Shannonrae and Rickie Mathes, Sh-Nanny-Gans
$6,000—Targeted and Rotational Grazing for Goats
Shannonrae and Rickie are transitioning 58 acres of Fraser Firs into pasture for Boer meat goats, currently in 19 acres. The goats are rented to landowners for vegetation management, marketed at auction during key holidays, and sold to other goat producers for herd enhancement.
Shannonrae and Rickie have establishied a rotational grazing system, which has reduced labor and supplemental feed expenses while improving animal health since parasites are less of an issue. Forage health is also enhanced because the pasture is given a periodic resting period and the animal waste is better distributed across the land. The grant is paying for temporary fencing and a mobile handling facility as well as supplies needed to assist with pasture management.
In 2011, Shannonrae and Rickie started phasing out their 32-year old Fraser Fir business, which they plan to close in 2017. At its height, the tree farm, which they operated in conjunction with their business partner Gregory Bailey, had more than 122 acres of approximately 130,000 Fraser Fir trees.
Shannonrae said she and Rickie discussed various options in 2011, “wanting to stay a sustainable family-run farm.” Should one of them get sick or hurt, “the other could continue to handle and effectively run the day-to-day operation of the farm,” she said. The “nanny” in the business name is a salute to Shannonrae’s grandmother Ella May Shell, whose bequest led to the purchase of the original 16 goats in 2012.
The goats are bred for good meat conformation, rapid growth, hardiness and fertility. Shannonrae and Rickie market them on Passover, Easter, Cinco De Mayo, Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr (“Frestival of Breaking the Fast”), 4th of July, Eid al-Adha (“Festival of Sacrifice”), Islamic New Years, Chanukah and Christmas.
They expect the business to be self-supporting by 2020, with up to three full-time employees. Once all renovations are complete, the goats will rotationally graze 77 acres.
In addition to removing invasive vegetation in an environmentally sensitive way, there’s another benefit to their goat rental service. It “provides entertainment for the communities we service,” Shannonrae said.