October 26, 2020 at 5:55 p.m.

A career with caprines

Gehri looks toward future of goat herd
Tessa Gehri has two dairy goats at her family’s farm near Wonewoc, Wisconsin. The 17-year-old was the winner of the Wisconsin state goat proficiency and is one of the final four candidates in the national FFA contest.  PHOTO BY DANIELLE NAUMAN
Tessa Gehri has two dairy goats at her family’s farm near Wonewoc, Wisconsin. The 17-year-old was the winner of the Wisconsin state goat proficiency and is one of the final four candidates in the national FFA contest. PHOTO BY DANIELLE NAUMAN

By Danielle Nauman- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

    WONEWOC, Wis. – Seventeen-year-old Tessa Gehri first entered the world of goats when she was gifted two as pets in 2014. From there, she developed a love for the inquisitive little ruminants; in return, they have presented opportunities for her and her future that she would not have otherwise had.
    “I still have those first two pets,” Gehri said. “They are here forever. They are useless now, but they are important. They were the start of everything.”
    Gehri, the daughter of Rocky and Amanda Gehri, of Wonewoc, is in her senior year at Wonewoc-Center High School and an active member of the school’s FFA chapter. This summer, Gehri was named the winner of the state goat production proficiency. Earlier this fall, she was selected as one of the top four finalists for the national proficiency award and will learn the results of that competition Oct. 28 during a virtual version of the National FFA Convention.
    “I’ve never gone to national convention before and was excited to go this year, especially with my proficiency competition,” Gehri said. “I was disappointed that the convention was shifted to a virtual version. I plan to apply for my American Degree in the future, so I am hopeful to receive that and be able to attend the convention then.”
    Although she will not turn 18 until next July, Gehri will graduate early from high school in January. She is uncertain of what direction her future will take following graduation, as she is exploring several options.
    “I know a big school is not right for me,” Gehri said. “I haven’t ruled out the idea of a technical school, but I have my goat herd to think about. Going somewhere outside of commuting range is not feasible. Ideally, I would like to follow an entrepreneurial path and build and grow my own businesses.”
    Gehri works in the calf facility at Hillsprairie Dairy near Hillsboro where she is learning about caring for dairy cattle, an area she feels she has a great deal to learn in terms of livestock husbandry.
    “I have the goats, and I also have experience with horses and swine,” Gehri said. “Cattle and sheep are my weak points.”
    Gehri houses her goats at Stillbrooks Clydesdales, a farm near her home, where she is also involved in working with and showing Clydesdale horses. Soon after she was gifted the two goats, farm owner Merle Brooks acquired a dairy goat which he gave Gehri. That dairy goat officially became the foundation for what would become a successful Supervised Agricultural Experience for Gehri’s FFA career.
    Although she has since sold the original dairy goat to a family in Oklahoma, Gehri has two of her daughters. Right now, those two Alpine dairy goats are the only milking females Gehri owns. She down-sized her dairy goat herd because she had no way to obtain a market for her milk.
    Gehri connected with an area dairy goat farmer who purchased the remainder of her milking herd last winter and also purchases her dairy kid does.
    “I would really like to find a farm to rent after I graduate, a place with facilities that I could build a parlor and have a large enough herd of dairy goats to obtain a milk market, as well continue to grow my herd of Boer goats,” Gehri said.
    Due to the lack of a milk market, Gehri has turned her attention to raising registered Boer goats, a market she said is gaining in popularity and demand in her area. She focuses on breeding Boer goats and enjoys competing with her goats at regional and national shows.
    In addition to showing and marketing high-quality breeding stock, Gehri has found a local niche market for her Boer kid bucks, selling them to several Amish farmers who have found they like crossbreeding Boer and dairy goats, creating a more dual-purpose animal.
    Gehri is inquisitive by nature and likes to learn new skills that will aid her in growing her herd and creating avenues for revenue in the future. At the age of 15, she attended classes to learn to artificially inseminate her goats.
    “The first class I went to was kind of intimidating,” Gehri said. “It was mostly all veterinarians and then me. They kind of looked at me funny, like why was I there wanting to learn to artificially inseminate goats.”
    After honing her skills on her own animals, Gehri began inseminating goats for others in the area, giving rise to Gehri’s Caprine Artificial Insemination Service.
    “I have had people tell me that if they could get their bucks collected, they would have me inseminate for them,” Gehri said. “That got me thinking there aren’t a lot of people around collecting and freezing goat semen.”
    Gehri made connections with an Illinois-based company that collects and freezes semen. She has made arrangements to visit their facilities and begin learning how to collect goat semen to be able to create another arm in her growing business portfolio.
    She is also intrigued at the idea of using embryo transfer to grow and develop the genetics within her own herd. Keeping in line with her mindset, simply using the technology is not where Gehri plans to stop. She is eager to learn to do it for herself and to obtain the necessary credentials to offer the service to others.
    “I’m not sure where the future will lead me just yet, but I know that I want to be involved in working with livestock, particularly with my goats,” Gehri said.


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