Rent a Goat, Build a Career!

Jax Taylor Took Grazing Goats From Hobby to Home Business

Rent a Goat, Build a Career!

Jax Taylor’s rent-a-goat business started with heartbreak.

Discharged from the Army, she searched for job prospects so she wouldn’t have to rehome her goats. The result morphed into a successful franchise creating environmentally-friendly land cleanup across Tennessee. For Taylor, however, the past year took her on a real-life roller coaster ride. She pushed through challenges that changed and shaped her life.

“It was a long way getting here,” Taylor illustrated. “I had just been told I was no longer medically qualified to be in the Army, and I was crushed. I had six goats then … I remember going to the barn and crying. I decided I wanted to do something I enjoyed, and the goats made me happy. I looked into dairy goats, I looked into skin care. Then I saw information from Tammy Dunakin, who owns and founded Rent-A-Ruminant in 2004, so I wrote her and said, ‘I’m going to do whatever it takes to bring this to tenancy.’”

Within four months of leaving the Army, Jax Taylor gave birth to her son in April 2017. One month later, she and her husband launched the Rent-A-Ruminant Tennessee franchise based at their goat farm in Clarksville. Taylor says they’re also immersed in a partnership with the national chain Costco for their protection ponds. “We’re changing the culture which says that everything has to be done with loud machines. Goats are biologically designed to eat vegetation, and … we can do things peacefully.” Taylor’s “Giddy Biddy Goat LLC,” which started as a hobby farm and is now doing business as Rent-A-Ruminant, is all about hauling her goat herd to projects across the state.

Taylor was an Army administrator for medical evacuation in aviation. She says, “I didn’t want to give up my herd when I got out of the Army, just because my paycheck was going to stop. I love to learn about animals, and I want to have the knowledge and resources to give my goats the best life possible.

“In summer, Rent-A-Ruminant is all I do. It’s the only national franchise in the world doing it. Although there are other, smaller outfits doing similar work, the company is the only one with a national contract,” said Taylor, who hauls her goats to help people manage vegetation through “loaning” (renting out) the grazing goats for onsite use. Taylor stays with each goat project to oversee it. Projects can range from a few days to a couple of weeks.

Taylor enjoys her 60 weed-eating goats and notes that the herd number changes as often as the goat’s location.

“Keeping them on the move is actually the best thing to prevent parasites by having them digest their food (and empty their stomachs) in a different place than where they eat. We take them around to virgin ground every six days, even if it’s just ten feet to the left.”

Jax will never forget the nightmare flash flooding resulting from Hurricane Harvey’s torrential rainfall in August 2017. She got a call from the Sheriff’s Office at 4 a.m. that their fences were down. In the dark night, they ran to the jobsite — but the goats weren’t there.

“You don’t even think … you just react. The water was up about six inches to about a foot, the creek was at the top, my fences were broken from the water pressure, and —” Jax paused. “I’m about to cry…”

The Taylors lost seven goats. They were swept away.

“It was and still is tough when I talk about it. They were part of the family.”

Taylor and her husband spent hours in the dark, thrashing through rapidly rising water, pulling 80-pound goats out of a dangerous culvert. “The goats were fighting me all of the way, because they were scared being in that culvert. We got them out and blocked off the culvert. I spent the next two days doing health checks. I called my vet and listened to their lungs, as they got water in their lungs, and we gave them an antibiotic.”

The heavy emotional aftermath continued. “I was so depressed; I was numb for about a week or two. Emotionally, that scar will always be there … but the herd moves on. I think they’re more resilient than I am.”

The goats recovered and Taylor’s year improved.

In their final job of the 2017 season, Taylor and her husband hauled 60 goats through the tightly winding roads of the Great Smoky Mountains to a zip-line attraction in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

“The people (in this particular project) reached out to us, as kudzu was literally overtaking the mountain and drowning out the trees.” Kudzu is a rapidly climbing plant with reddish-purple flowers, used for erosion control. It has become a pest in the southeast. “The trees are why people go zip-lining, but the kudzu would slowly destroy their attraction if action wasn’t taken. They wanted to expand their attraction and build a new zip-line, but they tried herbicides with no real results.”

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Jax and her husband in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, for the kudzu job. Photographer was Johnnie Welbourn.

By the end of that job, the goats had eaten down 12 acres of kudzu in about three weeks. The owners were pleased. They’d never seen their mountainside like that, and the goats added value to their guests’ experience over those weeks. Said Taylor, “In my experience, I’ve found that goats are more effective than herbicide.”

Getting the modern goat farming business in full throttle was a process, like anything worth pursuing in life. “In the beginning, I just had a few jobs, and now, after word of mouth, I go right from one job to the next. Since this new year 2018 began, I’ve had four email requests for jobs.”

Although still in the Army, her husband helps out on weekends. Taylor, meanwhile, is also a college student, studying agribusiness at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. After her semester ended in May, she packed up and headed to jobs across Tennessee.

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This was the flood in Hendersonville. Jax Taylor photographed this picture.

Taylor’s herd now has their own 12-month calendar, available for sale. “We’ve got a photo page of a goat with a Sprite and other interesting pages. The 2018 calendar is out, and we’re partway through working on the 2019 calendar.” She’ll travel for a photo shoot to New York state, where their photographer is based.

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For the calendar, Jax was seeking a good “Goat in the City” look. That’s why they went to the Pedestrian Bridge in the heart of Nashville to capture the human/animal connection, and the elegance and confidence of a woman and her livestock. Photo by Todd Steere.

Taylor also sells pet milk specifically for orphaned baby goats and kittens in Tennessee, where she’s licensed.

For fun, Taylor hosts “goat yoga” classes on Saturdays. “While people are doing yoga positions, they also get to socialize with my goats, as the goats romp on top of them. It’s more about fun than just doing yoga.” The goats are just there to have fun and get fed.

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Goat yoga class. Photo by Jax Taylor.

Renting a goat, traveling to help make it happen, and offering goat yoga is a life full of zest and the love of her goats. “It’s exciting!” said Taylor. “I’m much happier with this career path than any others. I can’t wait to see where it goes.”

Contact Jax Taylor at jt@rentaruminant.com

Find out how to rent a goat or start a franchise at Rent-A-Ruminant: http://www.rentaruminant.com

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