One of the first stops on my great adventure over the next three weeks, was a visit to old homestead in Eastern Ontario,
where an energetic young farm family has converted the long-time dairy barn into a meat goat operation.
The family farm I was raised on, about an hour south of Ottawa, 10 miles south of Chesterville in area known as Colquhoun, was sold in June to Bill and Tammy Irven and over the last couple months they have been busy cleaning up and retrofitting the old dairy barn for goats.
Tammy is the goat herder in this family operation. Bill is a service technician for Dundas Agri-Systems, a company, which installs and services Boumatic milking systems. And the goats are Tammy’s project on the farm. They have a few cows, horses, and a small flock of chickens, and in the barn up to nearly 100 head of Boer goats for the largely ethnic meat trade in the Ottawa area.
Tammy says her grandfather raised goats, so when she grew up and got a farm, she wanted to raise goats too. Helping Bill and Tammy with goats and cattle and haying and other chores are their children Hailey and Mathew.
It is truly a family farming operation, no end of work, and no end of dreams. The place hasn’t really been farmed for about 20 years, and the barns need a lot of work to first of all get them stable, and then get them refitted for goat pens and other livestock.
But the Irvens seem like hard workers. Bill is away most days with his day job. And, along with tending the goats, other animals, and raising two human kids, Tammy fills in her spare time as a herd milker for a local dairy farmer, so she’s up early for that morning shift. And along with those respective jobs, Bill and Tammy then divert their attention to fixing up the barns, fixing fencing, putting up about 2,500 small square bales of hay, and the list goes on. I get tired just thinking about it. But they seem to love it.
Tammy has had up to 95 head of goats in the barn. There were about 75 at the time of my visit — she had just taken several to market — sold as live young animals at about three months of age for the meat trade. The next batch is under production.
When my dad started farming the place back in the early 1940’s I don’t think meat goats ever crossed his mind. But I think he would be thrilled to see this young family, putting their time, money, labor and hearts into getting the old farm back in production. It is the kind of effort and spirit that keeps the agriculture industry going forward across this country.
Lee Hart is a field editor for Grainews in Calgary, Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at [email protected]