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Goat farm brings family together

David Reedy pets Lord Greystroke, a champion buck, at Twin Hills Ranch in Dade City. Reedy works at the goat ranch with his father and brother.

KERI WIGINTON | Times

David Reedy pets Lord Greystroke, a champion buck, at Twin Hills Ranch in Dade City. Reedy works at the goat ranch with his father and brother.

At first, the goats were just supposed to eat some brush and keep the Reedy family's property taxes down.

But the animals have become a family project that has strengthened bonds, healed wounds and may even put the Reedys in a comfortable financial state where they won't have to worry about property taxes.

The goats were David Reedy's idea. It was 2005, and Reedy wanted to make sure the family's 30 acres of farmland kept its "greenbelt" property tax exemption.

Some goats would keep the land trimmed, he thought at the time.

But after digging around on the Internet, he learned goats could do a whole lot more.

Demand for goat meat in the United States has increased in recent years, mostly because of the country's growing ethnic populations. According to a 2005 United States Department of Agriculture report on the goat industry, the United States could not import enough meat from its top suppliers — Australia and New Zealand — to keep up with the demand, driven mostly by Caribbean, Muslim, Hispanic and Chinese consumers.

The annual number of goats raised domestically for meat production almost doubled from 1-million to 1.9-million between 1997 and 2002, the report said.

Reedy wanted to jump on board. It was a good opportunity, he thought. And good timing.

A needed distraction

Early in 2005, David Reedy's 20-year-old son, Mark, perished from injuries endured in one of Pasco County's deadliest house fires. The younger Reedy's wife and stepson also died in the blaze, along with a menagerie of pets.

Reedy buried himself in researching goats and starting the operation on his father's lot. It helped with the pain of his son's death.

"It took my mind off of that quite a bit, working around there and studying," Reedy, 48, said. "It helped a lot."

After more than two years and countless hours of research, Reedy, his brother, Derrick, and father, Harold, now raise goats for show, auction and breeding.

They work mostly with Boer goats, a large breed from South Africa, and other breeds crossed with Boers.

The brothers have full-time jobs — Derrick is a firefighter and EMT with Pasco County Fire Rescue, David works at a South Tampa printing company — so children and spouses often help out with the operation.

"I delivered 37 babies with Derrick's wife one afternoon while everyone was at work," said Harold Reedy, 70.

Harold Reedy raised horses and cattle on his property years ago. But every day is a lesson with the goats.

For example, they've learned to breed the goats in phases, so there's never another day of 37 births.

Backdraft was the first full-blood Boer billy goat born on the property. As a kid, he rode along on the golf cart while the Reedy brothers built fences and feeding systems on their father's land.

Plans for the future

Now, Backdraft rubs up against the Reedys' legs and begs for attention and treats. Like the other 99 goats the family owns, he's curious, friendly and smelly.

Full-blood Boer goats like Backdraft can sell for up to $750, Harold Reedy said. The semen from a prize-winning Boer goes for anywhere from $50 to several thousand dollars, depending on the bloodline.

But that doesn't come without a cost. The family has spent thousands on fencing and can't even tally what they've shelled out for tractors and equipment. Feed alone costs more than $100 a day.

"There's money in it," Derrick Reedy, 42, said. "But you have to put a lot of money into it, too."

The Reedys are not profiting yet on their operation, but they are on purpose. Their goal is to develop higher-quality bloodlines that will nab them higher returns. That takes time.

"It takes three years to start making decent money," said Harold Reedy.

This week at the farm, Derrick and David Reedy tried to still wriggling Backdraft so they could pour a worming medication into one of his four stomach compartments. Country music played from inside a Dodge truck parked nearby. Harold Reedy took notes as his sons called out measurements and medication doses.

Derrick Reedy has a home around the corner from the farm. David lives in Darby but hopes to eventually build a log cabin on his father's property and help run the goat operation full time.

Harold Reedy is happy to have his farm up and running again. It's fun working with the family, he said. He hopes the goat business becomes a sound venture he can leave behind for future generations.

"I thought, instead of me trying to leave a bunch of money, we should work together in life," he said. "It's a family thing."

For more information, visit www.twinhillsranch.com.

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Helen Anne Travis can be reached at (352) 521-6518 or htravis@sptimes.com.

Goat farm brings family together 07/13/08 [Last modified: Monday, July 14, 2008 7:37pm]
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