GRANT, Minn. — Lauren Schifsky is the goat girl of Grant.
She got her first goat, a pet, when she was 6.
By age 11, she was raising, breeding and selling goats on her family’s 10-acre hobby farm.
Now 18, Schifsky owns so many goats — Nigerian Dwarf goats — that she doesn’t know the exact number. “I have about 60, I think,” she said. “I’ve lost track.”
Schifsky is owner and operator of Aubrey’s Acres, a business devoted to selling and breeding Nigerian Dwarf goats. (Aubrey is her middle name.)
And Schifsky is making a name for herself and her business. She recently won a $1,000 scholarship through the Girls Going Places Entrepreneurship Contest sponsored by Guardian Life Insurance Co. At a recent goat show in Little Falls, Minn., four of her goats took top honors.
“I had three grand champions and one reserve champion,” she said. “It’s kind of cool, because I stamped my own breeding on it. I didn’t go out and buy bucks and take other genetics. I stamped my own name on my herd.”
Spring is a busy time for goat breeders. Schifsky has 28 new kids to care for, including a set of quadruplets.
It takes her about an hour each morning and an hour each night to clean, feed, water and milk her goats. That means Schifsky, a senior at Academy for Sciences and Agriculture in Vadnais Heights, must be in the Advertisement barn by 5:30 a.m. each day.
“I don’t really watch TV,” she said. “I try to catch the weather, so I know whether to feed the goats inside or outside. If it’s raining, I’ll feed them inside.”
Schifsky cleans the goats’ pens at least once a week. “I try to keep it as clean as possible,” she said. “I really don’t mind it. It’s part of farming. If I didn’t like cleaning, I wouldn’t have them.”
She also is responsible for trimming the animals’ hoofs and administering their shots. Her father helps her with the dehorning and castrating.
Two large white cabinets in the family’s barn feature white boards with the names of all Schifsky’s goats and the dates of their latest shots. Inside the cabinets are rows of neatly labeled shelves, featuring such items as wormers, sulfur, drenchers, antibiotics, electrolytes, iodine, anti-fungus shampoo, baking soda and calcium drench.
“Any time I have a sick goat, I know what to give it,” she said. “And if one has a wound, I know how to clean it out. I’m not big on antibiotics. The only time I give a goat antibiotics is when they’re not eating. If they act a little sick, I will give them vitamins, electrolytes or a little baking soda — the baking soda neutralizes their stomach, so I always provide that.”
After 12 years of raising goats, Schifsky has learned many such tricks of the trade: The best cure for goat diarrhea? Pepto-Bismol. Goats with pink skin should be slathered with sunscreen after getting clipped. A gallon of water sweetened with molasses is the preferred postpartum treat for does.
Schifsky’s family drinks goat milk that she pumps and pasteurizes. “I don’t like cow milk at all. I love my goat milk,” she said. “We go through a half-gallon a day.”
Schifsky gets about $200 for every doe and $25 to $50 for every wether (castrated male) she sells.
“This year, I had 28 kids, and I’m keeping four does,” she said. “I have two buck kids I’m keeping. All the other does are sold. I actually need more does — I’m short.”
The wethers are sold as pets or are sent to the stockyards. “It doesn’t bother me that I send them to the stockyards because they have a really good life here,” she said. “They are in pasture. They get fed good. It’s what they were raised for. They are animals, livestock.”
Schifsky does all of her own bookkeeping, sales and marketing. She created and maintains her own website — aubreysacres.webs.com — and plans to expand her business this summer by making and selling handmade goat milk soap.
Any money she makes goes into her savings account or the business. “I’m really tight with my money,” she said. “I don’t like spending money.”
She bought most of the fencing and the gates for the goats. “I buy all of my medications, and I pay the vet bills if anyone needs a C-section,” she said. “I buy most of the stuff — like the alfalfa hay I have to buy for my milkers. I have been making money but not getting rich off of it.”
This fall, Schifsky will head to the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, where she plans to study dairy science. She will be asking her parents, Myles and Robin, to help out with chores during the week; she plans to come home each weekend.
She also plans to breed her goats next winter — rather than in the fall — so that the 145-day gestation period will be up after school ends. Schifsky delivers most of her kids herself. She has a camera set up in the birthing barn so she can keep an eye on the pregnant does in their final days. “I’m here for most of them,” she said. “Last year, we had one C-section. I just couldn’t get it out.”
Schifsky is active in Future Farmers of America and hopes to own her own farm one day. “I want to move further into the country and have more land and continue my breeding,” she said. “I’m going to keep my goats forever — I couldn’t get rid of them.”
Farming is a family affair. Her sister, Caitlin, 20, is a student at UW-River Falls and works with horses; her brother, Tyler, 16, raises pigs and chickens.
“It’s been a wonderful way of life,” said her mother, Robin Schifsky. “I can’t imagine it not being busy. I think it humbles them. This just gives kids a whole different perspective on life.”
“It gives us something to do,” Lauren Schifsky said. “I would rather be at a goat show or the county fair than at the movies.”