For this week’s celebration of the Year of the Farmer ELOISE JOHNSTONE features a farmer who breeds miniature goats.
SHARON Roby is “mum” to three miniature goat kids.
The three-week-old kids follow their adopted mum everywhere, answering her calls, jumping over her in play-time and bleating when they need a bit of love and attention.
She locks them in a pen when she’s not around so they are not bullied by the other goats, or by the mums who rejected them at birth.
They are also kept out of sight of the ever-swarming eagles, and the foxes who try to break into their pens.
“They don’t have a mum so I’m their mum,” Sharon said. “They need me to look after them.”
Sharon has played mum to many goats since she opened up her miniature goat stud, Queensbury Farm, at Marong three years ago.
“I’m lucky to have this as my full-time job,” she said, while one kid jumped up on her lap and another chewed her shirt.
“I can spend so much time with them and build up really strong relationships.
“If I could keep them all I would.”
Unfortunately for Sharon she must eventually sell the goats on, in pairs, to new homes.
What the new owners buy are intelligent, gentle pets with their own distinct personalities.
“When people come to buy them, I ask them what they are after. Do they want a naughty goat, or a quiet goat?,” she said.
“Then I can put the right goat with the right person.”
And these goats come in very small packages.
Miniature goats only grow to about 52 centimetres high and are getting smaller every generation.
Sharon keeps particular goats for their breeding capacity, as she looks to produce smaller and smaller goats.
She described the breed as a “breed in progress”.
“The breed itself is in its infancy.
“There are only 100 registered miniature goat breeders in Australia but most of them are just owners.
“We are working on breeding smaller goats. I would rather work on quality than sell a lot.”
Sharon pointed to a small white kid called Gretel – who sat by herself, away from her triplet brothers and her mum – as the type of goat breeders want to keep.
“She’s what a breeder is looking for,” Sharon said.
“She’s independent which means she’ll probably make a really good mum because she’s got some guts. She is just brilliant.”
Sharon’s love for goats developed at young age, when she had a pet goat who would travel in the back of the old Holden with her family.
When she and her husband made the move to the country from Melbourne in 2009, they decided to open up an animal stud.
After some research, they found miniature goats.
“And it’s blossomed from there,” she said.
They are currently the only miniature goat breeders in the region, so demand is high.
The majority of the goats are sold before birth.
Sharon is attempting to get more breeders in the area interested in the breed to take pressure off her small stud.
Her two sons currently help on-site, part-time, and it is hoped her husband will be able to join the operation full-time in the next few years.
In the meantime, Sharon is just happy playing mum.
‘It hard work but I just love it.”