The Northern Farm Training Institute has had no time for kidding around this past week with the arrival of 16 infant goats.
The institute bought a dozen goats last year, unaware that they were pregnant.
As the goats began to show up, the staff began to consider their options for the kids arriving in the middle of winter. So far, 16 have been born and three more are expected. They add to the many pigs, chickens, goats, sheep and cows that share the large barn at the farm just off Highway 2.
Animal manager Thomas Schenkel has been on high alert nights at his trailer on the property, listening for the sounds of more goats in labour.
“It’s been intense around the clock,” he said. “I have had the heat turned down and the windows open so I can hear the screams. I’ve been going out every hour to make sure there are no new babies on the ground.”
Schenkel said that there have been no complications with the birthing but one challenge he faces is getting to the kids in time before they freeze.
“A lot of them are going through this for the first time, and they are not good moms,” he said. “They don’t know they are supposed to lick their babies dry before they freeze.”
Another challenge is finding supplies for all the new kids in a small town in the winter.
“The hardware store has had limited supplies,” Schenkel said. “It’s bad timing, right after Christmas. In a place where trucks are delayed and it takes two weeks for an order to come, we’ve had to come up with our own solutions. We bought every heat lamp in town.”
Jackie Milne, the director of the institute, said, once they found out the goats were carrying, the staff pulled together some A-frame structures within the barn to house the kids.
“It’s actually a good experience. We’re learning how to do this efficiently in the NWT without accessible supplies,” she said. “We were able to build structures that can be heated by one lamp. We had discussed some new structures but this forced us to figure it out fast.”
Although the old generation of goats is not the friendliest, Schenkel hopes to see a change in the new generation.
“I’m bottle feeding some of them, and I think we will see them grow up much more tame than the older generation,” he said.
The kids are a welcome surprise for the farm. Milne said the goats are great for grazing the land to transform underbrush into pasture, which in turn helps provide an optimum environment for the cows. With two calves being born this winter, there will be demand for pasture in the coming year.
As for selling the goats, Milne said she plans to sell any extra goats to past students of the institute who are setting up their own farms.
Milne said the farm has enough resources to support the new additions. The institute will be getting a $10,000 grant from the NWT Environmental Stewardship Fund in Memory of Doug Ritchie to offset the costs of the farm’s food rescue program, where they obtain old produce from grocery stores to feed the animals.
The farm has been attracting guests to see the newly arrivals. On Saturday, Sahra McIntyre came to celebrate her fifth birthday by cuddling the baby goats.
Milne said that, within the next month once all the kids have been born, she will be hosting an open house for people to come and see the baby goats.
“They’ll be more entertaining by then,” she predicted.