A visit to Isle of Man Goats, a farm that raises dairy, meat, and wool goats and that supplies artisan food on the Isle of Manoth meat & wool goats
A few months ago I noticed some of my friends commenting and liking photos from Isle of Man Goats, a Facebook page for a local farm specializing in you guessed it…goats. As it happens so often on the Isle of Man, I recently bumped into Clare Lewis, one of the owners of the farm, and got to chatting with her about her work and animals.
Though obviously cute, I don’t know very much about keeping goats and so lept at the chance to visit when Clare offered a tour. I was intrigued by the idea of herds of goats on the island and the fact that they’re now in the top ten producers of goat meat in the British Isles. They also produce small quantities of the softest Angora Goat wool and are a supplier of colorful free-range eggs and salad greens from their polytunnel.
On my visit, one of the most fascinating things I learned is that aside from dogs, goats have the longest relationship with humans out of any other domestic animal. Because of this, they’ve developed a special bond with people that makes them a valuable addition to farming but also friendly, relatively easy to handle, and playful. Nearly every animal on Clare and her partner Mike’s farm has a name (we’re talking about 160+ animals!) and each has its own personality and habits.
The small herd of Angora Goats they keep produce gorgeous Mohair wool, the likes of which I’ve never felt before. The wool from the babies is the finest but even the material spun from adults is as soft as silk. The animals live in green pastures near the house and are as mischievous as they are cute – they even broke into one of the barn store-rooms shortly before we arrived! The babies are especially curious and no one is safe from their sniffing, light head butting, the occasional jump-and-push, and nibbles on your boots and jacket.
Though some of the Boer goats live at the farm too, most of them are located down the road in Kirk Michael. Here they’re rotated through several fields so that there’s always a supply of fresh green grass and no one pasture is over-grazed. Boer goats hail from South Africa and are far stockier in build to the Angoras, making them ideal for meat production. I’ve never tried goat meat before but have put down my name on Clare’s waiting list for a cut. The demand on the island is so great that it’s likely that my order won’t be available until next year.
All the animals on the farm live happy, free-range lives, and I was impressed by the care and consideration Clare and Mike give their goats, especially those destined for meat. Some farmers might balk at naming these animals, petting them, and giving them attention but not so with them.
Their goats are all well taken care of through their entire lives and when it’s time, Mike personally drives them to the Abbatoir. He makes sure that there’s no waiting time between unloading and slaughter which makes the process as stress-free as possible.
Being only in their second year of production, this year the farm has seen many more new arrivals than last. In fact, the number of animals born is four times that of 2013! Many of the female animals will be kept on as breeding stock and all of the Angoras are kept for wool, but Boer boys are destined for the table.
There are now two island restaurants serving their goat meat and a long list of requests from private individuals and butchers. For those who have tried goat, the meat from Clare and Mike’s farm is said to be of finer flavor and texture than that from other farms. It must have something to do with their happy and healthy upbringing.
Though Clare and Mike raise most of their animals for meat, they also sell them in pairs as pets – aka living lawnmowers. Goats are highly social animals so must always have a buddy, but if you have an area of land that needs clearing, they’ll be more than happy to oblige.
Being social and friendly they’ll also make great family pets but they are also known escape artists so proper fencing is required. Seeing Clare bonding with some of the Boers at the Kirk Michael pasture made also me realize how therapeutic having goats could be. All the cuddling and playful nuzzling shows just how much the goats love her and she them.
I’m happy to have had the pleasure of visiting Isle of Man Goats and to have seen firsthand the work that Clare and Mike are putting into their new venture. It’s clear that they’re passionate about their farm and animals and the public’s response and demand for their products is an optimistic sign for their business.
If you’d like to find out more please visit the Isle of Man Goats Facebook page, where you can ‘like’ and receive regular updates as well as message Clare directly. They’re also fine producers of free-range colored eggs and salad greens which are available direct to customers. Get in touch to discuss availability and prices.