Operator: Kay Doby
Location: Cameron, Harnett County, NC
“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 countryside across the ‘broiler belt’ states. Many are left to crumble after contracts with poultry companies are canceled, fall through, or if farmers can no longer afford to stay in the business. Kay Doby is one of very few farmers who have developed new agricultural and economic potential using these abandoned structures, germinating a new business in an unlikely place.
Kay managed a commercial poultry operation for 15 years on her farm in Cameron, NC while she taught at a local primary school. 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 40 years. Her parents and grandchildren live nearby and often help out around the farm. After getting out of the poultry business, Kay developed an interest in raising goats. She saw the economic potential for a meat goat operation in her area and began raising Boer goats, a breed from Texas, on a very small scale on her farm. After years of relatively small-scale farming and supplementing with off-farm income, she wanted to scale up to meet the demand and focus on farming full time.
In 2010, Kay wrote a grant proposal and garnered the financial investment needed to convert one of her empty poultry houses into a full-fledged goat barn. The poultry house needed to be further enclosed in order to protect the goats from cold and damp weather. Goats are generally more sensitive to weather than other domesticated grazing animals, and a well-made shelter is critical for their health. The goat barn is also essential in protecting the animals from potential predators like coyotes. They also require a facility for birthing that is protected, dry, and sanitary.
The new shelter is divided into several sections. Kay constructed an area for feeding and for general shelter, a place where the goats can be in bad weather and in the evenings when the goats are fed and bedded down for the night. She also made 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 is used for kidding, or the birthing of goats. This area has 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 are necessary for storing hay and feed.
Thanks to the right mix of initiative, business planning, and financial investment, Kay was able to transform an empty, decaying structure into a small business that she thoroughly enjoys and that generates enough income for her to live on the farm full-time in retirement.