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Ray and Judy Cox have 100 kids

Ray and Judy Cox of Limestone County have 100 kids, and they even let a few of them sleep in the house. If these kids were humans, making most sleep outside would probably be considered child abuse; but, since their kids are baby goats, it is an act kindness. 

In early January, north Alabama experienced temperatures in the low twenties and middle teens for a couple of consecutive nights. Two five week-old orphaned kids, that Judy is raising on a bottle, were allowed to sleep in a cage on an enclosed porch adjoining the dining area of their home.

As for the human variety of “kids,” Judy and Ray have seven grown children. They are all married and scattered about. Maybe this is one of the reasons they turned to Boer goats as an avocation, and as a source of supplemental income. But Judy cautions, “Raising Boar goats can be expensive. You can drop a bundle of money on medicine for one sick kid. When you raise them in your back yard, you try to keep them well regardless of the cost. We raise our goats from the heart and not the head.” 

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Judy Cox finds it takes a lot of TLC to raise her family of 100 kids.
About 15 years ago, before Ray retired from the mobile home and boat manufacturing business, he decided that he wanted a pet. Judy got him one . . . a goat. When the first one was killed by dogs, they fenced an area, and she got him a second. The rest is history. 

The twentieth century American poet Ogden Nash wrote: 

“The trouble with kittens is 
That they grow up to be cats.” 

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Ray Cox pets one of his billy goats as several nannies wait their turn.

Ray and Judy started out raising pigmy goats to be sold as pets. But they soon discovered that the same thing is true of young pigmy goats that Nash attributed to kittens. After the goats were grown, nobody wanted to keep them. Since the pigmy goat was not large enough to produce meat, they turned to brush goats. In 1999, they began raising Boer goats. Ray explains, “The Boer goat was introduced from South Africa in the early 1990s.” 

The migration of a significant Latin American population into the Southeastern United States in the 1990s brought a market for goat meat. Ray and Judy recognized the potential for production of a meat type goat. The overwhelming choice for goat meat production was the Boer goat. 

So, in 1999 they bought their first Boer goats. They started with several nannies and one billy. They now have about 60 nannies and two billies. Their newest billy was sired by a billy that fetched $45,000 on the Nashville market four years ago. Although they did not pay anywhere near that much for their second billy, they did invest a handsome sum in him. 

The Coxes recognize that in order to produce a good meat goat one has to have an outstanding billy and breed up. Quality breeding pays dividends. For example, Ray sold one young billy which weighed eight pounds at birth, 20 pounds in 20 days, and 28 pounds in less than a month. 

Ray explains, “Unlike cattle and hogs, Boer goats can be registered as 50% Boer and up until [what is considered to be] a 100% is produced. And a pure bred boer goat is readily identifiable by its solid white body and red [reddish brown] head.” 

But he cautions, “Buy your breeding stock from a reputable producer, because a seemingly good looking billy may not be what it appears to be and can produce scrawny goats. You have to have good genetics to produce good offspring that have heavy carcasses which, in turn, have an ample amount of good meat.” 

And, of course, the goats must have a good nutritional program. Ray and Judy get their shelled corn from John Curtis at Limestone Farmers Co-op in Athens, 

The Komondor is a Hungarian breed of sheep and goat dogs which the Coxes prefer to the Anatolian dogs, although they have one of those as well.
which is only about four or five miles up U.S. Highway 31 from where they live on Nuclear Plant Road. This is fed with soybean hull and sweet feed. 

The nutritional program also includes ample pasture of fescue, clover, and some Bermuda. Ray states, “Goats are browsers instead of grazers. They will eat one clump and move on to another. They will even eat weeds as they browse.” 

Judy observes, “Goats are much more picky or selective than most people think. They don’t eat cans and other rubbish as is commonly believed.” 

Ray points out that goat meat is actually the number one meat in the world and approximately two billion pounds of goat meat are shipped into the United States each year. He asserts, “Goats are not a fad, but the staple diet of many cultures from the Middle East to Mexico and South America.” One reason is that goat meat is not marbled like beef and pork. All of the goat’s fat is outside of the muscle tissue which is the source of meat in all animals.” 

Ray states that, no matter what product you are promoting, one has to find its niche in the market. Judy and Ray’s niche is in direct sales on the farm to the Latino population in Limestone and surrounding counties in the Tennessee Valley. 

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Ray Cox says that his goat mailbox is the best sign he could display to let his customers know that they have arrived at R & J Critter Farm.

He states, “My customers like to negotiate the price before making a purchase. Sometimes it would take 30 minutes or more to determine the price for a single goat. To solve that problem Judy bought a hanging scale [similar to a cotton scale, but with smaller weight increments] and a wide band to place under the goats belly to comfortably raise it off the ground. When the customers are able to see the exact live hanging weight of the goats, they willingly pay the going rate of a dollar a pound.” 

As a Kansas native from near Dodge City (who married a Tennessee girl), Ray’s previous experience with livestock was cattle related. While growing up in Kansas in the 1940s, he observed cattle drives. Although the long drives from South Texas had ended with the advent of the railroad, Kansas cattle ranchers 

still found it easier to drive their cattle to the rail heads in towns such as Dodge City and Abilene. 

Ray recalls, “I remember seeing these cattle drives as local ranchers brought their cattle to the markets in Dodge for shipment to the stockyards in Chicago. U.S. Highway 160 was often closed for two hours or more at a time to drive the cattle across. But that really didn’t matter that much because in the 1940s maybe two or three cars would have to wait for the cattle to cross the highway. As recently as five years ago Judy and I saw a sign on the Kansas plains that read ‘Open Range.’” 

Ray also recalls that when those sweaty, unbathed cowboys, who had driven these herds for several days, would hit the restaurants and saloons local residents didn’t like it, but the owners of these businesses didn’t seem to mind because the regular visits of cowboys was one of their main sources of income. 

Judy remarks, “I’m glad I saw that country, but I wouldn’t want to live there. You can stand on a rise and look as far as the eye can see and actually see nothing but prairie. No telephone poles, fences, or anything.” 

Ray also states that one can stand on a certain high place over a well not far from Dodge City and see a definite depression or swag in the land, where the cattle trail had been, even though it is now overgrown with grass. This is a mute testimony to the thousands and thousands of cattle which were driven northward through Kansas from Texas and Oklahoma from approximately 1870 to about 1910. 

Currently Judy and Ray have about 60 nannies. With a gestation period of five months and three months nursing, a nanny can have three pregnancies in two years. Each pregnancy usually produces two, and occasionally three, offspring. Ray says, “If the nanny produces on schedule, she can give us $450 to $500 in saleable product every two years.” 

Ray and Judy have ten acres of open land behind their house, with a strip of woods and a creek separating the ten acres directly behind their house from an additional five acres of recently acquired open land. A portion of the ten acres looks like a miniature cattle farm with small paddocks interconnected with a series of lanes. There is a nursery with five entrances and small barn to house goats requiring special care. 

Judy states, “We enjoy raising goats. It isn’t hard work, but it takes a lot of time. Still, it has its rewards. You can’t pick up a calf and cuddle it like you can a young kid. However, we can’t bring ourselves to eat our own goats. It would like eating a pet.” 

And Ray cautions, “Raising goats is something you either like or don’t like. If you don’t like raising goats, don’t try to make a business out of it, because you won’t succeed. You have to ‘go the second mile’ to be successful raising goats.” 

Editor’s Note: Ray and Judy invite anyone interested in goats or goat production to visit them at R and J Critter Farm, 19578 Nuclear Plant Road, Tanner, AL 35671. Or call at 256-232-8289 for information and/or directions.



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Date Last Updated January, 2006