A male goat is a buck, not a billy. A goat’s horns regulate the temperature of the blood supply to the brain.
Janice and Ken Spaulding, that’s who.
The Spauldings have been raising goats in Maine for 25 years. In 2004, they started the nation’s first “Goat School,” where wannabe goat farmers go to learn whether they have what it takes to raise their own herd.
The Spauldings’ classes at Stony Knolls Farm in St. Albans sometimes attract more than 100 people in a weekend, and they are now taking their show on the road, teaching people about goats in places such as Florida, California and Vermont.
Don’t have time to travel to St. Albans? Janice Spaulding has just published “Goat School: A Master Class in Caprine Care and Cooking” (Down East, $19.95), that is part goat care, part cookbook. It’s entertaining reading even if you’re not about to invest in your own animals.
Consider this excerpt from “A Doe’s Secret Code of Honor”: When you hear the words “She’s nowhere near ready to kid, we can go to (fill in the blank),” wait until your humans are all cleaned up, dressed up, and ready to get in the car, then give a good scream and start pushing.
“You can’t have goats if you don’t have a good sense of humor,” said Spaulding, whose current mixed herd numbers 20. “And you can’t go out to the barn in the morning and be grumpy and come back to the house in the same way you went out, because they make you smile. They make you laugh.”
Q: How did you get interested in this?
A: We were getting this magazine called Ranch and Rural Living, and there was this amazing advertisement. It was a field of bluebells with these angora goats standing out in it, and I had to have them. But this was before the Internet, and back when phone calls cost 23 cents a minute, so it was a whole letter-writing campaign. It took almost a year before I located some that I could buy.
Q: And you didn’t really know yourself how to raise them at the time.
A: No, I had to learn, and unfortunately, there wasn’t anyone around that could help, so it was trial by error, and I just promised myself that if there was any way I could help anyone after that, I would.
Q: How’s your enrollment in goat school? Is the idea of raising goats becoming more popular?
A: In an issue of Hobby Farm magazine back in 2009, they did an article on us, and Goat School exploded off the map. We ended up with 112 people from 22 states that spring. I was getting two or three registrations every day. It was pretty cool.
People want to learn how to raise goats, almost as a homesteading type thing. “I want to have four goats. I don’t want to have 100.” We’ve really catered to them.
We were at the Common Ground Fair. This was our eighth year there, and you can’t believe the amount of people (who say), “Well, I’m retiring in two months, and I want to raise goats,” or “We need a sideline.” Or “I’m allergic to cow’s milk.”
Q: Do you find that your students are prepared for all the work it’s going to take to raise goats successfully?
A: No. You know, probably half of the people who come to goat school do not have their goats yet. It’s a wonderful way of learning about goats and then making an informed decision.
We’ve actually had people who have come to goat school and thanked us afterwards for letting them understand and realize that goats are not for them. It was way cheaper to come to goat school than it was to buy all the equipment and then buy all the goats and be stuck with goats that they didn’t really want and have to get rid of them. And others have found after they’ve come here that maybe milk goats aren’t right for them. Meat goats would be much easier, or vice versa.
Q: What percentage of your students actually go on to raise goats?
A: I would say about 75 percent.
Q: Goat meat is becoming more popular, isn’t it?
A: It is. The people who buy our goat meat tend to be either people who are well traveled and have had it in other countries, or people who are in the military and might have had it in another country. There are a lot of doctors of different ethnicities who actually recommend goat meat to their heart patients because it’s so much lower in cholesterol. We’ve gotten a lot of customers that way. People have a hard time giving up red meat.
Q: Are people surprised that it tastes good?
A: Oh yeah (laughing).
Q: Are the recipes in the book things that you traditionally make with cow’s milk and you just decided to try goat milk instead?
A: A lot of the recipes are developed by me, and some of them were a recipe that I changed around to accommodate goat cheese or goat milk. Sometimes, you’ve really got to tweak the recipe to be able to do that.
Q: In what way?
A: Well, say a recipe has cream cheese in it. Goat cheese is much softer. So you have to fool around with the other ingredients in order to be able to accommodate that softer cheese.
Q: Do you drink cow’s milk any more?
A: No. It doesn’t taste very good.
Q: What’s fun about raising goats?
A: They have the funniest personalities. Each and every one of them is different. We have one Nubian girl who comes into the milk room, and if the stand has got a piece of hay from the goat that was there previously, she’ll look at it like, “Do you expect me to get up there?” She’s really funny.
And then we have Winnie. Winnie is a little French alpine, and will not get off the milking stand unless she has a hug and a kiss. They’re very sweet. They’re handled twice a day because they get milked twice a day, so they’re like pets. Pets with a bonus.
Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: