October 11, 2021 at 5:51 p.m.
“I’m trying to get the best quality herd I can build with my nine animals,” said Hackbarth, who currently milks five goats on her Platinum Sky Farm near Sussex. “I picked the Nigerian breed for its small size, high butterfat and protein, and milk flavor. I also like all the color varieties and the fact Nigerians can be any color.”
Hackbarth, who comes from a horse background, thought goats would make fun pets.
“I enjoyed caring for livestock and since goats are little and fairly easy to care for, that’s what I chose,” she said. “I was also very active in 4-H as a kid and liked the idea of my kids showing goats. Animals are a big thing for our family.”
Hackbarth and her husband, Paul, who works in construction management, have three children – Kaitlin, 14, Weston, 13, and Anna, 11.
Soon after starting with goats, Hackbarth became a serious breeder, focused on milk production and linear appraisals. Her 100% Nigerian herd is on DHI test as Hackbarth likes numbers and knowing exactly where her goats stand production-wise.
“The kids like to show, but my favorite is the milk and linear side,” Hackbarth said. “I like the data side of things. We’re looking for components, so I also like using the milk production data for feed management and picking bigger producers. Our best milker peaked at 5 pounds a day. That’s not bad for a tiny goat.”
Hackbarth began feeding a total mixed ration in April and said milk production is the best she has seen.
“Butterfat climbed a whole percent,” Hackbarth said. “I feel good about that.”
After doing her research, Hackbarth put together a custom ration consisting of alfalfa hay, beet pulp with molasses, a pelleted dairy goat ration and sunflower seeds.
“It’s a consistent program,” she said. “I’m no longer slug feeding grain on the milkstand. The goats can eat as much as they want all day long. I buy alfalfa hay by the pallet and mix a fresh batch every week. It’s high-quality nutrition, and I don’t have nearly as much waste. My goats used to waste a lot of hay, but now there’s no sorting.”
Hackbarth also does linear appraisal through the American Dairy Goat Association, which she said is similar to a BAA for cows.
“I really like those programs,” Hackbarth said. “The goats are scored physically, and good ones are 90 or 91, while younger goats will score in the 80s. The score is based partly on maturity and partly on physical attributes. I’m working on better confirmation, udders, and capacity – all of which translates to better show goats as well.”
At this year’s state fair, the Hackbarths won reserve champion Nigerian Dwarf and reserve champion bred and owned.
“We’ve been breeding for a while so it’s nice to see the goats maturing and doing well in the ring,” Hackbarth said.
Hackbarth follows a seasonal schedule, milking nine months of the year. She milks goats twice per day for seven to eight months and then once per day in the fall before drying them off.
“We bottle feed all the kids pasteurized milk for Johne’s and CAE prevention,” she said. “I keep a clean herd and disease test every year – that’s important to me. Bottle feeding is a lot of work, but it makes for nice kids and keeps them healthy. Between that and disease testing, I feel confident my herd is healthy and not passing anything on.”
Hackbarth’s is the first Nigerian Dwarf herd in the U.S. to become part of the USDA’s Scrapie Free Flock Certification Program. The program offers sheep and goat producers the opportunity to increase marketability of their animals through demonstrating scrapie freedom in their flock or herd and will give Hackbarth the ability to export does to Canada and other select countries.
“This requires biopsies of any goat that passes,” Hackbarth said. “We had our first loss this year, and a USDA vet came out to perform a biopsy of her brain tissue.”
Becoming certified is a 5-year commitment which Hackbarth started this spring.
“I want to get to a point where I am able to ship live animals anywhere,” she said. “I cannot bring another doe into my herd because no one is as far along as I am in the program. It will be a fun challenge going forward, but I’d like to continue working with my own bloodlines anyway.”
When it comes to selling does, Hackbarth prefers quality over quantity.
“There’s a lot of Nigerian Dwarfs in the U.S., but that’s not the case in Canada,” Hackbarth said. “Quality Nigerian Dwarf genetics are plentiful in the U.S., but Canada is much more limited in what they have to work with. It is exciting to think that I might be able to help build the breed in other countries.”
The milk from Hackbarth’s goats is also the source of her Vibe Bath and Body care line.
Hackbarth makes soaps, lotions, body creams, lip balms, body sprays, face masks, and sugar scrubs with her goats’ milk.
“I feel really good putting those products out in the world,” Hackbarth said. “And I feel good when customers tell me they work for them.”
All of Hackbarth’s bath and body products are made from scratch, and felted soap is one of her top sellers. Wrapped in llama fibers, the soap acts as a soft exfoliator.
“I use fiber from a local llama farm,” Hackbarth said. “I try to source a lot of my ingredients from nearby.”
Hackbarth won the bath and body competition at the American Dairy Goat Association’s 2019 convention when her lotion took first place. In addition, her gift basket won best in show.
Hackbarth’s bath and body products are sold on her website, at farmers markets, craft fairs and local boutiques.
“My mom and daughter had a lot of skin issues, and my mom was buying goat milk soap from California,” Hackbarth said. “I offered to make her some instead, and she loved it. Little stores in the area were asking for goat milk soap bars as well. So I dove in two years ago around the holiday season and have been building up my business ever since.”
Hackbarth also uses the milk to make ice cream, pudding and other foods for her family.
“The Nigerians’ milk is creamy and delicious, but it’s too thick for drinking,” she said. “Our butterfat is 9% this time of year. The milk is excellent for making fudge and caramel sauce and phenomenal for making ice cream and pudding.”
Goat yoga is the newest endeavor for Hackbarth, whose goats are spreading joy through classes offered by Jessica Hope of MKE Yoga Social. Hope teaches the class while Hackbarth provides the goats.
“It’s a fun way to bring a little extra income to the farm and share animals with the public,” Hackbarth said. “Many of the city people taking yoga classes have never touched a goat in their life. They’re looking to cuddle on some cute little thing, and goat yoga allows them to do that.”
The teacher focuses on poses conducive to goats wanting to crawl on or under the yoga participants.
“Our goats are so social,” Hackbarth said. “They love hanging out with people and might lay on the mat and take a nap or hop back and forth across peoples’ backs. There are a lot of giggles and smiles, and people leave happy they came.”
Between making bath and body products, doing goat yoga and continuing to breed for success, Hackbarth keeps plenty busy.
“I like the idea of having a small, quality herd and really good breeding stock to sell to other countries,” Hackbarth said. “My goal is to get better, not bigger.”