This week I got my hands dirty at Bucks Goat Centre, to see what it takes to keep the animals happy and healthy at the popular tourist destination.
Approaching it’s 27th birthday, the family business was started in 1980, by Michael Gaisford, on the site of a former chicken farm.
The Bucks Goat Centre is situated on the Layby farm, a bohemian complex of shops, with businesses as varied as Obsidian Art, Bucks Open Studio, Freya Jones Spinning and Fibrecraft to By Hand Books and Just Biscuits. There is also a cafe stocked out with cakes if you fancy a break from the animal action.
Under the hardworking management of 22 year old Craig Webb, the farm is flourishing with a new set of goats having recently been born.
The farm is full of characters like Crispy the Duck, who spent most of the morning chasing me, and Skid the rescue goat who took me for a walk. Elvis, Ringo and Freddie are the three alpacas, Elvis with a fabulous pair of brown sideburns.
In the summer the alpacas are sheared, and their wool is sold in the centreshop.
Craig said: “I find the work rewarding, but a lot of hard work - 90% is hard work, 10% is enjoyment and relaxing, being out and about is lovely. As always, working with children is very satisfying if you make them happy, it makes all the hardwork worthwhile.”
The centre also uses a network of volunteers who help keep everything running smoothly at the centre.
And there are new arrivals on their way, with rescue lambs soon to be introduced at the farm.
So dressed completely inappropriately on for work on the farm.. I took on some of the every day tasks such as mucking out the goat, feedings the animals and taking Skid for a walk around the farm.
I took on other tasks that the staff usually do, like letting out a gaggle of geese who chased me through the field to a cacophony of squarks.
I bottle fed one of the baby goats who has been rejected by her mother, and managed to cover myself in the milk formula the staff at the centre prepared for her. It’s certainly a dirty job.
One of the goats has just given birth to twins, and the place is currently bustling with energy. FIVE females this year have given birth to twins, and the place is alive with baby goats.
It quickly became apparent that a lot of hard work and dedication goes into keeping the animals happy and healthy – ensuring that they have the right mixture of food and exercise.
I got a good workout myself after mucking out the goat pens, removing the old hay and replacing it with the new.
From early mornings to late nights when the animals are in - it is a full time job and requires huge dedication.
The goats are wonderfully friendly, and very approachable and more than happy to take the healthy treats off you.
The llamas are inquisitive, one particularly liked the taste of my t-shirt as I fed it.
Bentley the boar goat (pictures) is a pedigree goat and the father of most of the goats this year. He is very friendly and came up to the gate to say hello, although it might just have been because I had a pocket of treats.
It was a hugely rewarding experience to see behind the scenes at the centre, and all of the staff do a great job in making sure the animals and punters alike are happy.
The Bucks Goat Centre are holding many events over the easter period-starting with a falconry event this Saturday where patrons are invited to come and hold birds of prey, and have their picture taken with them.
Easter Egg Hunts will take place on the 14 – 15 and 16 of April, and all are welcome.
Why not head down to have some Easter fun?