I live in Carbury, Co Kildare, about 20 miles from Naas. It’s not too bad, we’re pretty central. An hour [drive] and you’re anywhere.
In school I knew I wanted to do something outside. I rode horses in my teenage years, so I said I would go that route.
I did stud management in Kildalton. I never really thought of farming.
I finished up college in 2015. I have a brother with additional needs, he needs 24-hour care. I couldn’t get work and at the time I was needed at home.
There was nothing here before the goats. We had a big enough garden keeping a few hens, ducks and chickens growing up. We got two goats then as well in 2015.
My mam and I both thought, “Maybe we’ll make a go of this?” That’s when I started our Instagram, @annasdairygoatfarm. Mam’s name is Eileen, but everyone calls her Anna, so that’s where the name comes from.
A neighbour had two acres directly behind our house, so we bought that. It grew from two goats to 10 then. Now I’ve 60 goats altogether and I’m milking 35 of them.
It’s kind of a fluke. If you had asked me five years ago, I would never have thought of owning a goat, never mind milking one.
Getting into goats
We decided we wanted to process the milk ourselves. We had the site, so we did some research and realised we needed to build a dairy processing building, a parlour and sheds.
We said we’d take it slow and do the building work in stages, so we could also concentrate on building up our herd and learning more about how to keep dairy goats, because we had no experience in dairy.
We’re currently building the processing unit and last autumn we started work on a new eight-unit parlour. It’s a long, long road. But we’re getting there. The processing building should be finished by now. COVID has put a stall on everything
The plan is to make cheese and yoghurt here on site and hopefully have a farm shop open this year.
Getting into the goats was a massive learning curve. The local breeder I bought the goats from showed and taught me most of what I know. Through him I got in contact with other goat breeders and people that show goats. I just learned from them. I did a lot of research myself as well, to be honest.
I breed the goats to be multipurpose. This year I actually have none left, they’re all gone for breeding. If people want them for meat, I’ll sell them for meat. I milk twice a day. At the moment we use the milk for ourselves and feed it back to the young stock. We hope to be up and running selling our own dairy products later this year.
I start kidding generally in the second week in February. I do three blocks in spring; February, March and April. Then I do a block in November time.
I’m quite an independent person, so I like that farming the goats allows me to be my own boss. My dad helps me out at the weekends, but I like to work on my own, have my own schedule and way of going on.
Mam’s the same. She looks after the business end of it and I look after all the outside jobs. Mam’s going to be doing the cheese and yoghurt. She’s been trialling different recipes.
A lot of people are surprised and don’t believe you when you say you’re in goats. Especially when you say dairy goats. Where I am, I’m surrounded by three dairy farms. So it’s quite funny to see the dairy cows out and this little herd of goats in the middle.
Some people are nice, some people ask questions and some people say it’s not a real farm. But I don’t mind, I enjoy it.
Goats, they’re really easy to work with, even in the parlour. You’ll get the odd one, but generally they’re fine. They love routine, so once you keep a routine, they’re happy. I love a routine too, so we work well together.
They’re an interesting animal. I never have a boring day. As my dad says: “If there’s a hole, they’ll get through it. If there’s a bit of wood to be broken, they’ll break it.”
Rain, hail or shine, I just love getting up and going out to them in the morning. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else, to be honest.