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Johnston City youth finds success on the goat circuit

  • Cade Cockburn with one of his kids.

    Cade Cockburn with one of his kids.
    Courtesy of Channa Cockburn

  • Cade Cockburn, left, and his cousin, Kynli, do much of the work at Cade's Lil Farm.

    Cade Cockburn, left, and his cousin, Kynli, do much of the work at Cade's Lil Farm.
    Holly Kee photo

Posted on 6/21/2017, 1:00 AM

JOHNSTON CITY -- If E.B. White's Charlotte were to write her web message about Cade Cockburn, the message would undoubtedly be "Some kid."

The 14-year-old Johnston City youth is not only a straight-A honor student, he participates in scholar bowl, drama, math team, pep club, and is the class president. He's also the father of 60 kids -- goats, that is.

The owner of "Cade's Lil Farm," Cockburn raises Nigerian Dwarf goats. He averages 60 at any given time, but has had as many as 80 when kids are on the ground.

Cade got his start in the goat industry in a rather peculiar way.

"I was in the hospital in St. Louis for 10 days and it was one of the days they thought I was gone," he said. "I had been wanting a goat. My dad leaned over and said, 'Just get better and we'll get a couple of goats.'

"I woke up a few days later and asked, 'When are we getting those goats?'" he said with a grin.

Cade recovered from the C-DEF infection that nearly claimed his life and so began what Cockburn's mother, Channa, calls "the goat circuit."

"We do about seven shows a year," she said. The family has traveled as far as Missouri, Iowa and Wisconsin to participate in sanctioned dairy goat shows.

"We show to promote our herd," said Cade, who has taken his own herd above the level of pet, breeding to produce structurally sound animals for the show ring as well as those that are productive.

In fact, Cade is at the top of an industry that is just beginning to burgeon with importance.

"People are starting to get more interested in the Nigerian Dwarfs because of their small size and ease of handling. They're a good first goat for people," said Cade.

Cade's Lil Farm was recently awarded the sole Illinois license to sell fresh goat milk for human consumption. Cade, whose dad, Travis, holds the farm's license, said milk from the Nigerian Dwarf breed has a "butter content that is through the roof. You can make more cheese with less milk," he said.

Cade said the milk can also be used for butter, soap and the family favorite, ice cream.

"It's a requirement for family gatherings that we bring ice cream," he said. "Goat milk makes the best ice cream in the world. You can only eat one bowl because it's so rich."

According to Cade, the goat milk is better for lactose intolerant people, since it has much less lactose than cow's milk.

Owning a herd is a lot of work, but Cade gets help from his family, including his 9-year-old cousin, Kynli.

"She helps with the shows, the milking, feeds the bottle babies, and puts the goats in their stalls," he said.

The work on a farm never stops. During the school year, Cade gets up early to feed and care for his herd.

"When I get home, I do my homework then I work until night," he said. "In the summer, it's an all-day job."

That never-ending work is starting to pay off. "Now that we are out doing shows and people see what we are doing, we are starting to make a little money," Cade said.

Goat milk customers call ahead and bring their own containers, paying $8 per gallon. State law requires goat milk be sold within five days of milking, but so far, his supply hasn't lasted that long.

Cade is preparing for a July kid and hopes to add five more in the fall. He maintains a website for his farm,

Cade, who will be a freshman at Johnston City High School, hopes to major in animal science and become a livestock vet. "I've had a lot of practical experience," he said. "I think I have a good head start."

He wants to attend Southern Illinois University, then transfer to the University of Missouri to complete a veterinarian science degree. He hopes Kynli will join him in private practice, if he can convince her to give up becoming a teacher.

It's quite clear that this 14-year-old is one terrific kid himself.

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