PROSPERITY — A woman wearing a 4-H button in Tractor Supply opened up new opportunities for Anna Craven and eventually her brother, Carson.
While the family was in the store shopping for a goat leash and for food, the logo got her attention and she wondered if there was a way to participate since she knew a lot about raising goats.
The Cravens raise goats for milk and meat but began doing so to control brush on the property. She found out there was a Newberry County 4-H club for goats, got the contact information for Agent Alana West, and asked to join.
During her first year with a goat, her brother realized the importance of tending livestock and he chose to participate in 4-H instead of taking guitar lessons.
“I thought raising an animal is more important than something I could play on Guitar Hero video games,” he said.
The first year had a steep learning curve though. Raising a whether, a castrated male meat goat, had different challenges than raising other forms of domesticated goats.
A whether is the only kind of goat allowed in the 4-H meat goat project because they grow faster. Anna’s goat developed urinary calculi, a condition like kidney stones that can be fatal for goats.
Baking soda fed to the whether to help with bloat carried a risk of calculi as a side effect but they did not realize it.
Her whether died that year so she could not compete in the meat category but she still was able to show other goats.
Undeterred, she kept showing goats and learning more. Her brother caught the enthusiasm and now a few years later is raising and showing goats of his own.
They became so involved and enthralled with goats that in time their father, Matthew, volunteered as the Newberry County representative for the 4-H meat goat project.
For the 4-H show goats, Anna and Carson share feeding chores, with Anna typically doing the watering and Carson the feeding. Show goats are fed twice a day while other goats are fed at night.
“We make our own food with oats, sunflower seeds, alfalfa, calf manna and we can buy medicated show goat feed,” Anna said.
Anna and Carson gave the goats shots — a two person job — and gave wormer medicine by mouth. Other chores include shaving the goats and tending to their hooves/nails.
“You spend a lot more time with show goats so they bond to you sort of like a dog. We pull into the driveway and they are baaahing at us,” she said.
Along the way the family has raised its own personal dairy goats as cross-breeds from Boer goats and Kiko goats. The first four of the family’s four dairy goats — Ren, Claire, Spot and Pan — were hand raised and bottle fed. They started with a Lamancha-Nubian cross breed and a Sierra-Lamancha cross.
They feed their personal goats hay, grain, bush, veggie scraps, carrots and allow them to free range feed in the pasture. The family has just under four acres and can raise about six goats per acre.
The teens helped their father build play houses for the goats and added steps to a dog house so the goats could climb it and jump off.
“We feed them a lot of pumpkins in late fall and if you keep pumpkins in an area lined with hay they stay cool and save a long time (as a food source),” Carson said.
They have an electric fence for the female goats and they keep the male within 4x4 goat fencing.
Family dogs including Chesapeake Bay retriever Samson, Collie mix Shyann, a lab named Lena and a mutt patrol the area and keep the goats safe from predators. The Cravens also raise chickens. They sell goats either at the livestock sale in Saluda or on Craigslist.
While it costs money to raise goats, that need not prevent people from participating in the 4-H Goat Club.
There is fund-raising assistance available where a 4-Her pays half the price for the goat and then pays the second half at the end of the project when the goat likely sells at a profit.
Those who cannot afford a goat can still participate by paying a fee. That way the youth can be around the project, learn from it and attend meetings.
The club had 80 youth last year but now is up to 114 members, including some from Boys Farm.
Anna, a rising ninth grader at Mid-Carolina, acts with the Newberry Community Players and Carson helps backstage. She also is in the Mid-Carolina High School Chorus.
For Carson, a rising eighth grader, free time is spent in the MCMS band. Both he and Anna also are completing confirmation classes at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church.
Carson said he is comfortable with his 4-H choice over music.
“It teaches you life lessons and to be more responsible for stuff,” Carson said. “Mom made me stick with it and I really warmed up to it. It turns out goats are pretty easy to maintain and self reliant.”
For more information on the goat club, visit www.clemson.edu/extension/county/newberry/programs/4h/.