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Winning ways

After an unexpected visit from two wayward goats, Karl and Jean Herman turn an accidental hobby into a full-time breeding business
Story and photos by Sarah Geyer 1/1/2018


Karl and Jean Herman relocated their Boer breeding business from Arkansas to this 50-acre, rolling farmland in Savannah, Tennessee, three years ago. The couple’s interest in goats began in Alabama nearly a decade ago when a lost nanny and buck appeared on their front lawn. That lost nanny is still alive and in the herd grazing behind them.
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Three years ago this March, Karl and Jean Herman relocated their six-year-old Boer goat business to a 50-acre farm in Savannah, Tennessee. Even though the couple’s award-winning goats were born and raised in Arkansas, the foundation for the business was set 10 years ago in Alabama with the mysterious appearance of a pair of lost travelers.

“Early one morning when we lived in Springville [Alabama] Jean came running into the bedroom yelling, ‘There are goats in our front yard!’” says Karl. “That got my attention, since the only animals we owned were a couple of dogs.”

The Hermans’ neighbor did raise goats, however, so after Karl corralled the animals in his garage, he called the owner to ask him to pick up his straying livestock. Within the hour, Karl heard from the neighbor again.

“He called to tell me some interesting news — the goats weren’t his!” says Karl. “Then he asked if I wanted them. I explained that I did, but had nowhere to keep them. He quickly responded, ‘I’ll keep them until you can build a pen.’”

Karl embraced the new responsibility even though neither he nor his wife had any prior experience with the often-rambunctious ruminants. As a teenager, he worked on a farm, helping care for cattle and putting up hay, but as an adult, he only had a few dogs. Jean, who lived on a farm in Alabama until she was five when her parents moved the family to Illinois, spent her childhood and much of her early adulthood in the suburbs, raising and selling animals, mainly tropical fish and birds.

“When I moved back to the South, I had pared down to only a few dogs,” says Jean who lived in Michie for several years before meeting Karl and marrying in 2004. “And I was content that it stayed that way even after we moved to Alabama.”

When Karl chose to take in the lost livestock, Jean says she was okay with his decision.

“I had my hobbies,” she says. “And this was his — one I could tell he was really beginning to love.”

Karl soon immersed himself in learning about goats. He read every article he could find about the animals, and, he soon wanted to expand his herd. At first, Karl stayed with less expensive brush goats, but after his research, he became increasingly interested in breeding and showing.

“About a year later, we drove to a sale in Tennessee with plans to buy another ‘$50 one,’ as Karl called them,” says Jean. “Instead he bought a full-bred, three-month-old SA [South African Boer] male. And that changed everything.”

Within a week of that purchase, says Jean, Karl told her he wanted to breed, raise, and sell show goats as a full-time business. Jean eagerly agreed, and the couple immediately developed a plan for this life-changing endeavor.

“We knew that we’d need more land, so that was our first step,” she explains. “In just a few months, Karl found a goat farm for sale in Arkansas, which fit perfectly with our plan.”

In no time, says Jean, they purchased the land, sold their Alabama home, and relocated to the 40-acre farm, calling it Ravenden Ridge Ranch, named after their new town of residence.

“The property was the definition of ‘out of the way,’” says Karl. “It was seven miles to the nearest asphalt road. But, since it was a goat farm, we simply added some electric fencing, and we were good to go.”

Within a few months, the couple, with a growing herd of full-blood and percentage Boers, were competing nearly every weekend on the show circuit. They enjoyed the camaraderie of the events, but their goats were consistently receiving low scores.

“I wasn’t placing like I wanted [at the shows],” says Karl. “As we started to make friends with other competitors, I asked them why I wasn’t winning. They said to me, ‘you have to feed, Karl; your goats aren’t big enough.’”

Karl took their advice, and after doing his own research, he started feeding Co-op’s 16% Pelleted Goat Grower with Rumensin [#93461]. “I learned that the addition of Rumensin is very important,” says Karl, who purchased the product from North Arkansas Farm Supply, an associate member of Tennessee Farmers Cooperative. “It helps them digest the food and also prevents coccidiosis [a parasitic infection].”

Satisfied with their feed and supplement program, which includes a mineral product and a multivitamin, the Hermans turned their focus to improving their genetics, at first buying the best they could find and then raising their own. Soon, their efforts produced award-winning results, including one of their bucks placing 10th at the 2013 American Boer Goat Association National Show.

After nearly seven years in the goat business, the Hermans decided to build on their reputation among Boer breeders and host a show in Jonesboro. The couple’s plans changed in an instant, however. While running an errand for the event, they were involved in a serious automobile accident, and Jean suffered 10 broken ribs and a collapsed lung.

“Partly due to Jean’s long recovery period, we realized, and our relatives agreed, that we needed to live on a farm closer to civilization or at least somewhere with asphalt roads,” says Karl. “We decided to look for something closer to Jean’s family in Alabama and Mississippi.”

They found the perfect house and adjoining 50-acre farm in Savannah, Tennessee, just a 45-minute drive to Jean’s cousins in Corinth.

They moved to the newly named Cherry Chapel Boer Goats Farm in March 2015 and quickly became regular customers of First Farmers Cooperative’s Savannah branch. Because the property had been used to raise cattle, one of the couple’s first tasks was to add fencing, dividing the farm into several small pastures for rotation and separation.

For the next item on the to-do list, Karl bought a Co-op feed bin, allowing him to purchase the Goat Grower ration in bulk, rather than in bags like he did in Arkansas. Karl also raises hay on his farm to supplement the Co-op feed. A neighbor harvests the first cutting and saves the second for Karl, who square bales it for easy handling. Because grazing is also a major part of his goats’ nutritional program, Karl is focusing on pasture improvement this year.

“We still have a lot of sage grass, but next year that will be gone,” he says. “Co-op planted fescue for us, and it’s going to choke the sage out. Plus I added lime, and Co-op fertilized based on soil tests. In the spring, I’m going to plant Sericea Lespedeza [a warm-season perennial legume suited for grazing and hay] on back pastures.”

Although their numbers had topped 100 in Arkansas, the Hermans decided to move less than half of their herd to Tennessee, with the idea that downsizing would be helpful as they rebuilt their operation on their new farm. Of course, the relocated group included the elderly “Nanny,” the remaining half of the original wayward pair.

“I think we have 45 [goats] right now,” says Karl. That may not be exact because we keep selling. We have some April kids, including a couple of bucks which will be sold. I’ve got two breeding males, and I think there are 30 does, all pregnant. When they start kidding twins, you can multiply that by two.”

“We also have two in there that usually give us [triplets or quadruplets],” adds Jean.

Karl says he sells directly off the farm and at select sales. March 3, he’s taking 10 of his best to the Southern Blitz Sale in Georgia. Other than sales, most of their marketing is through their website and by word of mouth.

“Everything is for sale,” says Karl. “If somebody comes along and wants all of them today, I’ll load them all up.”

Since moving to Savannah, the couple says their time to participate in shows has been scarce. Karl, with Jean’s help, has been working diligently to get the goat farm up and running, and Jean has devoted much of her time to caring for her ailing father, who passed away in August.

Showing is an activity they’ve truly missed, and they are excited to re-enter the show circuit this February.

“One thing I can truthfully say is there are no people like goat people,” she says. “They are so friendly and eager to help, and I guess that’s why we have stayed in it as long as we have. We enjoy it. It gives us a reason to get up and get out.”

For more information about Karl and Jean Herman and the Cherry Chapel Boer Goat Farm, visit

Choosing the right feed products for your herd

by Royce Towns, nutritionist TFC Feed and Animal Health Department

Pick up a Co-op Goat Feeds brochure and you’ll find a wide variety of feed and nutritional supplement products that cover the gamut of goat operations including dairy, show, and meat.

Like the Hermans, many beginning goat farmers are often overwhelmed from the sheer number of options. Karl turned to his fellow goat producers for advice and saw positive results. But oftentimes, this approach can be a hit-or-miss, time-consuming experiment. The experts at your local Co-op know that a sound, quality nutrition plan isn’t one-size-fits-most but instead is uniquely developed for each operation.

The Co-op’s knowledgeable feed and livestock specialists will work side-by-side with you to create a nutritional program and choose the best feed and supplement products to specifically meet the needs of your herd and your farm.

To read more about Co-op livestock feed products, visit

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