two years of bad luck in an old fieldstone barn, it was either build an entirely new one or get out of the goat milking business altogether. “Basically all the problems we had with the goats …
two years of bad luck in an old fieldstone barn, it was either build an entirely new one or get out of the goat milking business altogether.
“Basically all the problems we had with the goats originated in that barn,” Dave said of the old barn still standing just north of the new one, though not used. At present the doe kids and others are sheltered in temporary quarters elsewhere, both at Almost Forever dairy and one of Shelby’s relatives.
When the otherwise new barn burned June 13, meanwhile, the Cox’s had approximately 170 head on hand, Dave said. Shelby was in the milking pen at the time, meaning the milkers were released to safety straight away, while the bucks in the end pen were also gotten out to safety. Dave went in to open a gate for other herd members, but by that time the fire had spread. A total of 44 head were lost in the pen Dave tried to open. “It was already too late for most of them,” he said of getting the rest of the goats out.
In the attempt, meanwhile, Dave suffered third-degree burns to 2/3rds of his arms and the whole of his back, resulting in the need for him to be airlifted to Region’s Hospital in St. Paul and get skin grafts, followed with an extended hospital stay. The airlift helicopter landed in the neighbor’s yard just across the road, in the Town of Thorp.
Now back home from a long hospital stay of recovery and support, Dave and Shelby are rebuilding their dairy goat farm with the help of neighbors, who have been donating their Saturdays to build another new barn back on the site of the one that burned. Metal flashing with a fire scar visible near ground level was present when we stopped by recently. So where’d the fire start that necessitated rebuilding in the first place?
“We’re thinking electrical up top,” Dave shared recently of how the fire started. “Vacuum pump, compressor room. We’re pretty sure that’s where it started,” he said of the June 13 blaze. With Shelby and the veterinarian teaming up, “they were able to save one doe kid,” Dave shared of emergency C-section, with many does near or at term when the fire took place. Goat milking commences once the kids are born, with animal husbandry and careful pair matching over the ages vastly increasing the amount of milk that a doe goat can produce, well over and above what’s needed for goat kids. As to rebuilding the herd more generally, there was a surprise from Minnesota after the hospital stay.
“I thought we were going to buy two,” Dave said of bringing down the trailer to a Minnesota firm where the Cox’s had previously gotten stock from. Dave didn’t think bringing the trailer was needed for just two kids, but with Shelby in on the gift they ended up having 12 donated to them by the company said to be strict on its biosecurity measures and guards for potential goat illnesses.
That strictness in biosecurity paid off, as prior to the June 13 fire Almost Forever Dairy had one of the top herds in Wisconsin after buying from the Minnesota firm, with four of the Cox’s does even reaching the top ten for national production within the last two years. So what about animal crosses and stock breeding records at Almost Forever Dairy?
Most were lost in the fire, but some were able to be retrieved from secondary sources and the farm currently has at least three goat breeds: Saanen (with beards), Alpine (the doe kids), and also LaMancha, a type of goat without visible earlobes. Dave said the intention is to stay small and focus on quality genetics, alongside goat milking. Speaking of which, what about the new barn now rising out on County Line?
Giving a quick tour as volunteering neighbors were putting up sheet metal Saturday, Dave outlined the floor plan.
Starting in the southwest will be a goat nursery, with “lots of fun set up” for the goat babies, he said. Turning northwest, there was the milking room, while the middle will be taken up by the milk house and utility/wash room. Almost Forever Dairy uses cloth towels for its operation out on County Line/130th, he shared additionally. Shifting to the southeast, meanwhile, the rebuilt barn will have a space for the goat kids as well, with the goat bucks also accommodated on the property. That’s not all, though.
“The plan this fall is to add another 100 feet on the east,” Dave said of the future. With continued community help to rebuild and the right sort of mix and match in stock breeding terms, Almost Forever Dairy should soon return to full capacity, in no time.
Once initial recovery is complete, the planned addition will be contracted out to be built.