A unique background in dairy 

Silbaugh raises goats, helps on uncle’s farm

LYLE, Minn. − In third grade, Megan Silbaugh’s parents, Sara and Paul, let her choose a 4-H project. Little did they know, she would also be choosing her career.
“I bought two Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats because I thought they were cute,” Silbaugh said. “Then, we bred them, showed them and started milking.”
Silbaugh raises, milks, shows and sells 32 Nigerian Dwarf goats on her parents’ farm in Mower County near Lyle. She also shows heifers, milks cows and feeds calves at her uncles, Ed and Andy’s, 400-cow dairy, Smith Family Farms, near Rose Creek.
“My brother milked there first, so I would go with him and I thought it was cool,” said Silbaugh of being on her uncle’s farm. “In ninth grade, I realized I liked it and started milking every other weekend.”
Now, she helps milk cows whenever she is needed and feeds calves as much as she can.
“It’s nice to help others out,” Silbaugh said. “I feel like it’s my way of paying them back for letting me lease my show animals. It is also a family thing with us working together, because they also help us out on our farm sometimes.”
When Silbaugh is not doing chores, she spends her days on the dairy caring for and training her show heifers.
“My cousin gives us hay bales and scoops out the pens for us, but other than that, it’s all on us to walk, feed and take care of them,” she said.
At home, Silbaugh manages the operation from cleaning goat pens to getting feed. She coordinates with her sister, Meryn; the pair take turns milking goats and feeding the kids.
“I usually do them at night and she does them in the morning, or we switch so it’s even,” Silbaugh said. “It used to be that my mom would help out with a lot of it, but now that we’re older, it’s all on us. It’s kind of nice to have this responsibility.”
Each of her goats have a name including Mayla, Opal, Navy, Indy and Ivy, as well as her show heifers, Blaire, Lenny and Ari.
“I try to find names that fit them,” Silbaugh said.
She shows the goats at the Mower County Fair, Olmsted County Open Show and Minnesota State Fair.
When selling her goats, Silbaugh advertises her livestock through social media and a website.
“By selling the babies in the spring, I am able to pay for all my feed,” Silbaugh said. “People also come up to me after shows and at the county fair to ask about my herd.”
Her days start at 5 a.m. with a workout. Then, she goes to check on and walk her show heifers. Around 8 a.m., Silbaugh milks and takes care of the goat herd.
Throughout the rest of the day, she will do various chores around the farm from planting sweet corn to rock picking until it is time to do goat chores again around 5 p.m.
“Basically, whatever my parents tell us to do, we do it,” Silbaugh said.
On the weekends, Silbaugh helps milk cows at the Smiths’ farm.
“My schedule changes every day,” Silbaugh said. “We also try to find a balance with the times. The goats don’t need to be milked at 8 a.m. every single day; I think 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. is fine because we are feeding the milk to the babies.”
Silbaugh has experimented with making products from the goats’ milk. One food she has made is ice cream.
From milking and taking care of both cows and goats, Silbaugh has seen both similarities and differences.
“Goats are more stubborn,” she said. “If they don’t want to walk or get milked, they don’t do it. But they each have the same attitudes. Once they get to know you, they are pretty friendly.”
The morning of April 2, Silbaugh was crowned as the 69th Mower County Dairy Princess.
“I watched my cousin be a princess and wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it because I wasn’t a people person,” Silbaugh said. “But after being a dairy livestock superintendent and an ambassador in 4-H, I knew I could do it.”
Since coronation, Silbaugh has enjoyed getting the word out about the dairy industry and hearing about how hard it was during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I like connecting and sharing my experiences with others,” she said. “People I didn’t know before will come up and we will have a really good conversation about the industry, what their life looks like and what mine looks like.”
 During her reign, she has also spread the word about the dairy goat industry.
“The dairy goat industry is not very well known,” Silbaugh said. “Even if you look in the stores, the sections for goat cheese or milk are very limited. So, being able to be on both sides of the dairy industry, with goats and cows, means a lot.”
On the farm, Silbaugh said she is thankful for Meryn’s help when she had dairy princess events.
“She helps with chores or I do them early,” Silbaugh said. “My coordinator is also very accommodating. I like being involved while representing the dairy industry and know other kids look up to me.”
To take care of both goats and cows, though, Silbaugh said one needs motivation.
“The days are long and hard, but I push through it because I know there will be a good outcome,” she said.
Silbaugh enjoys seeing the outcome of her hard work at the fair every year and likes helping others.
Some of Silbaugh’s favorite memories include bottle feeding calves and kids, and seeing the hard work it takes to milk both herds.
“I am helping to make a difference in agriculture,” she said. “I don’t know what I’d do if I lived in town.”
Silbaugh plans to downsize the goat herd and let her sister take over while she attends South Dakota State University for animal science and agriculture business.
However, once Silbaugh graduates college, she plans to take the goat herd back over again.
“They are coming with me wherever I go,” she said.


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