Getting started with dairy goats can be as easy as rescuing some-one else’s cast off or as complicated as researching web sites, perusing classifieds, and visiting with as many experienced goat breeders as possible. For Elise Anderson, Rachelsie Dairy Goats, Palatka, Florida, starting with the best she could find and afford five years ago, resulted in a short rise to success in the world of registered dairy goats. And it was all because she followed her own advice to "Put what money you can scrape together and go to the best breeder in the country and buy, even if it is just one animal."
Anderson had experience in raising and training dogs and horses before her daughter, Rachel, became interested in dairy goats.
"The years I was growing up, my mother raised AKC show dogs," Anderson said. "She believed in buying what you could afford and ‘breeding up.’ [But I realized] what she spent over the years would have bought a top winning dog!"
Anderson also trained and showed horses in the 1970s and ’80s, and showed dogs professionally and bred Miniature Pinschers, before getting started in dairy goats.
"I was very successful as a handler because my clients either bred top quality animals, or purchased their dogs from top breeders," she said. "I was proud to be considered a top breeder and people would come to me to buy their show puppies. This is a reputation I hope to build in the goat world with Oberhasli."
Anderson credits her own mother with getting her own family into the world of dairy goats when she presented Rachel with a gift certificate for a newborn LaMancha in 1998/99.
"The goats were to be Rachel’s venture, but with a baby LaMancha being raised in the middle of my kitchen, it was hard not to get ‘smitten.’ Not wanting to invade my daughter’s goat project with LaManchas, I looked at the other breeds and fell in love with a black Oberhasli doeling," Anderson said.
She was impressed by the Oberhasli’s Swiss origins, and after seeing photos of them as pack animals, thought it would be fun to try to find some of her own.
"My first ‘hands on’ with Oberhasli was at Devonshire Farm (Beth Kennelley), and her animals were so sweet," she said. "They wrapped themselves around me and just begged for loving."
Further research into the breed led Anderson to Destiny Farm and Body Shop’s bloodlines.
"I was looking to build my herd on the old fashioned type…big, strong, sound, and lots of breed character," she said.
When she found out that Ferrell Fields, FDF Pleasant Fields, OH, was offering some Oberhasli does for sale with the background she was interested in, things started to fall together.
"Maybe it was fate? I don’t remember exactly how I was put in contact with Ferrell," Anderson said. "[But]…my friend Beth Kennelley wanted some Rapscallion daughters he had for sale and I wanted the other two (a Destiny Farm doe and a One*Oak*Hill-Body Shop bloodline doe), so we went in together and she hauled them back from Ohio for me and boarded them until my facilities were ready."
Anderson became well acquainted with Fields through phone, e-mail and mail exchanges, and in three years, made four more trips to Ohio to get does, sometimes spending time with Ferrell and his wife, Debbie, talking pedigrees, bloodlines, and breeding goals for most of the night.
"Ferrell was and is an ocean of knowledge on goats and Oberhasli in particular, and shares that knowledge willingly," Anderson said. "The last trip I made…he sent me back with his favorite black Ober doe, ‘Adin.’ It was the end of an era for him."
Due to health problems Fields dispersed the rest of the FDF Pleasant Fields herd, but the breeding program he established is still being carried out in other parts of the country.
Gleaning information from an established proven breeder of fine dairy goats proved to be invaluable for Anderson. She passes this information on to others who ask, and said that the most important thing to ask when buying a new goat is about health information. Is the herd CAE (Caprine Arthritic Encephalitis) tested? When was the last test and what were the results? Is the animal under consideration CAE negative? What de-worming products were used, when, and at what frequency? What vaccinations are routinely given and date of last vaccinations?
"The reason these questions are so important is that buying the best bred show animal doesn’t count for much if it is not healthy and hasn’t had the best start as a kid," Anderson said. "If the new goat is to be part of your future breeding program, then you want it healthy and to have the potential for a very long life."
As for CAE testing, positive doesn’t necessarily mean "don’t buy" for Anderson. It just is very important to know what you are dealing with, she said.
"One of my foundation does is CAE positive," she said. "I knew that when I bought her. I could not have purchased her at any price if she had not tested positive. When I set up my farm, I took into consideration having CAE positive animals. I have separate paddocks, and there are aisles between each paddock-no ‘shared’ fence lines. The positive does have color coded collars, and all ‘positive’ equipment is color coded."
Anderson said all milk is pasteurized and no positive milk is used in her breeding program. She also uses lots of bleach to disinfect and clean equipment. In four years of raising kids from both positive and negative dams, not one animal born or residing on her farm has ever turned from negative to positive. As for the positive doe, she is as healthy and strong as any "negative" doe, and is due to freshen again the first of March 2004.
Other advice given to Anderson and found to be true, at least in her area of the country, was that dairy goats are still new or unheard of to many vets…goat vet care is mostly trial and error.
Anderson said she had to learn all she could to treat her own animals and diagnose problems they may have.
"My biggest heartbreak was when my first Oberhasli, FlyLo-Farms Anise ‘Annie,’ died suddenly on February 27, 2002," she said. "This was just one month after she kidded with a lovely doeling. Since her untimely death, I have gotten very good at ‘goat medicine’ and, were the situation to occur today, I believe I could save her," she said.
Out of her heartbreak came one of her brightest memories as a goat breeder, however.
"My proudest moment was when Annie’s doeling, Rachelsie Pecan Sandie, won Jr. Champion in the under-six-month class at a big show," Anderson said.
Anderson said her desire to raise, breed, and show Oberhasli dairy goats is as strong as ever and she has set her sights on winning a National Show championship with a black, polled Oberhasli doe someday.
Her daughter, Rachel, is still very involved in dairy goats and even though currently in college, she raises her own LaManchas under the herd name Chaos Caprines. Anderson and daughter agree that raising dairy goats is no longer just a project, it’s a lifestyle!