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One kid at a time

By ANNE WANGMAN

 

Long before the Jan. 12 earthquake devastated Haiti, Mapleton veterinarian Ken Schumann, a member of the World Community Service Committee of the Hartland-Lake Country Rotary Club, was helping the impoverished nation. In 1994 at the request of Rotary, Schumann, who owns a dairy goat herd, made his first trip to Haiti to research the way goats were bred and raised. As a result, the Goat Husbandry Project was born.

Because of the lack of refrigeration, goats in Haiti are used mainly for meat, not milk. "A goal was to improve the size of the Haitian goats by breeding them with healthier American goats, resulting in more meat and improved protein," he explains. The first group of Nubian bucks was shipped to Haiti in 1996, and the program has been growing ever since.

In 2002 Schumann and Volmar Berthomieux, a Haitian veterinary technician, teacher and organizer, started the Mirebalais Goat Husbandry Project. Berthomieux teaches local farmers goat husbandry during a week-long series of classes. Upon completion, class members are each given a pregnant goat and shown how to examine and treat it. In exchange, the farmers return the first female offspring to the project. Berthomieux and a team of veterinary agents trained by Schumann and other American vets provide follow-up visits to ensure proper medical care and breeding of does with the imported bucks. While goats average two kids per litter, Schumann estimates that number could be less in Haiti due to poor nutritional practices and parasites. Does are bred from ages 1 1/2 to 10 1/2, potentially producing 20 to 30 kids in a lifetime and providing an income for the farmer.

Approximately 175 farmers have participated in the project since its inception. "Dr. Ken," as they refer to Schumann, gets many requests to stop by so they can thank him. "I can never seem to find the time," he says. This comes as no surprise since he is involved in several other initiatives around Haiti, from providing solar ovens to working on the Vision Project founded by his wife, Gerry. "I hope to be able to visit and see how they are doing with their goats when I go to Haiti in September."

An ongoing challenge is fundraising. It takes $125 to train one farmer and supply a pregnant goat. If you’d like to contribute, please send donations to Lake Country Foundation, 142 E. Capitol Drive, Hartland, WI 53029, Attn: Goat Project.