Ace and Other Magnificent (Fainting) Goats. Recipe: Goat Tagine.

Ace was magnificent. His thick, cocoa colored fur rose to a spikey crest down his backbone and his curved horns were ridged, thick and powerful. Although he resembled a thug, equipped with Mohawk and weapons, he had a gentle disposition and would tip over when startled, just like the rest of the herd: Ace was a Tennessee Fainting Goat.


Doug and I had discussed getting goats when we first arrived at the farm. Goats are small, friendly and can provide fiber, dairy products or meat. We decided on meat goats (since goats’ meat is the most widely eaten meat in the world, and is considered a delicacy in many countries--see the SGT article about goats.) We researched several breeds of meat goats, and finally decided on Fainters. Tennessee Fainting Goats have a genetic condition called Myotonia, which causes them to stiffen or fall over when startled. Basically, their hind legs lock up and they crow hop along, or tip over in what resembles a faint, unable to right themselves until their leg muscles relax. Kids tend to faint more readily than mature does (females), bucks (males) and wethers (castrated males), but they will all lock up when truly startled. This startle reflex doesn’t hurt them and for us, it is pretty amusing. It also makes them easier to handle and keeps them from escaping over fences. They are a medium sized breed, topping out at about 80 pounds, and they are not aggressive as some goat breeds can be.


Libby, Leona and SilviaLibby, Leona and SilviaAce, Libby, Leona and Silvia arrived on a fine May morning. We settled them into their new home: a shelter made of ply-wood and 2x4s and a large fenced pasture where they were free to browse and frolic (and faint). Goats eat grasses, weeds and unwanted brush (stinging nettle and ragweed are goat favorites.) As our herd grew from 4 to 25 goats (in about 4 years), we moved them around the farm and used them to control weeds and clear out overgrown wooded areas. The only special care they needed was hoof trimming, annual shots, and deworming. They also needed supplemental feed and a heated pen to get them through the coldest of the winter months, but otherwise, they browsed the farm fields through the summer months and ate hay during the winter.


Kidding always seemed to happen on the coldest, dampest nights, and such was the case with Sylvia’s first kids: Simon and Sadie. Sylvia was a wonderful mother, got them dry and warm quickly, and soon they were “gamboling” about the place, playing leap frog and chasing each other over and around the other does.


Our first goat disaster hit the following winter. Tennessee Fainting Goats aren’t adapted to the bitter cold of Minnesota winters and need to be kept inside with a heat source close by. One blustery evening, we found Simon cold and stiff outside the warmth of the heat lamp. He was still breathing, so we brought him inside the house and tried to warm him up. It was touch and go for about an hour, but luckily the cold hadn’t gone to his lungs and he perked up as he got warm. He lived in our basement for the last cold weeks of winter, and was returned to the barn when the weather lost its bite. 


Simon, our first male kid, was wethered at about a month old and was the first meat goat we intended to harvest. Here’s the irony of producing your own meat: You put love and care into the production of all your livestock: feed them and watch them grow, battle to keep them healthy and strong, and then you send them to the meat locker to be slaughtered, butchered and packaged for your freezer.


I have been criticized for eating my “pets”. I have been called many different unflattering things because I name my animals, and treat them well. I tame them, scratch their backs, play with them and take pride when they thrive…and then I eat them. Having a personal relationship with the animals I eat is something I owe them. They lead good lives with lots of fresh air, plentiful food, and sunshine. They have a healthy herd, a dry place to sleep and protection from the weather. I know what they eat; I don’t use any chemicals or growth boosters; and at the end of the day, I am grateful for the food they put on my table. That’s the best answer I can give critics and the best service I can provide for these gifts of nature.


Fruited Goat Tagine


2 lbs. goat meat (roast, leg, ribs, cubes)

2 T olive oil

2 cups sliced onion

1½ t each ground ginger, ground cumin, ground coriander

1 t crushed red pepper

¼ t ground cardamom

4 cloves minced garlic

2 whole cinnamon sticks

2 cups fat free, low sodium broth (chicken or vegetable)

1½ c orange sections (about 3 oranges)

2 chopped mangoes

½ c golden raisins

3 cups cooked couscous

¼ c slivered almonds


Place the goat meat in a crock pot. 

In a separate pan, sauté the onions in olive oil until soft.  Stir in the ginger, cumin, coriander, red pepper, cardamom and the garlic.  

Add sauteed onions and spices to the goat in the crock pot.  Pour in the broth and add the cinnamon sticks.  Cook on high setting for 3 hours.  Add the oranges, mangoes and raisins. Cook for an additional 2 hours on high.

Serve with couscous and top with toasted slivered almonds.


 Robin Trott grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore, MD and dreamed of the country life. These dreams came true on the eve of her 40th birthday. Along with her three daughters and husband, she packed up her things and moved to rural west central Minnesota. The years following this major life move have been full of new experiences: raising pigs, poultry, cattle and horses; cut flower production, market gardening, harvesting and preserving food, and living a simple life (read: really, really hard work!). The rewards of the fresh air, good neighbors, clear night skies, and home grown produce and meat are well worth all the sweat and tears put into the farm. She is a devoted “sustainable” farmer, educator, and local food advocate. Her last article for SGT was: And then there were ducks.