When we first got goats 7 years ago, we were completely new to farm animals. I read a lot of books and did a lot of online research, and thought I was prepared and knew exactly what to expect. Hah!
I soon discovered that despite all my “preparation” I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Most of the stuff that I read was theoretical and pretty “fluffy” It told me things like what to feed a goat (hay – duh!) and about how many square feet of space a goat was “supposed” to have.
But it didn’t tell me that different feeding plans work better in different regions of the country. It didn’t tell me that our area was selenium defficient and I’d need to booster my animals. It didn’t tell me that even if I gave the goats more than the recommended square feet each I had wasted barn space because they sleep practically on top of each other in one little area. The books certainly didn’t tell me how muddy it was going to get right outside of the stall doors or how difficult it would be to keep the spent bedding from building up right outside that door. They also didn’t tell me how hard it would be to keep their water from freezing in the winter.
Part of me thinks it’s a good thing I didn’t know all of those difficulties, because I might not have been so enthusiastic about bringing those first goats home. And Jim (who certainly was not enthusiastic about the goats initially) might not have gone along with my plan. But I was ignorant and naive and those first two goats (Sassy and Melody) led to our current herd of 27 and to Goat Milk Stuff.
I bring this up because I’ve been thinking about our goat adventures as we are building our new barn and I’m correcting all the problems and deficits that exist in my current barn setup. As I reflect on our journey, I can’t help but think how much becoming a new goat farmer is similar to becoming a new parent.
So many first time parents find out they’re pregnant and start reading all the baby and parenting books. We think we’ve got it figured out. We start looking at other parents with children and we can instantly point out all the things they’re doing wrong.
And then our first baby is born. And you don’t get enough sleep and the baby doesn’t respond the way the books say they’re supposed to.
I remember reading that newborns weren’t really hungry until mom’s milk came in. When I brought Brett home from the hospital, my milk hadn’t come in yet. We went to bed that first night and she started screaming. And I nursed her. And she kept screaming. And I nursed her. And she kept screaming. And my Mom and Jim’s Mom said, “She’s hungry”. And I said something (stupid) like, “No, she won’t be hungry until my milk comes in.” Four hours and 2 oz of formula from the hospital later, she was sleeping peacefully.
Wow. You can’t believe everything you read in books – did you know that?
The reality is that no amount of reading or prep work can take the place of experience. Yes, it’s a positive step to read and seek information. Just remember that reading about something and doing it are two completely different things.