Your Reading List

Family of goat lovers lives off the grid

Family uses mainly solar power and a wind turbine while raising goats, free-range chickens, turkeys, geese, and hogs

Kids abound at Will O’ the Wisp Paddocks.

Amy Leitch and husband Kevin have four of their own, along with numerous goat kids in their flock of 77 goats.

Amy Leitch, husband Kevin, and their four sons live off the grid and raise goats and other animals in Clearwater County.
photo: Alexis Kienlen

“We chose Kiko goats which are from New Zealand. They’re bred from the best of the best and this is a breed that is known worldwide,” said Leitch. “They are parasite resistant and also have extremely high mothering qualities.”

The couple also has some Boers in their herd, but Leitch doesn’t consider their genetics to be as good as the Kikos, which are raised for meat.

Demand is “astronomical,” she said during an ag tour put on by Clearwater County last month.

“We cannot meet the demand for goat meat,” said Leitch. “As of last week, because there was a holiday, kid goats from 50 pounds up were anywhere from $200 to $280. Those kids would have been born in April. So April to August, that’s 280 bucks, right there. It has to do with demand; it has to do with education.”

Related Articles

Goat meat is a red meat but comparable to chicken in terms of nutritional quality, including cholesterol and fat. A 70-pound animal will produce “at least 35 pounds” of meat. The goats are raised on grass and brush, and are rotationally grazed, passing over the same area multiple times.

The Leitchs, who also raise turkeys, chickens, geese, and hogs, sell their goats to both individuals and the Sungold plant in Innisfail. The does are bred in October and kid in March. The young goats remain with their mothers until they are sold, to prevent them from maturing.

“When you feed them determines when you kid,” she said. “We feed them twice a day and most of our kids are born before suppertime.”

The goats are kept in four, long narrow paddocks with really tight barbed wire (less than six inches apart) with a hot wire over top, and protected from predators by three Maremma dogs.

Self-sufficient

Some are dairy goats, which the couple milks for their own use.

“We raise to be sustainable for ourselves and anything else we have, we sell,” said Leitch.

The couple made the decision to be off the power grid when they moved to the farm because of the high cost of bringing in power. They have eight solar panels and a wind turbine and run a generator in winter if needed. But summer can also be a challenging time for the off-the-grid family.

Solar panels are part of the system used to heat the Leitchs’ home. They also use a wind turbine and, occasionally, a generator.
photo: Alexis Kienlen

“On a 30° day, your fridge and freezer do not shut off. They run and draw horrendous amounts of power,” said Leitch. “Every year, we learn things about how the sun and our solar hours change. They are not guaranteed at all. If you have cloudy winters, it’s not fun.”

The house is heated on the main floor with wood, and they have an in-floor boiler system in the basement to try and reduce the amount of power they use. They are able to have appliances like a dishwasher and a washing machine.

“There’s a lot that we have learned and will continually change. We’ve upgraded our battery system and we will be playing more with solar panels in different strategic areas. As you live in a place, you figure out when your sun hits and when it changes.”

But the technology keeps improving and the cost dropping, said Leitch, adding they would love to have two dozen solar panels, which would mean they wouldn’t need to run the generator — although they would also have to upgrade their bank of batteries. Already, she noted, there are days when the system produces more power than the batteries can hold.

On those days, “we would go and do things to draw power, because we were making more power than we could use.”

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Kienlen

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, Alexis is also the author of two collections of poetry, a biography, and a novel called "Mad Cow."

Comments

explore

Stories from our other publications