more people want milking animals,” she says. “They want to start growing their own food.”

The couple also keep laying hens, turkeys, and bees. They plant a huge garden each summer and raise and sell kunekune pigs, a small domestic non-rooting breed originating from New Zealand.

The Poburans are in the process of buying an adjoining six acres but plan to keep the farm name the same.

4Acres Farm is set to host a weeklong online education forum focusing on Nigerian dwarf goats starting Feb. 8. The event will be presented through the farm’s Facebook and Instagram sites. The couple has invited a panel of Nigerian dwarf goat breeders from across Canada to share their knowledge on topics such as feeding, kidding, disbudding, and cost effective ultrasound tools.

Nicole will be presenting as well.

“I’ll be doing the Kidding 101,” she says. “Showing people what to look for. Giving tips on what isn’t normal. Talking about nutrient needs.”

The idea for the Nigerian dwarf goat week came about after Nicole realized she was spending hours having the same conversations over and over with customers.

“I decided to start putting the information online.”

She said that the 4Acres Farm website is also being updated with links to different areas of interest.

The Poburans, who both hold off-farm careers in law enforcement, hosted their first Nigerian dwarf goat week event in November and were surprised with the response. Nicole said they had close to 1,000 views via Facebook, 10 times the normal amount. The couple plan to host another education event in May, as well as one later in the year dedicated to the kunekune.

Nicole says Nigerian dwarf goats are often thought of more as pets because of their small size. That’s one of the things she likes about them.

“They’re easy to handle,” she says. “I know the boys aren’t going to get hurt.

“They have a great feed conversion ratio. They have the highest amount of butterfat of all milking goats. You can make butter, yogurt, cheese.”

Nicole says that it’s not uncommon for a doe with triplets to still give four cups of milk a day. She says the milk has a mild, sweet taste, which she prefers to store-bought goat milk.

“People will often buy two doelings and end up getting enough milk for their family’s needs.”

Goat milk is what inspired the couple’s farming journey. Their son, Hayes, had an aversion to cow milk as an infant. He suffered a variety of digestive issues and eczema. They turned to the more easily digestible goat milk.

Nigerian Dwarf goats may be small in stature, but that is one of the qualities the Poburans appreciate because it makes them easy to manage. They are engaging, good with children and provide a high butterfat milk suitable for drinking as well as for making butter, cheese and yogurt. | Maria Johnson photo

This sparked Nicole’s desire to study holistic nutrition.

“I began to realize the importance of knowing where your food comes from and the power that it has on our bodies.”

In 2014, the couple bought the acreage and moved out of Red Deer. They wanted to leave the crowding and the noise and the rush of the city.

Nicole said friends and family were skeptical of their decision, citing isolation as a main drawback.

The Poburans know they’ve made the right choice. The pandemic has been a reminder of that, a reminder of what’s important.

“I channel that energy, that panic, to take control of our lives.”

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