Over the last 4 years in Vermont, I have taken care of a small herd of angora goats and a few alpacas for a man in my hometown. Angora goats are known for the kind of fiber they produce called mohair. My boss also owns an artisan gallery where artists and other people sell their home-made items. When the goats are sheared, the mohair is used in many of the products sold at the gallery. As a caretaker for the animals, my tasks include feeding, cleaning, hoof trimming, and assisting with shearing. Additionally, whenever the owners head off to visit family or go to an art show, I am the man for the job.
A few weeks ago, I got a call asking if I could take care of the goats during the coming holidays. So once again I find myself at the familiar farm, working with the animals I’ve been around for the last few years. Not only is it a great way to stay busy with all my newfound free time, but it is also nice to apply my new knowledge. Because angora goats are native to Turkey and large numbers are used in Texas, life in the harsh Vermont winter is not natural for these animals. Watching the weather and locking all the animals in for the night is the difference between a living goat and one that is frozen solid.
Another exciting event at the goat farm this winter is the expansion of the herd. Right now the barn is not at capacity, so we moved a few of the males and females into a separate pen for breeding. So sometime by the end of the summer, a few kids should be on the ground.
As I mentioned before, a few alpacas also live on the farm. Unlike the goats, the alpacas are much hardier and can survive the rough winter conditions. I think they are some of the funniest animals around. They make the most interesting sounds and are very feisty when they’re about to receive their daily grain. I’ve seen them literally charge from out in the pasture toward one of my friends, who took off running in the opposite direction.
Working on this farm was one of the major experiences that shaped my path toward veterinary school. Without it, I’m not sure if I would have much interest in food animal medicine. But being back in Vermont on the farm was an amazing feeling and I can’t wait to come back in the summer.