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Sisters raising cattle, goats in Pulaski County, Va.
By JANE W. GRAHAM
SNOWVILLE, Va. (Nov. 4, 2014) — Two Pulaski County sisters who are raising cattle and goats, other animals and plants are always looking for better ways of doing things at their Smiley Farms.
Sarah Smiley and her sister Cindy Smiley Kolb said they enjoy the work it takes to raise Charolais cows, Tennessee fainting goats, pasture fed turkeys and chickens and Karakachan livestock guard dogs.
They also grow vegetables for their family on the 150-acre farm their parents established in 1972.
Each has her off-farm work as well. Sarah works in international communications and Cindy is a physical therapist.
For cattle, they have a herd of 14 Charolais brood cows and a bull, and a couple of visiting Angus. They also have a red Simmental cow.
The Angus belong to a widow whose land joins theirs.
The cows kept getting through the fence so the sisters told the neighbor to just let them stay. The cow herd is rotated through large pastures about every 21 days, Sarah said.
The myotonic or fainting goats often share the pastures with the cattle however this time of year they were in smaller paddocks for breeding.
The sisters have found a new fertilizer for the hayfield where they harvest winter feed. They use raw goat milk, Sarah said. She got the idea from a grass farming magazine and finds it works well. It is applied to the hay field twice a year.
“We tried it and we like it,” she said. There are a lot of legumes in her hay field as well as native grasses, she continued.
Some of the Charolais are registered and some are not, Sarah said.
She added she would rather have the most parasite-resistant cows she can find than papers for them.
She said they keep their own heifers for replacements if they fit their set of goals.
They want heifers that are looking good, have good genetics, are healthy, easy to breed and are good mothers.
She, like most beef producers this fall, has been pleased with the price their calves brought recently.
It is clear that Sarah loves all her animals, but she said she has a special place in her heart for her fainting goats.
They use the goats for clearing brush on the farm and for breeding with other breeds strengthen some genetic qualities. She said another attractive quality is the goat’s high meat-to-bone ratio compared to other breeds and they are very parasite resistant.
While they raise their cattle for meat, the Smileys concentrate more on breeding with regard to the goats.
Due to having myotonia, the same thing that causes multiple sclerosis in humans, the goats cannot climb fences, which makes them easier than other breeds to keep corralled. The condition is also what causes them to faint when startled.
Sarah reported that because the goats have myotonia a lot of myotonic goats are being used in research to try and find a cure for MS.
Sarah has found another use for her goat milk. She uses it in handmade beauty soap bars which she sells with the label Southern Sass Soap.
The goats are guarded by Karakachan livestock guardian dogs, also known as Bulgarian Shepherd dogs. These dogs are relatively new in the United States with the first ones coming from Bulgaria about 10 years ago, Sarah said.
The sisters imported some of their dogs from Bulgaria and raise them for their own use and to sell. They find them especially effective in keeping other dogs, coyotes and bears that roam the area away from their livestock.
The Smiley sisters also raise pasture-fed chickens. This year, they added turkeys to the mix of animals grazing their land. They process the birds on the farm and sell directly to customers.
A large vegetable garden behind Sarah’s house provides the family with lots of vegetables. Sarah is glad their mother knows how to can them.
She said it is something she and her sister need to learn to do.