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Letter: Wrong on goats, wrong for Carrboro

I am one of many urban homesteaders in Carrboro. My two backyard fainting goats have reduced decades of overgrown ivy and honeysuckle to a non-invasive status. We chose fainting goats for their gentle, non-climbing reputation.

Goats have been allowed in Carrboro for decades. On Aug. 25, the board of aldermen voted to change the tract requirements for having two adult fainting goats from 40,000 sq. feet to 25,000 sq. ft, still over half of an acre. Mayoral candidate Brian Voyce and alderman candidate Sharon Cook opposed the amendment.

Brian Voyce contended that goats harbor disease and pose a threat to public health. A goat specialist at NC State’s veterinary school said the most common ailment they treat is worms. According to the 2006 N.C. Rabies Report: “No rabies cases were identified among the following animals … goats (33 submitted).”

To understand the hyperbolic nature of Voyce’s claims, consider that Maple View Farms, the State Fair, Spence’s Farm and the Museum of Life and Science all have hands-on livestock and are among of the most popular attractions for children in our area. Parents understand the importance of such experiences for their children.

Candidate Sharon Cook seemed confused about the nature of the ordinance, insisting that it was to “allow farm animals on urban properties,” rather than merely to tweak the lot size for doing so.

Brian Voyce and Sharon Cook seem determined to stop any kind of green progress, be it small livestock or community gardens. Carrboro residents value the diversity, sustainability and progressive values that make Carrboro unique. Urban homesteading is part of that charm and is a rising trend in cities from Portland to Austin to New York. I am thankful the aldermen have kept Carrboro on the forefront of this trend.

Marianne Prince
Carrboro

6 Responses

Comments (6)

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  1. Terri Buckner

    I’m all in favor of urban farming, but discounting concerns about rabies doesn’t make any sense. Goats do get rabies and as such, if the town is going to permit goats, the BOA should petition Orange County to make rabies vaccinations a requirement for goats just as it does for other domestic animals.

    To conflate concerns over public health with an overall desire to stop “green progress” is hyperbolic. Rhetoric such as this does not promote community cohesiveness, one of the goals of the community gardening movement.

  2. marilyn kille

    This letter also appears as a “Comment” to Katrina Ryan’s Sept. 10 letter entitled: “Letter Writer Wrong.” re goat keeping.

    Unfortunately, the town’s officials have made Ms. Prince and her goats the bellwether of urban farming. And Ms. Prince, unfortunately, has responded by taking the fall-out personally.

    Further, she fostered additional opposition by making some unintelligible statements, such as goats, “like all animals, are vulnerable to disease” but that “keeping two small goats on a private lot poses little threat to public health.”

    The USDA would argue to the contrary! Why?

    According to the US Department of Agriculture, “if goats are to remain disease-free, ‘overstocking’ must be avoided.” Why? Because “Overstocking contributes to nutritional deficits [that are unique to] and life-threatening to goats, especially during bad weather.”

    Furthermore, the USDA recommends that “Goat keepers need a minimum of four separate pastures and should rotate animals every three weeks for goats to remain healthy.” Why?

    “Like deer, goats need lots of land on which to roam if they are to avoid internal parasites, particularly the microscopic blood-sucking stomach worms…that cause anemia and death.” “Moving continually and having lots of land to roam over allows goats to avoid grazing at the ground-level of plants where worms multiply from feces contamination and cause disease.”

    Based also on the USDA nutritional valuation of goats as representing 0.2AUs [animal units]; and on the NCDA’s pasture requirements for the Piedmont region, this interprets locally as, goats require a minimum of 0.4 acres per animal of well-maintained grazing land to remain healthy. That’s roughly 17,424sf per goat. Or, in Ms. Prince’s situation,35,000sf for two goats.

    In effect, by allowing the keeping of goats on a 24,829sf lot — a lot that is further compromised by having a house, driveway, other ahelters and storage structures, and other livestock — Carrboro’s leaders have opened the floodgates for serious health risks to be introduced. And without adequate controls for managing a response thereto. This is what Ms. Cook and Mr. Voyce were addressing; not the underlying concept of urban farming.

    The author, who is unknown to me, points out that Ms. Prince runs a for-profit children’s camp w/o proper permitting. This represents a blatant disregard of public health recommendations.

    Additionally, the town has disregarded its own Impervious Surface laws which are intended to protect the environment, and specifically our water quality.

    On August 25, the Board approved the amendment to allow goats. And, in a token acknowledgement to Ms. Cook’s and Mr. Voyce’s concerns, limited follow-up to researching what agency and level of government were responsible for monitoring ONLY “Rabies.”

    Once again, the Board revealed its ignorance of disease and of proper livestock management. Rabies is by far not the only “goat disease and health threat.” Has anyone heard of tuberculosis, influenza, lice? I can’t imagine a knowledgable farmer who would ever keep chickens near any other livestock species because of the inherent risk to livestock posed by poultry mites and lice.

    In the end, the USDA warns that “keeping goats is unlike keeping any other livestock because they are inordinately susceptible to a host of infectious diseases and other health conditions.”

    The USDA concludes that “The greatest risk arises when an animal is exposed to infectious materials. And, that the latter “can be introduced on visitor’s shoes, clothing, hair or skin; on the tires of vehicles; from unclean buckets, pens or pastures; from package materials; from family pets; from poor management practices and lack of vaccines and regular worming.” I suspect that Carrboro’s leaders had no idea that Ms.Prince also was providing dayycare to other’s children.

    The USDA makes is clear that knowledgeable owners routinely require visitors to wear disposable latex gloves and to dip shoe soles into bleach before handling or approaching a goat or goat habitat. And that “Blood testing for disease should be routine.” It further strongly advises agains taking goats to competitions or other off-premises venues [which may] expose both animals and humans to serious health risks.”

    Again, no one is opposing urban farming. They are opposing the keeping of this species in conditions that are counter-indicated in order to ensure the health and safety of both the animals and our citizens.

  3. Marianne Prince

    Here is a great article on urban husbandry:

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1914991-2,00.html

    Here is another one:
    http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/earth/4330961.html

  4. John Kramer PE

    This issue will solve itself when there is a public health disaster and those knowledgeable (Orange County) put the Carrboro BOA in their place.

    Hopefully no “urban farmers” will be harmed by their own lack of education. Or even worse, kids being cared for in that environment. Last I heard, it really stunk when you walked by their property. Not my words, someone else’s. I wouldn’t get within a mile of this sty.

  5. Marianne Prince

    Marilyn, are your issues with me or with the town?

  6. Marianne Prince

    I think the point of my letter is being taken out of context. I am in no way attempting to avoid providing vet care for my goats. They receive regular care from a vet that specializes in goats. They are up-to-date on their immunizations, and have been vaccinated with an off-label rabies vaccine. A legally valid rabies vaccine for goats does not exist in the US, and it is not standard practice for towns to mandate rabies vaccines in livestock. If there were an incident of rabies, any domesticated animals not vaccinated within a 5-mile radius would have to be destroyed. For me, that fact alone is enough reason for me to have my animals vaccinated.

    Raising animals is a constant education. I have done my best to educate myself through books and by talking with long-time goat owners. Owning my own goats has taught me even more, but I will not deny that I am always learning.

    The lines between urban and rural are going to become more and more blurred as we continue to encroach on and develop rural areas. The articles I have shared are to show that urban farming is a popular lifestyle for many people, and it can be (and should be) approached in ways that are non-offensive.

    We have a really tight-knit neighborhood here. One neighbor disagreed with my keeping goats and chickens, and is over 500 feet away from my house, and her concerns had more to do with property value. We have settled matters and made amends, and it is futile continue to refer to that issue.

    It is obvious that the real issue here has to do with an annexation that took place several years ago. It is no coincidence that the people who are getting upset over my goats are also all people who were annexed into Carrboro, and are oppositional to everything that the Carrboro Board of Aldermen support. That includes Sharon Cook and Brian Voyce, and you too John. I am sorry that you deal with this frustration, but I am not the person to blame. I realize that the reason you pick on me is because the town was supportive of me. They made a small amendment that would make it possible for me to obtain a legal permit to keep my goats on my lot, which is over half an acre. They made the amendment specific to my breed, and only allowed for 2 goats. The amendment protects my neighbors by requiring me to keep my goats from ever becoming a nuisance.

    If you will look at the included links, there are people who legally keep goats on lots a fraction the size of mine, and have been doing so for years. In fact, I believe they farm on about 1/10 of an acre.

    http://thomasonfamilyfarm.blogspot.com/
    http://www.pathtofreedom.com/