A Goat Farm Teaches Discipline Skills Through Customized Employment

Chris has been actively involved with Daily Companions, Inc since 2006.  Along with his mother, he has an extended family including cousins, aunts, and uncles.

Along with numerous family ties, Chris is very well known in the community and has many friends.  In knowing Chris and observing him in daily activities through DCI, it is obvious that he is very well liked, enjoys helping others, and would pretty much do anything to help out.  He needed help with being on time, and focusing on tasks. He did well with working closely with male companions.

During the discovery process, we had the opportunity to explore a locally owned goat farm where they raise goats and process various fine goat cheeses for marketing.  Ms. Cloughfeather, CEO of Daily Companions, while being given a tour of the farm discovered for herself how friendly goats are.  As we entered the gate, the goats approached us, and one particular goat continued to chase after Ms. C. as she was quickly heading back toward the gate.  Although she was trying not to be rude to the host, this shows how the work environment needs to “fit comfortably” for the individual.  I have to add that this was quite possibly the quickest I’ve ever seen Ms. C. move.

Chris, during a discovery activity, went to the County Fair to visit some of the goats entered in the fair for judging and met the owner’s older daughter.  The business got its start with her one goat that was entered through 4-H years ago.  Chris participated in helping out with tending the goats and observed the hand milking process. He was tickled and surprised by their cooperativeness Chris-6and their social behavior.  Chris is a natural with the goats and showed much interest and enthusiasm for all the animals/livestock at the fair.  During our time at the fair, he knew so many people and introduced me to many friends and acquaintances.  He was interested and curious to learn more about the farm and exploring helping out as a farm support worker.

Through Customized Employment, Chris participated in job exploration and training at the goat farm since August 18, 2014, working on learning and completing tasks as a support staff.

These tasks are broken down into three categories:

  1. Goat Support Work, which includes replenishing their hay in numerous bins, graining, watering, attending and care for the goats. This also includes learning to identify and call them by name.
  2. Milking Set Up – Preparation and milking up to six goats.
  3. Clean Up – Washing/Sanitizing and Recheck Goats water supply

One day is learning about the cheese production and assisting with preparing the cheese for market.

Chris and Customized Employment 1Chris made significant progress in many areas with ihs skills on these tasks and he continues to show interest and desire to improve on being a support staff for the farm.  In this supportive environment, working closely with the support staff and owner, this role became a great fit for him and for the business.

Chris was employed for 8 hours a week @ $7.25 an hour.  This was an increase in his wage income.

Along with learning new skills, Chris had to adjust to an early schedule as he was required to be at the farm for the 6 am milking.  He worked on learning the basic routines along with the out of normal issues/changes that arise for tending and milking the goats.

The owner has plans to increase cheese production and her number of milking goats.  She has plans to purchase a cheese press which extracts the whey from the cheese.  As she explained and demonstrated, this has been a cumbersome and timely process doing it by hand.  We are currently exploring increasing his hours to expand his skills to assist with the cheese processing and marketing.  She is encouraged with Chris’s progress and she has also talked to Chris about helping out with spring projects at the farm.

Chris’s previous work experience was through work exploration in high school and working a car wash.  He was also previously employed hanging door flyers for a local pizza shop.  Now that he is working at the goat farm this is providing him new work experiences and challenges to enhance his work skills, and establish good work ethics. During the training and employment, Chris learned to adapt well to changes in routines.  At the goat farm, there is never a dull moment.  Again, goats are very social in nature and are very smart.  There is one particular goat, Po that is the nuisance goat.  He would not leave Chris alone while he was working and sometimes would chase after him.  Chris was never mean or insensitive to this goats’ nature, but rather tolerated her and worked on figuring out ways to keep her in a gated area/block her while he filled the bins.  It was hilarious how this goat would open up the gate and get out.  Also, just after the first couple weeks the milking machine broke down, so he got to learn not only how to start the milking and stripping but do the entire process by hand.  This truly was an experience, and he again adapted quite well.

One of Chris’s attributeChris-4s is his caring nature and attentiveness of the goats.  The owner has been impressed with Chris’s attention to issues or concerns that were related to safety or wellness of the goats.  Again, goats are very social and smart.  They know their names when called.  Chris worked hard on recognizing them by their marking, colors, characteristics and their physical response to his interactions.  He had six goats that he needed to learn to identify at the beginning so visual aides were created and strategies were devised to help him with this.  We also incorporated labeling and task list for the setup and the milking procedures.  We also devised simulated hay bale to practice proper lifting and carrying techniques, a milking strainer/lid that has to be correctly inserted, math practice time sheets for recording his time and photos and quizzes for identifying all the goats.  As the weather changed, so did the tasks.  To help devise shortcuts and problem solving for the getting the grain in a trough that was difficult to fill due to its location in the hay shelter, I attempted to find a way for Chris to fill it.  The goats surrounded and blocked me in to get to the feed.  One goat just went right through my legs, and I ended up just sitting on the goat while he ate.  Chris has never let me forget that episode.  Goats will also try and “get your goat” by being at the door to be milked first and respond to other’s names.  On this particular day, Chris and I both got the wrong goat three times due to the lighting changes (daylight savings time), their wintry changes and because they “tricked” us. We look forward to sharing more of the goat’s antics and shenanigans and to be involved with helping with the kidding process, welcoming the newborn “kids” that are due in a few weeks.  This will also be a new experience and adventure for Chris.

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