is more than just goats...
Wholesome Hill is both our farm and our lifestyle choice. We believe livestock to be an added value to human lives. We believe in stewardship. We believe that people, young and old, benefit from having livestock as part of their lives regardless of whether that's a few chickens in the backyard or a full time cattle operation. There is value in the ups and downs that come with the caring for and tending to of animals. There's also value in having goals, determining a plan for those goals and the positive esteem that results from achieving goals.
Our goals are about producing a quality goat, a goat who fulfills its purpose. There are different goats for different purposes. Our main focus here is show stock but not all goats are designed for show. Our production goats are selected for different qualities and different functions than a show goat. We label these types for clarity of our customer base: show stock versus breed stock!
Our herd consists of 35-40 females who range from brood does to top shelf, grand champion, donor does. Tabatha got her start in goats with dairy crosses and our Boer herd today carries with it much of the influence of the "dairy way". That influence is present in the way we manage our herds. Our breeding stock is evaluated carefully. Our animals are hand bred. Our animals are reared with human interaction, parasite control, and every opportunity to reach their genetic potential. Record keeping is important to us, it is the key to making sound selections and pairings. For example: we track parasite susceptibility and tolerance, this allows us to know which animals would be a good fit for people looking for a working goat to turn out and produce offspring for market sales. We also track temperament from generation to generation. Temperament influences whether an animal is easy to train, this is important to the young showman who does not have extra time to waste "taming down" an animal.
We also track fertility, kidding, mothering, and less obvious traits such as hoof growth, content of milk (casein, butterfat), and scrapie resistance.
We maintain a clean tested herd. All adult animals here are tested free of "the big 3". This means we test for CAE, CL, and Johne's annually and have a protocol we follow that includes quarantine and testing any incoming animal to allow us to maintain this disease free status. Permanent herd members are tested annually.
We think of our herd as three herds: Colored, Show, and Functional.
Our colored boer are bred for their beautiful appearance and striking colors. While we seek to improve each new generation here, it’s a well known fact in genetics that you must select one characteristic to “set” at a time. In our colored herd, the 2 characteristics that get priority are: color and functionality.
Our “show stock" is a small group. These are the animals that are likely to produce competitive offspring and selection is quite different for this group. The focus in this group is not just show correct but also “show competitive”. We cull from this group excruciatingly hard; show correct is only the beginning. We also select for a temperament that means "easy to train to the show ring". These animals range greatly in the investment required to attain them, because much more than just show correctness, size, and temperament influence their value. Amongst this group, pedigree, and the fame or ennoblements in their relatives also plays a role. All of our bucks are show correct and selected for a trait set that is valuable.
The third "herd" at Wholesome Hill is the functional herd. These are commonly called brood does. On some farms these are unregistered animals but here we have some that are commercial, some that are percentages and some that are fullbloods. They are selected for a handful of traits that take priority over show traits: kidding ability, mothering ability, parasite resistance, overall health, hoof growth and personality are the most important factors. Why does personality matter in a goat that is not a show goat? Because its easier to deal with goats who are docile and easy to handle. An oft neglected fact is that mothers teach their young how to behave: a mother who teaches her young to run whenever people need to catch them is a mother who makes the herd harder to work. We are not a goat ranch where it benefits the herd to run from people to stay safe, we are a breed stock farm in which the animals need to be docile, manageable, and safe for children to handle.
Another reason this herd is so important here is that when we utilize reproductive technologies such as flushing, IVF, and embryo transfer -these does are the mothers who raise those genetically superior babies. These are females that can be counted on to birth their kids on their own. These does feed them on their own, and care for their young while teaching them how to behave like a domesticated animal as opposed to a wild thing that runs when its time for shots or hooves to be done. These does must be friendly, capable, and earn their keep.
When they are not being used as surrogate mothers, we maintain their valuable traits in our herd by breeding them to bucks that have strong mothering in the bloodline and retaining some daughters for ourselves.
We also have a small group of Nubians that live amongst our Boers. They are striking, elegant, swan-necked, long-legged beauties who are mild mannered and adore human interaction. They do not get nearly enough limelight for the incredible animals they are but they are integral here as we prize their milk, rich in butterfat, and their ability to feed extra kids. We're very proud of our Nubian girls, they hail from some of the very best Kastdemur, Tamris, J&M Hideway, Lakeshore, and Pruittville lines in the country; some are even direct offspring of does who placed well at Nationals. They are incredible milkers and are a foundation of our milk supply for babies who are, for one reason or another, bottle kids. These does are production oriented and selected for volume and quality of milk. We are nearly complete on casein testing of this entire herd. We do offer kids from these does as bottle babies but these are usually spoken for before they are born.