Posted 12th Jun 2017
We spend an enjoyable day at a Kent goat sanctuary learning the basic skills needed for goat husbandry
After arriving at the car park at the Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats near Maidstone in Kent, we walked through a gate and into goat heaven! Laid out before us was a lush green pasture populated by a whole host of goats of all shapes, sizes and breeds. And being the friendly creatures that they are, many of them started heading our way for a bit of fuss and a cuddle. Although a number of the goats that now live here were mistreated in their past lives, they now know only love, affection and care from the staff and volunteers at the sanctuary, which they repay in bucket loads to staff and visitors alike. Once we've made a fuss of all our new goat friends in the pasture, it's time to head towards the goat sheds to meet up with founder Robert Hitch, who runs regular one-day courses on goat husbandry.
Group sizes on the husbandry courses are kept fairly small so you have plenty of opportunity to ask questions and get hands-on. Our course starts by heading back out to the pasture to look at the types of fencing you need to consider when keeping goats. Then Robert talk us through the different breeds and what they are best suited for, i.e. milk, meat or fibre. There are dozens of goats from lots of different goat breeds at the sanctuary, from Anglo-Nubians to Toggenburgs, Pygmies to Angoras, even shaggy coated-Bagots. We look at all the enrichment ideas there are for the goats to play on here, from log piles to mini mountains, wooden playhouses to giant cable reels – all of them being put to good use by the playful, inquisitive goats and their adorable kids.
Robert takes us down to the goat sheds and talks us though the elements we need to consider when creating a safe, secure home for our goats, including the best ways to construct the pens, how often to change the bedding and how much space each goat needs.
Then it's off to the makeshift classroom in one of the goat sheds for some theory. We discuss how and what to feed to the goats and get a greater understanding of how their complex digestive system works and how to keep it healthy.
After all that talk of food, it's time for a light lunch (included in the cost of the course). During the lunch break there's plenty of time to meet more of the goats and even give them some of their favourite snacks – dry biscuits and pasta!
After lunch we head back to the classroom to discuss goat health and how to medicate for common ailments, then it's out into the yard to get hands-on. Robert and his team show small groups of us how to treat the goats for parasites, give them oral medication using a drench and how to trim their feet (a job that has to be done regularly). If you plan to keep goats, learning how to foot trim from the experts is really useful and so much easier to attempt it under their guidance than trying to learn from a book. We finish our day with a Q&A session and Robert gives us all a set of course notes to take home with us. On the way back to the car park, it's hard not to linger for one last cuddle with the gorgeous goats that enjoy being fussed so much. With so many different goats to meet, the sanctuary is a great place to help you decide if goat-keeping is for you and which breeds you might like to keep.
The Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats one-day husbandry courses provide the ideal training for the beginner thinking of goat husbandry and cover handling, housing, feeding, medication & ailments, foot trimming and everyday management.
Goat husbandry workshops - 11th June, 13th August, 22nd October 2017
Courses run from 11am-3pm
Cost £50 per person including lunch and refreshments
For details or to book visit www.buttercups.org.uk
Feature by Anna-Lisa De'Ath