MELROSE, Ore. — Sylvia Smith has been around goats for a long time.
Her parents started raising goats when she was just 5 years old. At a young age, she started raising sheep, but found her true passion in goats, first at the age of 12.
“I felt like sheep were kind of dumb,” Sylvia said. “They didn’t have as fun of personalities as the goats, and I decided I really, really liked them.”
Over the past four and a half years, Sylvia, now 16, has grown her herd into a group of ten Kiko goats — on top of working a job, taking school classes, participating in FFA and running a YouTube channel to document her journey.
Bred for meat production and survivability in the hilly pastoral environments of New Zealand during the mid-1980s, Kiko goats are a rare breed Sylvia chose to raise because of their low maintenance and increased parasite resistance, which allows her to spend more time on schoolwork and at her job.
“They’re really good at raising up their kids, their offspring, on their own,” Sylvia said. “They’re pretty hearty.”
Just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Sylvia decided to start a YouTube channel, Silver Pine Kiko Goats, as a way to document her journey raising goats, while educating the public on ways to learn from the experience.
“People can see the good, the bad and the ugly side of farming, and be able to get a really good feel of that,” Sylvia said. “I’ve had people reach out to me and tell me about how they’ve had similar experiences that are able to learn from me, learn about goats and get a small feel of farming. That was probably one of the coolest things I’ve done.”
Sylvia has a goal to reach 1,000 subscribers on the website. Over the past two and a half, she’s accumulated 858 of them, but she hopes to get more as she will continue the channel through high school.
She does most of the work on her own — a tall order for somebody in high school, working as a farmhand and who will be the Roseburg FFA chapter president when the school year starts again this fall — but she gets some help from her siblings as well.
Noelle Smith, 10, helps Sylvia by checking on the water and the goats, giving them medication if Sylvia’s out of town.
Stewart Smith, 8, one of Sylvia’s brothers, isn’t as much of a fan of the goats — he said hopes to get a lot of dogs when he grows up instead — and sometimes takes part in what he calls “headbutt competitions” with the goats.
Yes, it’s exactly what you’d expect from the name.
“Primrose is the main one I do,” Stewart said, referring to one of Sylvia’s goats that doesn’t have horns on its head. “So it’s a fair challenge, because I don’t have horns either.”
“It’s not the smartest idea,” Sylvia added.
When she graduates high school, Sylvia plans to sell her herd, hopefully to another young, promising farmer with a passion for goats — it’d be extra special if the new farmer was around 12, the age when she first started, Sylvia said. After that, she’ll go to college and study to become an emergency veterinary technician.
For now, Sylvia still has two more years left with her goats. It can be a lot of work, but at the end of the day, she said, all the hard work is worth it.
“Overall, with my YouTube channel and raising goats, it’s been a really cool opportunity for me to grow and learn, while sharing that with others as well,” Sylvia said. “I’m really grateful for this, because not everybody has this opportunity. I’ve gone though a lot of challenges, but I’ve also gotten a lot of joy from it as well. I think that’s really cool, and I wish that everybody could have the opportunity to do something like this in their life.”