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Farm Focus: Z Bar Z Farm

By Tyler Francke, Contributing Writer | Photos by Diane Keith

ZBar Z Farm in Macksburg is not your typical family farm. Rather than vegetable starts or flats of ripe berries, they specialize in a commodity that’s a little, uh, hairier — and a lot more fun.

Pygmy goats are the name of the game, and according to owner Laurie Zeise, the breed makes the perfect pet or 4-H project for the aspiring farmer or ranch hand in your neck of the woods.

“They are small, they are affordable, they are friendly and cannot hurt a child,” explains Laurie, who is also a 4-H leader and runs the pygmy goat program for the Clackamas County Fair. “I believe it’s important for kids to be involved in livestock. It teaches them so much, so many responsibilities. They learn how to keep the barns clean. They learn how to feed them to keep them healthy.”

Their size is also a big selling point. Pygmy goats are the smallest form of livestock in theCanby 4H, Getting Their Hands Dirty“> 4-H program (poultry birds and rabbits are not considered livestock), which also makes them the easiest to transport and the most affordable to feed.

“They travel easily,” Laurie says. “You don’t have to have a big fancy trailer and leather and silver. They are quite affordable.”

Laurie has been breeding and raising pygmy goats for nearly 30 years, since her daughter, Angie Zeise (who’s also a fixture at the annual Clackamas County Fair), broke her ankle in the sixth grade and needed a diversion.

“She needed something she could do at home, something to focus on,” Zeise recalled. “We went to the fair and looked at all the animals, and the pygmy goats were in the very last barn. She took one look and said, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ And that’s how the whole goat thing got started.”

In more recent years, the Z Bar Z operation has been greatly assisted by Laurie’s granddaughter, local 4-H member Kaylee Hettinger, who plans to attend veterinary school after graduating from high school next year. Kaylee is an integral part of the Z Bar Z work crew and does most of the showing for the ranch’s prize show animals.

Speaking of which, Z Bar Z recently achieved some national recognition — and the fulfillment of a longtime dream — when one of their little goats brought home some big honors, being crowned with the coveted title of national grand champion buck by the National Pygmy Goat Association at its annual convention in Red Bluff, California.

The 2-year-old caramel-colored pygmy buck and newly minted grand champion is known as OhMickeyYou’reSoFine, or simply, Mickey.

“It’s a big deal,” Laurie says. “This doesn’t happen every day. I’ve been breeding goats since 1995, and I’ve competed nationally five or six times but never won before. He’s a beautiful animal, but you just never know. There was some strong competition.”

Some of the stiffest competition came from very close to home, as Kaylee was also at the national competitions, showing her gray agouti buck Skies the Limit — a master champion in his own right.

But Mickey boasted a championship pedigree. His sire, a product of Fair View Pygmy Goats, was last year’s national champion — and that’s not all.

“The great-grandsire was national champion in 2011, and another buck from that line was champion in 2015,” Laurie says. “The lineage of these animals is really strong. Kaylee and I are so very grateful to have this piece of the legends before him.”

Pygmy goats, like other livestock, are shown and evaluated by expert judges on how well they conform to the “ideal” animal based on agreed-upon breed standards and characteristics.

“We raise the animals with a lot of hands-on care, obviously,” Laurie says. “We feed very well. These animals eat what we call green gold — alfalfa — and very high-quality grain mixes. They’re lead-trained from about two to three weeks old, and we handle them daily.”

The stars, like Mickey, get their own stalls and their own runs — with custom padding (which can be sophisticated or as DIY as sliced-up pipe insulation or pool noodles) to protect the ranch’s investment.

“The bucks like to rub on the fences and things, and well, he’s that long, silky white hair,” Zeise said with a laugh. “We don’t want him pulling it out.”

Z Bar Z Farm is located in Macksburg, Oregon, or come visit them in the Ely Barn at the Clackamas County Fair, August 15 through 19. For more information, email