SO YOU WANT TO BE … A RANCHER?
For the right price, you can get Sarah Brend’s goat
By JACKIE HOERMANN
The Kansas City Star
PHOTOGRAPHER JIM BARCUS | The Kansas City StarSarah Brend has owned goats since she was 10 and has been showing since she won the 2006 Miami County Fair 4-H Competition, beating her older sister.
Sarah Brend of Bucyrus, Kan., seems just like any other girl in her 16th year: sweet, optimistic and a little shy.
Don’t let her bashful veneer fool you, though. Underneath, she’s a tough businesswoman and national champion in goat showing.
Brend runs Good Shepherd Ranch and this year showed a champion at the American Boer Goat Association’s national event. Overall National Reserve Champion for Percentage Does Aged 0-3 Months, to be exact.
What’s the winning goat’s name?
Her registered name is GSR Focal Point because we’re supposed to have fancy names. But I call her Precious. Most every goat gets a name, and I remember everybody’s names.
Going into nationals, did you know Precious was the Michael Phelps of goats?
No. I was planning on showing one of my other baby goats, Button — she has won two national championships and that’s unheard of, really — but she ended up getting an umbilical hernia two days before nationals. That’s why it’s so cool that Precious won. It was unexpected.
Is a goat show anything like the Westminster dog show?
It’s kind of like the dog show, actually. All the goats have to be structurally sound and are judged on their confirmation, or overall appearance. They look at size and width and because they’re a meat animal, they’re judged on muscling and bone. Sometimes you walk around, and they tell you when to stop and let the goat off the leash to see how they track.
Why did Precious win?
She had a lot of the right pieces. She is the best goat I own with muscle and bone, and yet she’s still pretty and feminine. And Precious loves to be shown … she’ll always wield her head or run around and butt the other goats. She likes to be the center of attention.
Does all that muscling require the goats to exercise?
Some people do exercise their animals. They’ll run them on treadmills or in a goat chariot you hook up to the lawn mower, but I don’t do anything like that.
How did you react when they announced that you had won?
Everybody told me after I won the division that they thought I was going to pass out, and my mouth was going to hit the floor.
How did you get started in the goat business?
I got a goat to be a companion to one of my horses. I put the goat in with the horse, and the horse tried to kill it. That little goat became my pet very quickly. So I decided I wanted to show and I fell in love with it. My first year showing goats, I won grand champion at the Miami County Fair’s 4-H competition, and I’ve been showing ever since.
So what makes you better than your competition? You’re going to have to brag a little.
I’m not too good on bragging (laughs). I am a very competitive person, and I love showing. At every show, I learn something new, and I think that’s what makes me better. And I do know how to pick a baby goat that will become something great. That’s hard to do and takes lots of researching beforehand.
What kind of research?
You look at their pedigree and their breeding or blood line. The genetics are a big factor. I’ll research bucks I like and follow the genetics to see if they can produce kids that win. And then I’ll take a doe I like and cross them.
How many goats do you have on your ranch?
Right now I have 45. When kidding is done, I’ll have 50 new ones.
Kidding means give birth.
Got it. I’m doing the math in my head. 50 newborns from 45 goats means there must be twins in the mix?
Yes. Single, twin or triplet is pretty common. Normally, though, the first-time moms have a single. I had my first quadruplet this year, but the average is single or twin, which is better because the mom’s attention won’t be taken away from one baby goat by the others.
You can definitely make money back. They’ll be able to pay for my college. (Brend is home-schooled now and plans to study agribusiness at Oklahoma State University.)
What’s the most you’ve made off a goat sale?
$2,500 is the most I’ve made, but we’ve been offered $8,000 for Button.
Do you advertise your business?
I have my own website, signs, business cards, and I advertise on Craigslist.
What are the challenges to running your own ranch?
It’s very hard sometimes when your friends get to go out and you’re at home giving shots or fixing hooves. To me, it’s worth it because this is what I plan to do with the rest of my life.
Do you think people underestimate you?
Yeah, I get that a lot, especially when dealing with customers. When my dad says, “You have to deal with her for the negotiating,” a lot of the older men have a hard time with it.
Do you strike a hard bargain?
I guess (laughs). I do take my business very seriously. I know my mom gets very attached to the little goats, but there is a business side to it, too. There was a lady once who kept trying to buy one of my goats and I said, “Listen: Anything on this place is for sale, if the price is right. What’s it going to be?”
Where do you want your business to go in the future?
My goal is to be as big as — or bigger — than Able Acres, one of the biggest breeders in the country. I plan to be able to compete with them.
The last one is a myth buster. Will a goat really eat anything?
They’ll “mouth” pretty much anything and spit it out, but they do not eat just anything.
Go to www.goodshepherdranch.com to learn more about Sarah Brend’s work.
To reach Jackie Hoermann, call 816-234-4767 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.