Just Kid­ding: Goat­keep­ing for begin­ners

Whether you’re think­ing of keep­ing a cou­ple of goats as pets or rear­ing a small herd for milk­ing or meat pro­duc­tion, Lizzie Dyer of Just Kid­ding can tell you ev­ery­thing you could pos­si­bly want to know about these idio­syn­cratic crea­tures

Cotswold Life - - INSIDE - WORDS: Can­dia Mck­o­r­mack Š PHO­TOS: Bella Ri­d­ley

It takes steady foot­ing, a wardrobe of old clothes, and short hair to keep goats. The pa­tience of a saint wouldn’t go amiss, ei­ther. We’ve all had those en­coun­ters with the hornèd ones, whether it be at Cotswold Farm Park or St James City Farm in Glouces­ter… you lean in a lit­tle too close and the next thing you know your jumper’s un­rav­el­ling and your hair’s be­come din­ner.

So, who would pos­si­bly want to spend their ev­ery wak­ing hour with them? Let me in­tro­duce you to Lizzie Dyer.

Af­ter fin­ish­ing an Agri­cul­tural Busi­ness de­gree at Royal Agri­cul­tural Univer­sity, Cirences­ter, in 2013, Lizzie – who comes from Som­er­set farm­ing stock – joined forces with chef Jamie Beard at Dart­land Farm, near Crick­lade, and set up Just Kid­ding. Hav­ing tasted goat meat on her trav­els around the world, Lizzie got the idea to rear young male goats (billy kids) – con­sid­ered a ‘by-prod­uct’ of the dairy trade and of­ten killed at birth – for their meat. As well as be­ing de­li­cious – the meat re­ally does have a dis­tinc­tive, rich taste un­like any­thing else – it is a health­ier al­ter­na­tive to beef and other red meats, and all their kids are raised free-range to the very high­est wel­fare stan­dards.

I tagged along on one of Lizzie’s ex­cel­lent ‘In­tro­duc­tion to Keep­ing Goats’ cour­ses to un­der­stand a lit­tle more about these in­trigu­ing beasts. Other at­ten­dees in­cluded an ex­pe­ri­enced dairy farmer look­ing to di­ver­sify, and some­one look­ing at the pos­si­bil­ity of in­tro­duc­ing goats into a com­mu­nity-run small­hold­ing.

The one-day course has been set up by Lizzie so that she can pass on some of her ex­per­tise to peo­ple try­ing to de­cide if keep­ing goats is the right move for them.

We start off the day by be­ing given a warm wel­come around a huge kitchen ta­ble with wood-burn­ing stove and plate of freshly-baked kid meat sausage rolls made by Jamie. Once ev­ery­one has stated what they’re hop­ing to get out of the course, it’s on with a slide pre­sen­ta­tion be­fore head­ing out to meet the kids.

The older kids are given free run of the pad­docks – on the ap­proach along the drive­way, you’ll be greeted by a

herd run­ning along­side the car, which is a bizarrely hu­mor­ous ex­pe­ri­ence – and the youngest are nursed in­side with spe­cially-de­vel­oped pow­dered milk sub­sti­tute. It’s an ex­pen­sive set-up, but one that Lizzie and Jamie have worked hard to de­velop and en­sure that the high­est stan­dards are met.

It’s im­por­tant for the duo to farm sus­tain­ably, too, and so they’ve planted na­tive hedges and trees on the land, and are de­ter­mined to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. But they are far from ide­alised ‘tree-hug­gers’.

“This is a work­ing farm,” says Lizzie, “We want our farm to be as pro­duc­tive in the fu­ture as it is now, so we will rear our kids to that end.”

The kids are slaugh­tered when they are six months old and the meat sup­plied to a grow­ing list of ho­tels and restau­rants across the Cotswolds and be­yond, re­as­sured by the fact they are buy­ing from a Gold Star-awarded Great Taste Pro­ducer.

“We are so lucky to have so many great restau­rants on our door step,” she says. “The Lucky Onion group are very sup­port­ive and have re­ally em­braced the meat; it is reg­u­larly on the menu of The Tavern [Chel­tenham], The Wild Duck [Ewen] and The Wheat­sheaf [North­leach]. Kuba from The Feath­ered Nest [Nether West­cote], Lower Slaugh­ter Manor and Purslane [Chel­tenham] have it ev­ery year.” They also have or­ders from Lu­mière and Le Champignon Sau­vage in Chel­tenham, send meat to Lon­don restau­rants ev­ery week and even have chefs as far away as Corn­wall us­ing it.

Lo­cal fam­ily-run abat­toir, J Broomhall, is used for slaugh­ter­ing the kids, and all butch­ery is un­der­taken by the ar­ti­san butch­ers at Wood­ch­ester Meats. The farm is de­signed to be as ef­fi­cient, hu­mane and en­vi­ron­men­tally-friendly as is pos­si­ble… the bil­lies are even pro­vided with things to climb on to keep them en­ter­tained and happy.

“In tra­di­tional large-scale farm­ing, you’re so de­tached from your end con­sumer and even your own prod­uct,” she says, “that I wanted to do things dif­fer­ently.”

And dif­fer­ently is cer­tainly how she and Jamie are do­ing things… if you de­cide to pick up your goat meat in per­son, she’ll hap­pily show you around the farm and you’ll get to meet the kids in per­son.

I urge you to visit… but please do wear an old jumper.

‘On the ap­proach, you’ll be greeted by a herd run­ning along­side the car, which is a bizarrely hu­mor­ous ex­pe­ri­ence’

For more in­for­ma­tion call 07875 331434 or visit cotswold­kid­meat.com

Lizzie Dyer at Just Kid­ding

The billy kids at Just Kid­ding, near Crick­lade

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