The best time of the year for goat rancher Bernadette Lingo of Marble Falls was just two weeks away as she tossed food across the fence line to her 25 pregnant nannies. The mamas were pinned up in a 20-acre corral, separated from the rest of her herd of about 35.
“I enjoy the babies a lot,” Lingo said. “These are my nannies. I call them my chubs because all they do is get fat this time of the year. They should start kidding March 20.”
The best of the male kids born will be wethered (castrated) and sold to human kids who will pamper, groom, and train them to perfection. Many of the prized goats judged at stock shows in Burnet, Llano, and Blanco counties are born on Lingo’s ranch on County Road 341 off of Mormon Mill Road.
Formerly part of the original Holland Ranch, Lingo and her partner, Bradley Blaylock, purchased the 130 acres of land in 2001. An Austin native and sixth-generation Texan, Lingo moved here with Blaylock from Round Rock. The next year, they started raising Boer goats because, well, they aren’t cattle.
“We were looking to do something with the land other than wildlife,” Lingo said. “Everyone always looks at cattle first, but we asked around and talked to different people and they suggested goats. They are just easier.”
Lingo judges ease by how well she can handle them on her own. Blaylock helps with jobs that require two people, but, mostly, the goat ranching is her baby. Speaking of which, she tends to fall in love with her kids.
“I have my special babies, the ones I have to bottle feed,” she said. “It can be hard on you though. My first bottle baby died in January. She was 12 years old. She had a good long life, but it was hard. I have a couple of her babies here still.”
Those that stay on, mostly the female goats, are kept to breed. The wethers that don’t sell for stock shows are sold as meat at auction. That meat mostly goes north for fall Catholic and Muslim holidays.
Lingo lives her ranching life on an annual cycle with the spring kidding season the busiest, although the mid-February winter storm took a lot more of her time than usual.
“I was out here three times a day breaking ice, feeding them,” she said. “I was consumed with them. I didn’t work that whole week.”
Which might sound contradictory, but Lingo has two other jobs. She works from home as an information technology consultant, and she and Blaylock are co-owners of Best Little Pawn Shop on U.S. 281 in Marble Falls. She often spends weekends behind the shop’s counter.
While she said working in the pawn shop is her favorite job, watching her interact with her goats belies that assertion just a bit. She has names for some of the goats and all of her rams and dogs. One dog, Willow, a Great Pyrenees, follows her around from chore to chore, more intent on what she’s doing than watching the goats.
Lingo knows her animals. She keeps track of the lineage through the tags on their ears and learns their personalities by interacting with them. She talks to them constantly.
“They are just so funny,” she said. “They have their own personality. I call this one my PITA (pain in the ass).”
As she pet and fed and discussed each expectant mom, one bleated out a very plain “Move over!” while pushing fellow nannies out of the way to get to the food. Lingo laughed, obviously at home among her babies, enjoying the sunny weather and the bright green grass that popped up after the winter freeze. Her ranch is beautiful, an idyllic archetype of the Texas Hill Country.
“I love being outside; it keeps me active,” Lingo said when asked what she likes best about ranching. Her family finds this funny.
“My brothers and sisters all went through (agriculture classes) in high school and I didn’t,” she said. “Now I’m the one with the animals.”