An Ode to Goats
Author Cheryl K. Smith publishes last goat book.
By Aliya Bree Hall
Birth and death are the two most important things that goats have taught author and speaker Cheryl K. Smith.
“It’s all about education,” she said, explaining that it feels good when people will ask her questions about their goats. “Birth and death are what it teaches you about, and it can help with people too. It’s nature.”
Smith, who lives with her now nine goats around Cheshire, Oregon, is a published author of Goat Health Care (edition one and two), Raising Goats for Dummies, and Best of Ruminations Goat Milk and Cheese Recipes, and was the editor of Ruminations, The Nigerian Dwarf and Mini Dairy Goat Magazine from 2001 to 2007. Smith also runs her own press, Karmadillo Press, which has published Goat Behavior by Tasmin Cooper.
Earlier this year, Smith published her latest book, Goat Midwifery, which she started in 2012 after speaking on goat midwifery at a conference. She kept seeing people on Facebook having problems with their kids, and thought that if they had a book it could help.
“I do it for the goats,” she explained. “In fact, I dedicated this one to it. I love goats. I have to tell you, I killed goats because of my lack of knowledge and the lack of books, so I thought if people have this book, then they won’t be killing so many goats. They’ll know what to do and how to do it.”
She added that it took her around four years to hone her midwifery skills, but most people get out of the game in around five years and she wanted to stop as many deaths as she could. The hardest part for her, she said, is as a human she wants to intervene.
“Everyone has different ways of doing it and I respect it,” she said. “The real task for me is to step back.”
Whenever she sells a goat, she gives the buyer a choice between her books and tells them that she’ll be their goat mentor if they want one. She had a mentor when she first got into goats, and it was important for her to return the favor.
“That’s how it should be,” she said. “I feel really bad about baby goats or older goats because I didn’t know what I was doing. Goats will still die, but nowhere near as many.”
Smith writes what she’s passionate about, which is a focus on health care as a whole; however, as soon as she got into goats, “I knew I was going to end up writing about them.” When she started there was only one book out there, and she didn’t like it.
“I and people I knew saw the goats as friends rather than just some livestock,” she said, adding that the male author took a livestock approach, and with the dairy goat field being dominated by women, it rubbed her the wrong way. “I saw the niche,” she said.
Smith first became interested in goats when she was in law school in Iowa — she is also a former lawyer — and she met the Head of the French Department’s goats.
“I met the goats and that was it,” she said. “I was sold and knew I wanted goats.”
Growing up in Iowa, she had always wanted to marry a farmer and have a farm. Her favorite memories as a kid always involved going to farms. After she graduated and moved to Oregon, she found her current property in 1995. Although she didn’t end up owning the property until 1996, she has now been there for 23 years.
Still, she didn’t get goats immediately. It took her two years of research because she “wanted to know everything about it.” She bought her first two goats in 1998 and at her max, she had 60. Beyond cheese making, she also showed goats and said that she lucked out because her very first Nigerian Dwarf was a grand champion.
Over the years, Smith has had a lot of fond memories of her goats. She finds the animals to be calming, smart, responsive, and rewarding.
“Many pay their way,” she added, noting the cheese she makes from them as well. “They’re so heartwarming. There’s nothing cuter than a kid bouncing around.”
At one point, she was visited by proselytizing Jehovah’s Witnesses and let them talk to her as she was doing chores in the barn. By the end of the visit, she had a group of them holding goats.
“It was so awesome to get them all in,” she said.
Going forward, Smith said it’s time for her to get out of the goat industry. With her herd dwindling down to nine, she said she plans on selling all the goats that aren’t geriatric, and letting it all go naturally. Although she is still planning on writing, her next book will have nothing to do with goats.
Her plan is to move back into the neighboring city of Eugene, where she lived when she first came to Oregon, and is planning on eventually moving in with her sister.
“I’m 69 and I said I’d (transition out) by 75.”
Goat Journal stories by Cheryl K. Smith
You can read some of author Cheryl K. Smith’s valuable goat tutorials here:
- A Guide to Eye Problems and Eye Infections in Goats
- How to Raise Dairy Goats for Organic Milk
- Coccidiosis in Goats: A Kid Killer
- Pneumonia in Goats
- The Goat Barn: Basic Kidding
- Tube Feeding Baby Goats
Originally published in the November/December 2020 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.