Posted by GoatWorld on December 28, 2002 at 19:00:16:
Get your goat
And get one from Clyde Wisecarver, a New Hanover County farmer who knows all about raising ‘show goats’ and, well, ‘goat-goats’
By Amy Hotz
Clyde Wisecarver blew the horn on his white minivan in a quick repetition. About 30 goats grazing in the distance lifted their heads, then froze. A few more honks, and two or three slowly began walking toward him. Some in the back began to catch up, then they all began to run.
The goats picked up speed and kicked up dirt as they rounded a turn before they stopped in front of Mr. Wisecarver.
In this 80-acre lot in Pender County, Mr. Wisecarver, 66, raises brown and white Boer goats. In all, the family – including his grandson Bradley – owns about 160 goats that live on the lot here and behind his home in New Hanover County.
“I wanted to do something I could do by myself,” he said, holding one thumb behind the strap of his overalls and inspecting his herd.
“It takes time. You gotta go feed them and look after them every day. But it’s a hobby for me.”
Raising animals isn’t an entirely new pastime for Mr. Wisecarver. As a young man in Tennessee, he raised dairy and beef cattle. He said he loved working with animals and taking care of them, but a construction job he started working at took him away from farm life.
When he retired 12 years ago, he picked up that old hobby again by raising chickens, guineas and peacocks, or just about anything that was easier and cheaper to handle than cattle.
Mr. Wisecarver’s overalls, button-up shirt, boots and cap make him look like he’s been around goats his whole life. But the animals only got his attention about two years ago when a friend suggested he buy some to clear his large back yard.
o get his hobby started, Mr. Wisecarver applied for a farm permit from the county and bought seven “goat-goats.” These are cheap, low-maintenance goats, he said.
He found that his friend was right. In just a few weeks, he could see all the way back to his property line. Everything from the ground up to about 10 feet was bare – leaves, twigs, bushes. Before, the brush was so dense he could barely walk through it.
“I believe they love briars above anything else,” he said. “They’ll eat the bark off a tree.”
Mr. Wisecarver found that these “goat-goats” could serve another purpose, too. By selling them for meat, or chevon, he could supplement his income. At the market, live goats fetch about $1 to $1.25 per pound.
“It’s a good supplement to your income,” Mr. Wisecarver said. “It’s a business that people can grow into without spending everything they’ve got.”
He was hooked. Soon, Mr. Wisecarver was selling goats to markets and experimenting with recipes in his own kitchen, including barbecue, sausage and “goatburgers.”
“I go to shows, and if they have goats, I eat it. I want to know what it tastes like,” he said. “I like barbecue better than any of it.”
Just because they’re good to eat doesn’t mean the Wisecarvers see a big roasted goat flank every time they look at one. It’s not hard to get attached to his bearded buddies.
“They can be real sweet. When you raise them on a bottle, they become your pets, and you hate to see them go,” Mr. Wisecarver said. “We really enjoy the babies. You never know what sex they’re going to be, what color they’re going to be or how many there’s going to be.”
Walking over to a pen near his New Hanover County home, Mr. Wisecarver pointed to two young goats less than a foot high who were bleating for his attention. Their noses stuck in between the gaps in the wire, and one was sticking out his tongue.
“Right here are two lucky goats,” he said.
One climbed up into a tree to get leaves, fell and got his leg hung in some branches. He found him just in time.
The other was nearly stomped to death. But both were brought into the Wisecarver home for individual attention and cared for day and night until all traces of their misadventures were erased.
Of course, these babies were spared from one fate only to meet another. After they grow up, they’ll be sold to market.
“We’re probably attached to our show goats more than our meat goats,” he said. “We raise them to sell.”
Raising meat goats was so fun, Mr. Wisecarver soon decided to take his hobby and business one step further and breed show goats.
“These are high dollar goats. I got $1,000 for one baby goat,” he said. “It’s a game for me to see what I can do with them”
It’s easy to tell a “goat-goat” from a “show goat.” Show goats look more muscular and are shaped differently. A show goat can fetch from $1,000 to $45,000.
In another pen near his home, a few big white and brown goats stand in some hay looking at Mr. Wisecarver. Their coats look clean and thick, and their heads are shaped like footballs.
“They’re big, they’re blocky and they weigh heavy,” Mr. Wisecarver said, stretching his hands out to illustrate the width of a back.
So far, he’s been to a couple of shows to learn what the judges like. The biggest quality they look for, he said, are wide, flat backs. To get that quality, he has to be careful which goats he breeds. He may have to buy an expensive goat to breed those genes into his herd.
What he learns, he’ll pass down to Bradley, who’s also been “bitten by the goat.” He plans to show his five goats including one he named Snowball and another he named Laura.
“I saw them and fell in love with them,” Bradley said.
Like his grandfather, though, he enjoys the farming aspect of raising goats. When it’s time to take an “off” goat to market, he has no problem selling it.
An “off” goat is one that is born with flaws that makes it impossible to win shows. One of Bradley’s small goats like this sold for $37.50.
Seeing results from his hard work, even if it’s from the market, makes him feel proud.
Bradley goes out with Mr. Wisecarver to de-worm them, trim their hooves and keep them from getting their heads stuck in fences and from between trees.
“I think it’s good for teenagers. You learn how to put up a fence, take care of them and learn responsibility,” he said.
Mr. Wisecarver wants other kids and adults to feel the same way. He’s on a mission to convert goat farmers.
He’s read that the United States produces only 25 percent of the chevon the country consumes. If more people raised goats, he said, others would become familiar with the meat and be more likely to buy it.
Mr. Wisecarver has even rubbed his enthusiasm off on his neighbor, Chuck Hillenbrand.
“The thing about goats is, once you buy one, you get addicted to it,” he said.
Mr. Hillenbrand went from four goats he bought from Mr. Wisecarver, to 10. He used them to clear off his lot, too.
“I love goats. Now, I wouldn’t have thought I’d say that a year ago,” Mr. Hillenbrand said.
To promote goats elsewhere, Mr. Wisecarver’s contacting 4-H groups, agriculture departments and county fairs. He displayed a few goats at this year’s Cape Fear Fair and Expo and has already scheduled an American Boer Goat Association sanctioned show for next year’s fair. He hopes to get at least 100 entrants.
“They can enter any goat they want. We’ll make a category for them,” he said. “What I want to do is to get people to grow them.”
Even if you don’t want to eat them or show them.
“Goats do something no other animal will do,” he said. “They’ll clean your property up.”
Amy Hotz: 343-2099
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