What? A hike with goats? Absolutely! A friend recently wanted to celebrate her birthday by going on a goat hike at Maplebrook Farmstead in Sterling, Massachusetts. Game for anything that involves walking outdoors, we met up with our kids for a socially distanced walk on the farm.
Greeted by Hannah Miller, her group of nine dairy goats came trotting out of their barn to get going on the walk. We met Charming, Ariel, Mookie, Orion, Whitey, Moe, Gretchen, Gina and Beauty.
Hannah is a fourth-generation farmer who graduated from UMass Amherst with a degree in agricultural studies. She came back to the farm to raise goats, cows and chickens, and to preserve a way of life that she grew up with.
She is running the farm with her mother and uncle and each has their own specialty such as growing flowers and raising mules. An adorable farm stand is out in front of the farm which has eggs, flowers, and pastured chicken for sale, though check ahead for availability.
The goats are very friendly and stay in their grouping for the most part during the walk. Goats are ruminants, four stomached animals that chew their cud. Other ruminants include sheep, cattle, deer, giraffes and antelopes, for example.
Each seemed to have its own personality; some would nuzzle, some would ignore, some would tussle in a show of dominance, and others would wander off the trail, munch a few leaves, then trot along later.
Hannah shared anecdotal stories about the group, along with insight into farming life. The hike was approximately two miles over the farm field and into the woods of Sterling. The trail leisurely ambles along Lynde Brook and by the Upper Lynde Basin Reservoir, a secret largemouth bass fishing spot, we are told.
It was just hysterical and calming at the same time to wander the woods with the herd.
Walking in the woods is something Hannah does every day with the goats.
“It’s a great way for them to get just the right things they need,” she said, explaining the goats will eat the kinds of leaves they need on a particular day, along with enjoying the mental stimulation of foraging and walking outside of the barn.
The goat hikes started on a whim and soon became a very popular activity for Miller. Maplebrook is a working farm so Hannah keeps her hikes to one per day, by reservation. She hopes to increase her cow herd next year and focus on making butter. It’s hard work, and she doesn’t get much sleep, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
So, if you are looking for a neat adventure that gets you and your family outside and walking, and a way to support local farming, sign up for a goat hike. Young kids especially would love this experience, though our teens were all completely engaged as well and were bonding with the goats almost immediately.