We started in 1996 with 3 cute unregistered doelings on our 5 acres to keep our horses company. Yeah, sounded like a good idea at the time....
Well, you can't have just 3 goats, so at the urging of our friend who sold us the goats, we borrowed one of her bucks and bred the doelings when they were old enough. (Note that after your 3 does have kidded, you'll probably have 9 goats, and when THEY kid.......you see where this is going.) Soon after, we needed a black one, and a registered one, and one with a better pedigree, and our "own" buck, and a few that the owners just couldn't keep, etc etc..... By 2003 we had almost 200 goats, 5 llamas, a Border Collie, a couple of pet dogs, 2 horses, and had founded "Goat Brushers"--a vegetation management company that used goats to reduce weeds and mitigate fires in the dry hills of the California Sierra Nevada. The business was successful, but when we decided to move to Arkansas in 2006, we sold most of the goats and the business venture to a couple who lived nearby.
Our story was printed in "The Goat Magazine", a publication that is no longer in print.:
Eating as they should....ABOVE THEIR HEADS !
"OH, OH, OH, Is this all for ME?"
Lending a helping "hoof" so the little ones can reach that tender stuff at the TOP of the bushes!
Natasha, our Anatolian Shepherd Dog, checking out the flowers and trees at "the new place."
Located off I-81 near the Tri-Cities Area
Beautiful Tennessee sunset at the end of a long hard day
Finding new types of vegetation to munch on! (this is a passion flower vine, and some sericea lespedeza)
Young doeling exploring the "strange" vegetation (it's just a blackberry bush!)
B & C Kikos & Savannas
Grazing in the lower part of the valley among blackberry bushes, Queen Anne's Lace, and persimmon saplings, to name a few.
Exploring the new fence line with "Dad."
What's it like to move 60 goats, 3 dogs, a cat, and a llama (not to mention all your worldly possessions) across the country? You're probably thinking, "What are you, NUTS?!"
But that's exactly what we did — In August, 2006, Goat Brushers Kikos sold their brushing business to a couple from Grass Valley, California, and in September moved "bag, baggage, and breeding stock Kikos" as well as a few other critters a total of 2200 miles to a new ranch in Arkansas. It was a rough trip, through both heat and rain, but everyone arrived safe and healthy!
We are now called Ravenden Ridge Ranch, named after this tree-covered ridge overlooking the town of Ravenden, Arkansas. Our Fall-season move precluded getting a new barn and all our permanent cross-fencing completed by winter, but we did manage to finish temporary electric cross-fencing, permanent perimeter fencing, and minor repairs to the lean-to barn for those inevitable hail storms! We added a pair of LGD's for protection, another new experience for us!
Here, our goats have a variety of oaks, cedars, and grasses upon which to browse — and they seem thrilled. We will be able to rotate "pastures" and raise our Kikos as they were meant to be raised — with minimal inputs! We are continuing and expanding upon our EPD program, to give our buyers a better idea of what they can expect from any goat they might purchase from us.
Our first kid crop will arrive in March 2007 and will include IKGA-registerable kids from New Zealand Fullblood to percentages. Our website should be completely updated soon. Watch for an announcement of kid availability complete with EPD results, in early summer. We will also bring AT LEAST three of our best kids to Kikofest 2007 in September.
(Published in "The Goat Magazine" Kiko Report Dec.2006/Jan 2007)
In early 2010, we moved AGAIN, this time to our current place in Tennessee!
In the spring of 2010, we moved our family, animals and all, 600+ miles east. Our does all had 2-month-old kids in tow, (one was only 2 weeks old) and we were concerned about how they would weather the trip. We needn't have been worried---they're KIKOS, and they came through with flying colors, not even a runny nose.
The goats now live on tree-covered, hilly pastures, with minerals and water, no grain except as needed to catch them when we check for worms (with the FAMACHA method.) (Cherie also sneaks bits of melon rind and corn husks to her favorite girls, but don't tell anyone! ) With the travelling, new types of forage, and new scary noises at night, these goats STILL surpassed our expectations. We should have given them more credit!
Pictures of our arrival in TN in mid-May, 2010
Our new website for our ranch in Arkansas stated.....
Ravenden Ridge Ranch is nestled on the western slope of the Ozark Mountains in northeast Arkansas. The terrain is a combination of flat, cleared fields dotted with small trees and brush, and gently-sloping areas of timber. Scattered limestone rocks of all sizes dot the edges of the fields, and large outcroppings overlook the slopes of two streams meandering
through the timber, creating limitless entertainment for the goats. These woods are made up of cedar, hickory, dogwood, redbud, buckeye, several species of oaks, and numerous other small trees and brush in an ever-changing array of undergrowth, which provide natural de-wormer and ample browse for our hungry mob! Most of the major storms that come
up from the Gulf during hurricane season tend to “split” around our 60-acre ridge-top location, sparing us from most of the torrential rains and the tornadoes that plague our neighbors in surrounding states.
We moved to our little ranch from California in the fall of 2006. Much of the first year was spent converting the fences and shelters to accommodate goats. We use a combination of temporary and permanent electric fences, as well as “sheep and goat wire” to keep the goats at home, and to rotate them between various “pastures”. We prefer to use rotational grazing and strategic de-worming to manage our herd. Although we are not certified “organic”, these practices allow us to use fewer chemicals on our goats and still maintain a healthy, viable herd. In the future, we plan to gradually convert more forest to pastureland, and cross-fence these areas to facilitate more pasture rotation. We have a nearby supply of chicken “litter” to help feed the soil without using chemical fertilizers.
Our herd is comprised of registered and unregistered Kiko goats. We have found this breed to have many traits that make our lives easier: they are excellent mothers, have fewer parasite and foot problems than other breeds of goat, display good forage-to-meat conversion rates, and require less input from us in the form of feed and medical attention. They are aggressive feeders, frequently dragging down branches from six feet high, in order to munch on the more tender leaves! We also have Saanen and Tennessee Fainting Goats, (or “Myotonic” goats,) which we sometimes cross with the Kikos in that never-ending quest to build a better meat goat! We have found that, while many 100% fullblood New Zealand Kiko lines have suffered from some producers inability to cull goats because they have a pedigree, more often a well-thought out cross-bred goat can perform better than the fullblood stock from whence they originated. This phenomenon is known as “hybrid vigor.” There are exceptions, of course, but overall, we are usually pleased with the performance of our percentage Kikos.
We focus on raising hardy replacement stock for other meat goat ranchers. Due to the law of averages and general principles of heredity, one-half to two-thirds of the kids born here are NOT breeding stock quality. These goats are sold for pets, “livestock landscapers”, or meat. We usually have suitable 4H project goats available in late spring. We do not sell for breeding stock any goat that we would not want to have in our herd. See General Purchase Information for our breeder’s guarantee.
In 2005 we began tracking EPD’s—recording kid weights at birth, 30, 60, 90, and 150 day intervals, comparing various ratios of weaned kid weights and doe weights, and tracking fertility and productivity in our doe herd. These figures as well as the notes we take throughout the year, help us make judgments as to which does are not fulfilling our expectations, and which does consistently produce healthy kids. Does that produce poorly-performing kids, require frequent dewormings or foot trimming, or who do not easily deliver and care for their kids are culled from the herd. We vaccinate adult goats yearly for CDT and CL, and trim hooves once or twice per year. Dewormings are kept to a minimum, in keeping with the Kiko tradition. "
"Why Kikos?" you might ask.....
Kikos are known for their parasite resistance, excellent mothering skills, aggressive foraging abilities, rapid growth and solid, healthy hooves. Goats that do not exhibit those characteristics are removed from our breeding herd.
We keep careful records of birth weights, number of kids per litter per doe, progress weights at 30, 90, and 150 days, and compute EPD’s (Expected Progeny Differentials) for each doe, every year.
We de-worm our goats only as needed, using the FAMACHA method.
We also make note of the intangibles, such as mothering ability, ease of kidding, frequency of foot trimming and de-worming required.
These records help us decide which lines continue to exemplify the Kiko ideal, which lines are best suited to carry on those genetics, and which lines are failing to measure up.
These figures are available to buyers on request. Although we have seen that such figures can vary widely from ranch to ranch depending upon management practices, keeping good records gives us an accurate picture of how each goat on our ranch is performing, compared to our ranch average.
We feel that only through the use of good record-keeping and rigorous culling can we continue to meet our buyers’ expectations for quality breeding stock and starter herds.
Goats are BROWSERS not GRAZERS.....
Here is an interesting illustration about how Kikos browse (eat brush.) The consistently push over and "walk down" the smaller bushes, or stand on their hind legs to reach the lower branches. The leaves at the top of trees and bushes are not only more tender (and probably taste better) but there are no parasites up there for the goats to ingest!
We use rotational grazing that includes browse and grass to help keep our goats healthy and reduce the amount of medications they need, therefore limiting the amount of chemicals in the food chain. We think we're ALL better off for it!