Lessons learned from her goats


When it comes to raising her 4-H goats, 13-year-old Stormie Russell is more no-nonsense than her age might imply.

She and her mother, Heather Russell, have raised Boer, Nigerian dwarf and Toggenburg goats for the past three years. The Oakville family currently owns a number of them on their 50 acres of land, including 10 Boer breeding females, or does, goats and three dairy does. They sell most of the babies, especially the wethers — or castrated male goats. Stormie showed her Boer wether “Stroganoff” this year at the Grays Harbor County Fair — her third time showing a Boer there — where unfortunately the goat was declared underweight and did not go to auction.

She still has plans to sell it and has no qualms about letting go of the animal she has raised since birth for the past eight months. Despite describing her goats as “so awesome, so sweet, like puppy dogs,” Stormie is not afraid to also declare them delicious.

“I used to feel sort of bad, but then I ate it and I was like, ‘I don’t care,’ ” she said.

Her favorite meal with the meat?

“Goat and waffles. I love that for breakfast. It’s nasty unless it’s cooked the right way. Smoked one hour and then crock pot all night,” she said.

Heather Russell said she first got the idea for her four children to join 4-H, which led to raising goats, after a friend suggested it. She thought that Stormie, who has asthma, might benefit from the competitive aspects and necessary practice of responsibility from the program that she was unable to get from sports.

And those traits are now ingrained in the teen, who wakes up at 6 every single morning to “feed and water” her animals, to milk the dairy does, and then head off to home-school where she is a “straight-A student” in her k-12 online public school. She also cleans out stalls, trims hooves, performs worming treatments, parasite control, breeding and feeds the animals three different times a day because of the separate needs of the different breeds. “Every single day, even if she’s sick with a cold or a minor flu,” said Russell, who said she rarely intervenes only to help with more difficult interactions, like inter-muscular injections. “I teach her that livestock comes first.”

Stormie loves caring for her goats, and Russell even said she declared all of her indoor chores obsolete, so that she could focus on the outdoor ones. She does all of them, rain or shine, even using an umbrella to milk the goats in 20 inch-high snow a couple of years ago, said Russell. “If there are babies born she gets up in the middle of the night … She works very hard,” said Russell, who added Stormie is rewarded with a breeding animal with a worth of $400 each year for her diligence.

Russell said the family keeps the female goats as “pets,” and treats them as such, but the family looks upon the males differently.

“Mamas are pets, the girls are the ones we love, and babies are for selling and we don’t play around with them,” said Russell. “It helps her (Stormie) disassociate.”

The names help too. “Stroganoff” reminded Stormie where her goat may end up, and she already has plans for the name of her next, “Minestrone.”

And Stormie, who has plans to become a veterinarian is all business in regard to her product. Although “Stroganoff” was 6 pounds underweight as of Tuesday, Friday she declared she still had plans to sell him — to her mother. “I need money to support my other 1-year-old Boer goat, Butterscotch,” she said, adding she also has a 4-month-old female.

Stormie said a friend showing in one of the stalls next to her felt differently, as in happy that her goat was underweight and could not go to auction.

“I told her just to suck it up because she already bought the wether, but, yeah, she’s probably gonna keep it as a pet,” she said.

Like any good businesswoman, Stormie is strong in the public eye. However, Russell said that’s not the whole picture. They had an unfortunate incident in which the family, new to breeding, lost a young goat due to a “rookie mistake,” or a lack of knowledge about a certain type of worming. Stormie did not take the loss so easily.

“She cried so hard, but I told her, ‘You have to prepare for that. You can’t expect to raise animals and not see that,’ ” said Russell.

Stormie’s brother Ethan raises rabbits, her sister, Sierra, raises chickens, and Hunter is “still deciding what he likes.”

“It’s just so important,” said Russell, in reference to bringing the lessons learned through 4-H to her family. “These are the leaders of the next generation of 4-H.”