Everything you need to know about keeping goats

PUBLISHED: 11:32 18 September 2018

The billy kids at Just Kidding, near Cricklade

The billy kids at Just Kidding, near Cricklade

Bella Ridley

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

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 as it becomes 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.

Lizzie Dyer at Just Kidding (c) Sean Allard PhotographyLizzie Dyer at Just Kidding (c) Sean Allard Photography

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.

The billy kids at Just Kidding, near CrickladeThe billy kids at Just Kidding, near Cricklade

It’s important for the duo to farm sustainably, too, and so have 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.

Just Kidding are currently running two courses: ‘Introduction to Keeping Goats’ (£95 – September 29) and ‘Rearing for Meat’ (£90 – September 30).

They also hold occasional pop-up suppers.

Visit cotswoldkidmeat.com/courses for more info.

Getting your goat...

Kid meat: From diced goat and kid cutlets to whole kid shoulder and even a seasonal bbq box, you can order free-range meat direct from the farm at cotswoldkidmeat.com

Skins, furniture and cushions: As part of their ‘nothing should go to waste’ ethos, Lizzie and Jamie also sell kid skins as well as bespoke furniture and cushions made using the skins. Visit the website to see what’s in stock.

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