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Kidding around is serious business

Tamie Meck

If you think you have trouble keeping track of your kids, consider Tina Antes.

She has 50 kids.

And at least 23 of them are for sale.

Her kids, you see, are all alpine dairy goats.

Antes owns and operates the Mamm-Key dairy goat farm, located on a five-acre ranch at an elevation of 6,500 feet, seven miles up Mamm Creek. Her prize-winning milkers are considered high producers and are gaining a reputation as some of the best dairy goats in the country.

“I like milking goats, and I like goats,” said Antes as she released one of her babies from the milking machine, “but with milkers that’s all you do is milk goats, and everything else gets neglected.”

Antes’ milk goats give her an average of about 30 gallons of milk per day. Some of that goes to the neighbors for their pigs, and she keeps some for personal use. The milk has a distinct flavor far from that of store-bought, homogenized cow’s milk. The thick cream floats to the top and can be separated for making butter. She uses the milk for making ice cream and cheese.

On occasion the milk goes to nurse orphaned lambs, horses, cattle and llamas.

She thought about opening a dairy, but it’s too much work and there are too many government regulations to follow, she said.

Antes and husband Duane are both accountants. Duane works full time in Glenwood Springs, but Tina devotes most of her energy to her kids. She also has three dogs, a dozen chickens, some cats, and a llama named Rico.

Antes grew up in Grand Valley. Her parents owned a few goats when she was little. Her mom bought her first goats at an auction when she thought they were calves.

Antes, who used to run her own accounting business, purchased her first goat, a grand champion, at a 4-H show in 1993. Businesses bought grand champions for the publicity, and the goat was about the least expensive grand champion there. “I could afford that,” she told Duane. She brought her new little girl home, “Then I had one lonely, lonely little goat, so we had to buy it a buddy.”

Now her goats are anything but lonely.

Antes knows each of her kids by name, and most of them respond when called. There’s Shoshone, Rabbit, Mango and Muchacha, Montana, Hershey and Bayou, just to name a few. “Most of them have some kind of splash of color that makes it special,” she noted, like Tenderheart, whose right side is marked with a near perfect beige heart.

All of her goats are registered with the American Dairy Goat Association, the equivalent of the American Kennel Club for dogs, she said. She also participates in the Dairy Herd Improvement Program, which maintains production records submitted by its members and promotes communication, education and quality throughout the dairy industry.

Antes also enters her goats in competitions, including in New Mexico, Wyoming, and throughout Colorado. She took three of her young goats to the ADGA Nationals, held last week in Pueblo. One took sick and still has a runny nose. When he sneezed she went into the house to grab a Kleenex and three goats followed her inside. She promptly kicked them back outside.

The other two placed a respectable 11th and 15th in their class.

At least 13 of her goats have won championships since 1994. “I have boxes and boxes of ribbons,” she said.

Antes also judges 4-H competitions across the state, and recently returned from judging in Montrose.

Judges look for a lot of things, she said, using Hershey as an example. They have to have a level rump, their legs must be directly under their withers, their ribs should be “open,” and some brisket should be showing. Judges like soft hair, a long and lean neck, a strong pastern, and wide gaps in their hocks.

Antes said she still buys goats at 4-H events, but now she lets the kids – as in children – keep them.

Spend just a few minutes with Antes and her kids and it’s plain to see that she is a proud mother. She dotes over them, checks for mosquito bites, and gives them a favorite treat, Twizzlers (some prefer cherry, others strawberry). “They’re spoiled and won’t eat off the ground,” she said, as two goats played tug of war over a Twizzler.

Antes’ mother even makes little goat coats for the baby goats.

Antes has more girls than boys in her herd, which isn’t uncommon with any livestock breeder. One little boy can get a lot of little girls pregnant.

She sells goats for show, for breeding and for producing milk. The goats can be shipped anywhere. One is awaiting shipment to Puerto Rico. Sales aren’t too good this year, she said, chalking the slump up to the drought and a shortage of hay.

Normally she ships goats by air, but this year she and Duane have had to haul them by trailer to the buyers in Montana, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and New Mexico. “The airlines aren’t flying goats this year,” she said. “I guess they’re scared they’ll blow up the plane.”

Her goats currently run anywhere from $200-$500, which isn’t bad considering that some goats sell for upwards of $1,500, she said.

Her advice to anyone considering goats is to make sure that the goat has its own place to roam. Don’t just let them go in the yard she said. “They’ll eat the trees and bushes,” then eat the grass when everything else is gone.

They’re good companion animals for horses, too, and will eat what the horses won’t. Goats prevent distemper in horses, she added. “I know it’s an old wives tale, but it works.”

Goats are also good pack animals. As long as goat and owner have bonded, the goat will follow its master much like a dog would.

Antes won’t sell her goats to just anyone, and she avoids selling them at sales barns, where many buyers purchase livestock for their meat.

“I try to find my goats good homes,” she said. “I try to raise them as pets, and so far we’ve done pretty good.”

Tina Antes and her goats can be reached by calling 876-2738. Mamm-Key’s website is http://www.mammkey.com, and the e-mail address is mammkey@ sopris.net.


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