LDS ward trains to help East African Refugee Goat Project of Utah

Saturday , March 18, 2017 - 5:00 AM

JANAE FRANCIS, Standard-Examiner Staff

SOUTH OGDEN — Sometimes compassionate service is just plain fun.

That’s what members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Spring Canyon Ward were discovering last weekend.

A half-dozen ward members surrounded themselves with baby goats as they attended training on goat birthing at the Bells Goats farm in South Ogden.

“I was raised on a farm,” said Mary Cornelsen. “I thought it would be worthwhile to help with the goats.”

Volunteers will take what they learned to two-hour shifts at a ranch that supports the East African Refugee Goat Project of Utah.

The ranch, directly west of the Salt Lake City International Airport, supports the project by selling goat meat, leasing goats for grazing, supporting 4-H projects for refugee children and creating jobs for refugee communities that tend the goats, according to information distributed by the project.

“The herd is the core of an increasingly successful program designed to foster economic opportunity for transplanted Somali Bantu, Burundi and Somali Bajuni refugees who know about raising goats,” according to the information. Goats “were a big part of their community life in their war-torn homelands.”

Almost two dozen members of the Spring Canyon Ward are receiving training to act as goat midwives during kidding season at the ranch. 

“The whole purpose is to give service to the refugee community,” said Twila Bird, who is coordinating the project in the Spring Canyon Ward. “They can’t do this on their own. The refugees themselves are taking shifts.”

Bird said experience is not required.

“Most of the volunteers have never done anything remotely like this before, but are game to give it a try and help where help is needed,” Bird said.

At the class last weekend, the volunteers were instructed to call for ranch workers to assist them if they discover goats that are about to give birth.

“When a goat wants to start having babies, she will generally leave the herd,” said Steve Bell, owner of Bells Goats. He told volunteers of other signs of stress, such as making noise and pawing at the ground.

“Your job is just to assist and make sure everything is OK,” Bell said, instructing the students to call for ranch workers when they see a doe in labor.

As a precaution, volunteers learned to give newborn goats medicine and to put iodine on their umbilical cords. They were taught how to remove birthing sacs from the noses of newly born baby goats so they won’t drown. 

“When the doe has the first one, she isn’t paying attention to the second one. She is cleaning the first,” Bell said. 

They also learned to dry wet baby goats with a hair dryer if necessary, as they can’t nurse until they are dry. 

Keeping the goats clean and not mixing baby goats with mothers of other goats is important, Bell said.

Mostly, he said, keep thinking while helping during the birthing process.

“Every birth is different,” he said. “Every doe is going to be different.”

According to information released by the ranch, kidding started around March 12 and will continue for four to six weeks.

Anyone over the age of 12 can register to be a volunteer to help with the project, organizers said.

“They prefer them to be 12 unless they can handle birth and death,” Bell said.

For information about volunteering, send an email to

You may reach reporter JaNae Francis at or 801-625-4228. Follow her on Twitter at @JaNaeFrancisSE or like her on Facebook at 

Sign up for e-mail news updates.