‘UP! Up! Up!. Come on!’ Kedir Farrier calls out to his goats who upon hearing his voice come bounding out of the grassy lot where they had been grazing all morning. All it takes is one call from Farrier to get the goats’ attention and then they’re following him onto the road, the youngest among them following the lead of the oldest.
It’s not every day in Trinidad that you see a dozen or more goats trotting along in the middle of a road with their little ones in tow, bleating loudly as they head off to pasture. But if you live in St Joseph—that sight is not as uncommon or unusual as it may sound.
For about 20 years Farrier has been raising livestock, including goats, sheep, cows, chickens and ducks. In so doing, he’s carrying on a family tradition. Farrier’s father, Nolasco Farrier, took care of animals for more than 20 years before passing the mantle to his son.
“Taking care of animals is really a calling,” Farrier says as he leads his goats to one of their pasture grounds on North Street, St Joseph.
“I grew up seeing my father mind animals. It was different and strange compared to what everyone else was doing,” he says. “Some things are hereditary. My father loves animals and I was born with that love and as I grew older my interest in it rose as well.”
Besides having an ingrained love for animals, the 34-year-old considers it his moral obligation to care for animals. But there’s another factor that motivates him.
“I understand that God gave us dominion over certain things on earth so I see it as my duty and purpose to assist them during their lifespan. So that’s one of the things that attracted me. The other thing was the business perspective. Trinidadians consume a lot of meat so what I’m doing will always be in demand,” he says.
Grazing and mixed feed
Since Farrier is Rastafarian, he does not eat meat. But that doesn’t stop him from providing his clients with quality livestock. At his home at the end of Buena Vista Street, Farrier shows Kitcharee his family’s land; 3¾ acres which was passed on from his grandfather to his father. The St Joseph river slices through the land which extends until Riverside Road—which leaves plenty of room for his animals to roam and graze. Farrier constructed an enclosed pen which will be used for “zero grazing” which is the process of feeding the animals with cut grass brought to them instead of putting them out to pasture—which can be time consuming.
Between his job in construction and raising livestock, Farrier has little time left on his hands. He gets up at four to tend to his animals then sets out to work for eight. During his lunch hour he returns to see about his cows and then after work he’s back with his animals, rounding them up before going home. Not only does it take time to raise livestock, it also involves a lot of work and paying careful attention to the needs of the animals. For instance it’s important that the animals don’t interbreed, if they do that would result in smaller, weaker calves. So Farrier makes sure to change the stud. And since a stud male is able to produce sperm at three months, Farrier separates the young males from the females so as to avoid siblings from interbreeding. Apart from letting his animals graze, Farrier also gives his animals a combination of four other feeds.
“I don’t believe that one feed has everything an animal needs so I mix and combine the four and feed them,” he explains.
Farrier also gives them a stress mix to revitalise the system because—after all—animals do get stressed out too, especially when the weather is dry and hot.
“They can’t tell me when they are stressed, so I have to watch them closely,” he says.
In the past, there were some who tried to discourage Farrier from following in his father’s footsteps and minding animals.
“But when I look at those people, they are not doing anything more productive,” he says matter-of-factly.
If you walk the streets with Farrier and his animals, you might get the impression that even passersby are glad that Farrier stuck to his guns. One woman who was smartly dressed in her business attire got out of her Hilux vehicle to tell Farrier how much she loves seeing the goats out and about.
“When people see the goats, their first reaction is ‘Wow!’,” says Farrier.
In this technologically advanced era of smart phones and social media, people are usually happy to see something that reminds them of the “ole time days” and gives them a sense of nostalgia.
Raising livestock does come with its own set of challenges—including dogs who may attack the young ones, as well as reckless drivers.
“And bad eye,” Farrier adds in a low tone. “Some people give the animals maljo. That’s how I lost a healthy newborn just the other day.”
But Farrier is a realist, he knows that death is as inevitable for animals as it is for humans. He also adds that everyone should respect animals because they all have a purpose.
Every day, Farrier is on the search for new grazing pastures for his animals. After spending as much time with animals as he has (more than 20 years), Farrier can usually tell what each one may be feeling just by looking at their behaviour. But what he enjoys the most is watching his animals as they eat.
“I get a sense of calmness and satisfaction watching them eat,” says Farrier. “For me the best part is giving them attention and watching them grow.”