One man and his goats

  • Jose Medeiros milking his goats (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Jose Medeiros bought some goats a decade ago, thinking three would be plenty.

He'd just got rid of his cows as they were so expensive, but still wanted a grazing animal.

Goats fit the bill.

In the rural village he came from in the Azores, nearly everyone kept a couple in their backyard for milk and meat.

“I had four brothers and we had to take turns milking the goats,” he said. “I also had to milk the cows starting at age 9. Sometimes it was so cold in the Azores you couldn't close your hands properly, so I really didn't like having to do these things. But when you grow up, you comprehend things differently. In Bermuda, I used to keep 13 cows. I switched to goats because they don't eat as much. Then, I really got addicted to them.”

A couple of years ago, when his herd grew to 35, he decided it was time they started paying rent.

Fortunately, Windy Bank Farm, J & J Produce and Tucker's Farm were all interested. On a good day, Jose and his son Jason will truck 40 quarts of milk to them; Tucker's Farm turns it into cheese.

“We had a really good April but now they are just not producing as much. It's the heat and humidity,” said Jose. “When things go wrong I always say I'm going to sell them. Then the next week I forget all about that and I'm ordering another goat.”

Jose was born in Povoação in Sao Miguel. He moved to Bermuda in 1968 when he was 13.

“My father came here first,” he said. “Back then the law said that he couldn't bring his family. Then it changed, but he had to be here seven years before he could bring his wife and family over.

“I went to Gilbert [Institute] and they put me in the highest grade. I didn't know how to say anything. I left school at 15. I said to my father I want to get out of school, I want to work.”

He got a job in construction. When he retired five years ago, he bought Brighton Lane Goat Farm.

Jason reluctantly began helping just over a year ago. His plate was full with his own business, Medeiros Construction.

“I did curse myself for getting involved, a little,” he said. “We are busy at work, so it is hard. But my father has been helping me out a lot with my business. So I go and pick up the feed and hay for him.”

He also watches the herd when his father goes on vacation.

“We give the goats a break from producing milk in December and January,” Jason said. “That's about the only time my father and mother, Teresa, can take a vacation.

“There's not many places that have good weather at that time, other than the islands. My mother would like my father to sell the goats so they could travel more.”

The experience was enough to get him hooked; he recently bought one of his own.

“She's 11 weeks old and her name is Stitch,” Jason said. “She is a LaMancha goat, an American breed. Goats are just like dogs. You can't train them, but they are affectionate and follow you around. They definitely know you.”

Whenever someone new comes to the farm, the goats' heads pop up and their ears perk; if there's a strange dog they make a sneezing noise to warn each other.

His father has tried to cut down his herd but they've proven difficult to sell, Jason said.

“People here don't want to pay more than $400 for them,” he said. “In the United States, if you asked someone there to sell a goat for less than $400 they'd look at you like you were crazy. There are a few other people with goats but it is really a Portuguese thing.

“When you bring them in from overseas it costs at least $1,000 to land them. You have to find an airline that will bring them in. Sometimes you have to pay to have the goat you're buying transported from the farm to an airport that will deal with them.

“Then when you get them here the feed costs $22 a bag — and we use a bag a day.”

Although they're often portrayed as the opposite, goats are actually fussy eaters, he added.

“They're very, very picky. You could give six the same feed and three would love it, two would nibble at it and the other would refuse to eat it at all.

“Some of the goats don't even like to eat out of the trough if another goat has already been in there eating.”

There's one diva in the herd that insists on being milked by hand.

“She doesn't like the sound of the milking machine,” said Jose. “It makes her kick.”

Ironically, Jason's the only one who drinks the milk.

“My father doesn't like it, but I think there's nothing better than fresh goat milk straight from the farm,” he said. “I don't like it pasteurised though. I think that gives it more of a gamy taste.”

•Watch our Brighton Lane Goat Farm video here: