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    Family Has Big Love for Pygmy Goats

    Janet and Wayland Efird had no intention of raising goats. They bought Sugar, a white pygmy goat, 10 years ago because their daughter wanted a pet. Then they decided Sugar, the goat, needed a companion so they bought Honey, another pygmy goat.

    Honey had two babies, or kids, and one goat led to another.

    Now, they're raising 22 miniature goats in a barn behind their house on 5 acres in rural Red Cross, N.C., and most of their free time goes to caring for their goat herd.

    "We fell in love," Janet says. "Once you see them, you're hooked."

    Janet sat on a wooden cable spool in one of their pens and Bambi, a Nigerian dwarf goat with light brown hair and blue eyes, jumped onto her lap. As Janet rubbed Bambi behind the ears and nuzzled her neck, Laney, a little doe, tried to head-butt Bambi out of the way so she could get a little nuzzling.

    "Miss Laney is mad," Janet says, so she rubbed Laney's back. Blueberry, another Nigerian, chewed on Janet's jacket until Janet turned and rubbed her neck. Then, from across the pen came a loud "Maa-aaa-aa." Bailey, a pregnant goat nearly ready to deliver, was calling.

    "If you have your hands on them from the time they're born, they're more loving," Janet says. "Goats seem to adapt to you more, recognize you, and follow you around."

    For the first eight weeks of each goat's life, Janet, Wayland, and their daughter, Hannah, 21, spend hours every day cuddling the newborn goat kids. They sit on cable spools in the pens or on a white metal swing suspended from the roof of the barn with one, two and sometimes three baby goats in their arms.

    All that loving pays off. Goats from the Efirds' Peach Tree Farm have such sweet personalities, there's a waiting list for them. "They're happy goats," says Brenda Todd, who bought two.

    The Efirds raise registered pygmies and Nigerian dwarfs, both miniature goats native to Africa, less than 2 feet tall and weighing 40 to 70 pounds.

    They sell for up to $250, but that's not the point. This is, after all, the Efirds' hobby. They both have jobs - Wayland inspects natural gas lines, Janet is a home health care clinic receptionist.

    "As far as making money," Wayland says, "you don't make much."

    The goat industry is growing as fast as the Efirds' herd. The American Goat Society, a purebred dairy goat registry, registers about 3,500 new goats every year. Most people buy miniature goats for pets, says Amy Kowalik, the registry's office manager. Others buy them for their milk (up to two quarts a day). A small number buy them for the meat.

    "They don't require as much space or feed as their large dairy cousins," Kowalik says. "They're easier to manage, and they have a wonderful temperament."