“I will be taking something that has no present value because of the current market of the poultry industry, and turn it into something that will generate some income. This will allow farmers with empty poultry houses to continue farming and have income to stay on the farm. Poultry farmers that have lost their contracts have structurally sound buildings that are making no income for the farmers. Most have pasture land ore wooded areas around the poultry houses. This will set a standard for goat farming. Being able to raise goats in a healthy environment will be a showcase for future farms.”
Empty poultry houses dot the North Carolina countryside. With roofs sunken in and windows shattered, most are left in the field to slowly crumble over the years after contracts fall through or farmers can no longer afford feed for such a high head of birds. Some poultry houses however, have remained largely intact, and many farmers, several of them TCRF grantees, have discovered economic potential germinating in the cracked cement of their old poultry structures.
Kay Doby ran a commercial poultry operation for 15 years on her farm in Cameron, NC while she taught primary school on the side. She had grown up on the same farm and now lives in a house on the land, where she has been with her husband for around 40 years. Her parents and grandchildren live nearby and oftentimes they contribute some help on the farm. After getting out of the poultry business, Kay started to have a deep interest in raising goats for meat. She saw the economic potential for goat meat in North Carolina and began raising Boer goats, a breed from Texas, on a very small scale on her farm. After 16 years of small scale growing and supplementing that with off-farm income, she wanted to scale up to meet the demands for goat meat in the state and farm full time. In 2010, Kay Doby applied for a TCRF grant from RAFI-USA in order to convert her empty poultry house into a goat barn.
The poultry house needed to be further enclosed in order to protect the goats from cold and wet weather. The goats are much more sensitive to weather than other grazing animals like cattle, so a barn is critical for the health and livelihood of goats. The goat barn is also essential from protecting the animals from potential predators during the night like coyotes. They also require a facility for birthing that is protected, dry, and sanitary.
The shelter would also be broken into several sections. There should be an area for feeding and general shelter, where the goats can be in bad weather and in the evenings when the goats are fed and bedded down for the night. There should also be a corral and weighing area that also serves as an area to administer medicines and observe the goats for pests and disease. The other half of the barn would be used for kidding, or the birthing of goats. This area needs to have several stalls with all of the tools and materials for assisting the mother goat with the birthing process as well as caring for the newborn kid. Other partitions in the structure will be necessary for storing hay and feed as well as records on the goats.
With the TCRF grant, Kay Doby will be able to turn an empty structure and turn it into an income generator by redesigning it for meat goats. She hopes that the goat operation could be a full time endeavor and she can raise enough of an income just from raising the goats and selling the meat so that she can spend all her time building up the farm and not having to supplement her income with an off-farm job.