November 13, 2021 at 8:06 p.m.
“We were always going to expand the old-fashioned way by raising kids, but after putting pencil to paper, it just did not make sense,” McCauley said.
McCauley and Loewe milk approximately 150 goats on a rented facility near La Valle. In September, the couple sold their young goats and plan to add 190 adult goats to the operation. The new additions will be milking by the end of December, bringing their total milking herd to around 300. They said there will inevitably be some culling as well.
“I work two jobs off the farm, and Chad works full time too, so not having babies to raise will really make things easier,” Loewe said.
McCauley and Loewe will no longer raise any of the kids. They plan to sell the kids as soon as they have two feedings of colostrum consumed. Currently, they have an arrangement with a private buyer for the kids.
The management changes come as a result of feed costs.
“Corn price is up, and soybeans are so high. I was looking at the feed bill in September and figured it would cost me $23,000 to raise the 79 (kids) we had, and that was in grain alone,” McCauley said.
The couple also had a group of late goats that would have had to wait until the following year when they were big enough to breed, adding to the cost of raising.
The space that was used to raise the kids is now being renovated to accommodate the new goats. They plan to put an addition on the lean-to by adding a car port.
The couple started buying kids in 2015 after realizing that milking cows would not be profitable for them.
“I grew up with my uncle basically raising me over the summers, and he milked cows,” McCauley said.
McCauley thought he would milk cows too, until he decided to try something different when he was in his 20s. He ended up being employed off the farm.
“Working at a lumber yard and delivering to all these farms made me think I wanted to farm again,” McCauley said.
He and Loewe would like to own a place in the country someday, and they thought they would have a better chance of getting a loan for a farm if they were actively farming. They have rented the current facilities since 2015 to try and build enough equity to secure a loan.
Originally, the couple looked into buying cows. They said it would have been $250,000 just for the cows, so they opted to buy goats instead, which could be purchased for a fraction of the price.
“It’s probably a good thing because by now we would have been belly up,” McCauley said.
The couple rents the facility from Patty and Steve Koenig. Patty’s family milked cows in the facility when she was growing up, and it was sitting idle when McCauley and Loewe were looking for a place to rent. They have had to make changes to accommodate the barn for goats.
Because the barn was empty for so long, they had to raise the floors and remove the stanchion dividers. The goats are housed where the old tie stalls were. The gutters were filled in, and wooden dividers were built along the old stalls. The barn also serves as a holding area to the double-12 parlor McCauley and Loewe installed.
They purchased used headlocks for the parlor at a discounted rate. The headlocks are on top of concrete blocks, and goats enter from handmade doors.
Grain is fed exclusively in the parlor, mainly as incentive to get the goats to come in for milking. McCauley and his father built a grain chute to save labor. Grain is stored in a bin in the upstairs of the barn and comes down a chute in the parlor to make feeding convenient.
The Koenigs knew there would need to be improvements done in the barn before McCauley and Loewe could use it, so they did not charge the couple rent for the first year they were there. Every time McCauley had an idea to make a change in the barn, the Koenigs were agreeable and easy to work with, said McCauley and Loewe.
McCauley is quick to express gratitude to the Koenigs for their willingness to let them use the barn and the support they have offered in the last six years.
“We would not be able to be doing this without them,” McCauley said.
McCauley said he is grateful for this opportunity which allows him and Loewe to build their herd while also gaining equity for the future.
McCauley’s dairy vision changed when he decided to milk goats instead of cows. Now, his management is changing to adapt to a changing industry.
“I always thought I would milk cows when I was growing up, but I’m glad I went with goats,” McCauley said.
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