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"I could tell you that when you have trouble making up your mind about something, tell yourself you’ll settle it by flipping a coin. But don’t go by how the coin flips; go by your emotional reaction to the coin flip. Are you happy or sad it came up heads or tails?"
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  Volume No. 16 Issue No. 6 June 2019  

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Bill Radford

  Faces of Black Forest
  With goats — size matters
  By Bill Radford

   When Chris and Megan Archer moved to Black Forest nearly five years ago, Chris Archer thought it would be fun to have a couple of goats.
   
   So they started with three — "and it has exploded from there," Megan Archer said.
   
   Chris, who is in the U.S. Air Force, had "kind of dabbled with chickens and a couple of little pet goats" in the past, Archer said. "But I decided that if I was going to have a livestock animal, it would go to work for us. So I learned about dairy goats and about the breed that I wanted."
   
   The breed they decided on: mini Nubians. As the Archers explain on the website for their 5-acre Size Matters Microranch, mini Nubians "are a midsize dairy goat, both easy to keep and handle, but with the potential to produce a lot of high-butterfat milk."
   
   "I decided we really did like the milk," Archer said. "It's not goaty at all. It's very rich."
   They maintain a core herd of about 20, but that doesn't include all the babies running around. (Keeping goats "in milk" means having goat kids, the website notes.)
   
   Is it tough keeping everyone straight and remembering all their names? "I delivered most of them, so it's second nature for me,” Archer said. Helping deliver all those baby goats might be intimidating to a lot of people, but Archer is a labor and delivery nurse. "So I kind of understand breeding, birthing, lactation."
   
   Still, she said, "It took me a couple of years before I was really comfortable doing intervention and helping. As a nurse, I kind of kept waiting for the doctor to show up, and I realized that's not going to happen here."
   
   She does, though, have an experienced goat veterinarian to rely on. She is also "in a number of Facebook groups where we trade information." In July, she'll be helping put together a mini goat show in Brighton, Colorado. She also shares the stories of all the goat births on her blog, and has gotten "a pretty good following,” Archer said.
   
   In breeding, she said, "I try to look at milk production, udder attachment, body conformation, temperament, things like that." Another desired trait is the ease of kidding, or giving birth: "If you've got a goat that doesn't give birth easily, that's not a good trait to pass on."
   
   Archer provides the goat milk to customers through herd shares; it is illegal in Colorado to directly sell raw milk. In spring and summer, she also has kids available for new homes.
   "If you have a really nice bred dairy goat who is a girl, you can sell it pretty quickly," Archer said. "The boys are slower to go." Her goats are socialized at an early age. Her daughter, Bella, age 10, and son, Charlie, age 5, are happy to show the young goats some love -- and so they also make for "a good, laid-back pet."
   
   The young goats are disbudded so they won't grow up with horns, which reduces the risk of injury to other goats or to people, Archer said. Goats with horns also have a talent for getting their heads stuck in fences or elsewhere.
   
   "I had one goat that was just a genius for getting her head stuck in that hay feeder, and then she could never get it out," Archer said. "I can't imagine what she would have done with horns."
   
   Her advice for new goat owners? "Make friends with people who have goats; have a goat mentor. There is a learning curve with goats. They are hardy animals, but they can have some pretty unique health problems. When those happen, you need somebody who knows what they're doing."
   
   The biggest surprise for her in raising goats? "I didn't think I would enjoy it as much as I do. I thought we'd get some goats and it would be like chickens, but I really enjoy it; and I've made a lot of friends through it."
   
   (For more about the Archers' goats and their homesteading experiences, go to https://sizemattersmicroranch.com.)
  
Something catches the attention of some of the goats at the Size Matters Microranch in Black Forest. Photos by Bill Radford
 
Megan Archer holds a baby goat at her Size Matters Microranch in Black Forest.
 
Megan Archer with daughter, Bella, son, Charlie, and a new addition to their goat herd.
 
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