October 14, 2022 at 6:54 p.m.
Since 2014, Nigerian Dwarf goats have brought joy and sustenance to the Becker family.
Ed and Tracy Becker and their children, Eddie, Emma and Sam, milk 12 goats and operate Goat Shine near Glencoe.
The Beckers have 65 goats, which includes breeding stock and youngstock. They purchase hay for their goats from their son, Jack, and also feed a mineral mix developed with the help of a nutritionist.
“We’ve come a long way since we started with three does and a buck,” Ed said.
Through Goat Shine, the Beckers direct market goat milk products. The Beckers make soaps and lotions using the milk from their herd.
“The milk is thick,” Ed said. “It’s like a heavy cream and has high butterfat and protein.”
Nigerian Dwarfs kid year-round and, on average, produce 2 quarts of milk per day.
When the Beckers first started milking goats, they milked by hand twice per day. As the herd grew, they invested in equipment which came with its own challenges. Because the Nigerian Dwarfs are small, the milking equipment had to be retrofitted to accommodate the goats’ stature.
“Everything has to be smaller,” Ed said. “You have to try to modify the equipment; even our milking stand is retrofitted.”
Prior to milking goats on their current farm, the Beckers milked 100 cows on a farm near Alexandria. Ed and Tracy acquired a couple Alpine goats because Eddie developed an interest in raising goats.
In 2009, the Beckers sold their farm and moved to Glencoe, taking with them the few goats Eddie had developed a love for.
For Eddie’s 11th birthday in 2011, they added three Nigerian Dwarf goats to their small hobby herd.
“We were no longer running a dairy farm, but we wanted the kids to gain responsibility by caring for something,” Tracy said. “Eddie had always been fond of goats, so that’s really where the herd took off.”
The Becker children began showing the goats through 4-H and competed at the Minnesota State Fair, where they claimed a few grand champion and reserve champion titles.
“I learned so much growing up raising goats,” Emma said. “I enjoy going out to the pens and sorting through the herd with Dad determining who should be sold and who we should keep for breeding and milking.”
The Beckers focus on body capacity, sound feet and legs, and milk production when making mating decisions. Components and type are also of interest to the Beckers.
The Beckers have purchased bucks from a farm in southeast Minnesota but plan to purchase a buck from out of state to expand their genetics.
“It’s difficult finding other larger herds of Nigerian Dwarfs because so much of the breed is used for pets or small operations where they aren’t necessarily using the goats for milk,” Tracy said.
In addition to being part of the farm, the goats helped Eddie, who developed eczema when he was 14.
“We went to the dermatologist to try and find a solution, but none of the creams were working,” Tracy said. “Eventually the doctor gave us a steroid cream that he said we couldn’t use for too long or Eddie’s skin would thin. We kept thinking there had to be a better way.”
In 2015, the Beckers made lotion from their goat milk. They developed their own recipe, and Eddie’s skin began to clear. Tracy now does most of the soap and lotion making.
The family began to give lotion as gifts to family and friends. The stellar reviews initiated their line of soaps. They used to sell at a variety of stores near the Twin Cities. Now, they sell their products online and at Wright Farms Market in Hutchinson.
“It was like one thing led to another, and then as somewhat of a joke, we started goat yoga,” Ed said. “That took off way more than I ever expected.”
“This combination of goat-related products and activities has allowed me to take part-time work so I can help manage some of the goat business,” she said.
Goat yoga began on the farm in 2016 and spurred the use of the goats for therapy. The Beckers began bringing the goats to nursing homes and have also provided goats for business retreats.
“We realized the happiness that the goat kids were bringing people, because they are so cute and cuddly; we had to offer that joy to others,” Tracy said. “The goats will do cuddle sessions, and you can see how joyful everyone becomes after getting that experience.”
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