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A visit to Isle of Man Goats, a goat farm that raises dairy, meat, and wool goats. They also supply artisan food items and wool on the Island.
A few months ago, I noticed some of my friends interacting with Isle of Man Goats, a Facebook page for a local farm specializing in, you guessed it, goats. As happens so often on the Isle of Man, I recently bumped into Clare Lewis, one of the farm’s owners, and got to chatting with her about her work and animals. Though obviously cute, I don’t know very much about keeping goats, so I leaped 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.
Visiting Isle of Man Goats
On my visit, one of the most fascinating things I learned is that aside from dogs, goats have the longest relationship with humans 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 (160+ animals), and each has its own personality and habits.
Angora Goats for Fine Wool
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 storerooms 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.
Boer Goats for Meat
Though some of the Boer goats live at the farm, most 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 than Angoras, making them ideal for meat production. I’ve never tried goat meat before but have put my name on Clare’s waiting list. 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. 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 throughout their entire lives, and when it’s time, Mike personally drives them to the abattoir. He makes sure that there’s no waiting time between unloading and slaughter which makes the process as stress-free as possible.
Local Goat Meat Served Locally
Being only in its second year of production, the farm has seen many more new arrivals than last. In fact, the number of animals born is four times that of 2013! They’ll keep many of the females as breeding stock, and all of the Angoras for wool. The Boer boys are destined for the table, though.
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 flavour and texture than that from other farms. It must have something to do with their happy and healthy upbringing.
Goats as Pets
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 make great family pets but are escape artists, so proper fencing is required. Seeing Clare bonding with some of the Boers at the Kirk Michael pasture also made me realize how therapeutic having goats could be. All the cuddling and playful nuzzling show 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 receive regular updates and 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.