Nfld. & Labrador

Miniature goats a big hit in Happy Valley-Goose Bay

Two unusual pets are providing endless fun for one Labrador family, writes John Gaudi.

Tammy Lambourne recently added two goats to her family

Echo (left) and her daughter Pigtail are providing lots of entertainment and companionship to Tammy Lambourne and her family. (John Gaudi/CBC)

Meet Echo and Pigtail: two friendly Nigerian dwarf goats who call Happy Valley-Goose Bay home.

Tammy Lambourne and her husband Brian Swain have been looking at different goat breeds for a few years. On a recent trip to Ottawa, they found just what they were looking for, and now a mother goat and her doeling are very much part of the family.  

The goats moved into what was originally the backyard chicken coop, and now they share the space with a hen named Rocky, who has befriended them. There is also a playground with ramps and a teeter-totter for the goats to play with, as well as leafy branches set up for them to munch on. 

Lambourne said their animals are sociable and good companions for one another. 

"They're quite entertaining. The chicken rides on their backs now and the little one is climbing on everything, up on top of everything, and jumping off stuff and wherever we go they follow us around the yard," Lambourne told CBC.

Five-year-old Riley Swain and her eight-year-old brother Brayden Swain take turns walking and brushing the goats. (John Gaudi/CBC)

Kid-friendly fun

Lambourne's children — five-year-old Riley Swain and her eight-year-old brother Brayden Swain — are proud of the goats. The siblings enjoy taking them for walks and brushing them. 

"I like their horns, and I like the baby and the milkers," Riley said.

"I like how they eat, like it's cool they have four bellies," she added, referring to how goats digest food.  

The goats aren't very big: measured at her shoulder, Pigtail won't grow much more than 70 centimetres tall. (John Gaudi/CBC)

Riley wants to try milking Echo, the nanny goat. 

"It was Riley's idea long time ago. She wanted to try to milk a cow," Lambourne said, smiling. She grew up on a farm and is used to having livestock around.

"A cow might not be very realistic, but maybe we can find something smaller." 

Getting the goats seemed manageable, she said, given their size: Echo is about 70 centimetres high at the shoulder, and that's about as tall as she's going to get. The family is also tossing around the idea of getting some agricultural land to raise their miniature goats, and to learn how to milk them. 

Local goat lore

Since getting Echo and Pigtail, Lambourne has been hearing nostalgic stories from people who previously owned goats in Labrador. Working with the Community Food Hub, a local group that promotes food security, she said it's important for her family to take responsibility for what they eat. 

"It feels good to be creating some of it yourself, rather than being so reliant on just being a consumer," she said.

"I think it's just important to have that connection with where your food comes from."

Riley and Brayden are learning important life lessons, too. They are responsible for taking care of the animals, Lambourne said. No matter if the children are busy or if they want to do other things, they take care of the goats first.

Lambourne also sees how excited her children are about the possibility of making goat cheese one day. 

Young Pigtail, left, is Riley Swain's favourite. (John Gaudi/CBC)

Riley says Pigtail is her favourite pet. 

"She's small, and it's a baby goat, and I kinda like baby goats."

"[Pigtail] actually plays with the kids. She chases them around," Lambourne has noticed. "They play tag. They climb up and over things, and she'll play with them for ages." 

Although Lambourne admits Echo and Pigtail can be a handful, they sure are fun to have around as pets. 

"They're rascals — like, they're bad, they're always into something. But it keeps it interesting, " she said. "We laugh at them a lot."  

About the Author

John Gaudi

CBC reporter

John Gaudi reports from Happy Valley-Goose Bay for CBC's Labrador Morning.