When an ad for a one-week-old miniature goat appeared on Gumtree six years ago, Gidgegannup’s Tahlia Baxter believed it was “meant to be”.
At the time, the then-teenager was going through a “dark time” in her life with depression and was looking for a project to work on.
“I was having a moment of creativity,” she said.
But it wasn’t an art or construction project that she landed on, it was a miniature goat called Diego.
“I saw little Diego and saved the ad and left it for a couple of days ... I thought Mum wouldn’t be happy if I brought him home,” she laughed.
“In those two days I did a ridiculous amount of research.
I kept checking the ad and he was still there so I just decided to jump in my little Corolla and pick him up.
The tiny goat became her best friend and little shadow, and with Diego needing to be bottle-fed every few hours, the pair spent every waking moment together.
Having grown up on a small farm in the rural town 40km north-east of Perth, Ms Baxter has always loved animals.
But when the “black dog” came into her life, the competitive showjumper even stopped riding.
She credits having Diego to take care of for turning things around.
“Diego literally got me back on my horse,” Ms Baxter said.
Everywhere I went, he was there — he just wanted to be with me 24/7.
Six years later, she is all smiles as she talks about the little wether that started it all, and she is now a registered breeder of the animals with her Diego Valley Miniature Goat Stud.
“I just fell in love with them,” she said.
Her Australian Miniatures, Miniature Anglo-Nubians and Nigerian Dwarfs have found homes as pets and dairy goats across the State, from the Perth Hills and metro area, to the Mid West and Wheatbelt.
“They’re so fantastic — they’re built for the Australian conditions,” Ms Baxter said. “They’re very hardy, they’re very easy to keep and they make fantastic pets.”
Her journey has seen her explore the world of genetics, using artificial insemination of US stock to breed the very first Nigerian Dwarf in WA. “From there my passion just grew,” she said.
One of her two stud bucks — Jitterbug — is 75 per cent Nigerian Dwarf.
Ms Baxter offers consultancy for new breeders and pet owners, providing lessons on things such as trimming hooves.
She has also shown her goats, with one doe, Lollipop, winning a national contest last year.
“That was really fantastic to get feedback from judges over east to know that the breeding I’m doing, I’m doing in the right way,” Ms Baxter said.
“The biggest one for me is temperament.
“I want to breed goats that are loving and want to be around you.”
She said they were popular for milking, with the smaller stature of the miniature goats meaning they were easier to look after and required less feed.
Goat’s milk is fantastic for people who can’t have cow’s milk, as an alternative.
With the animals’ popularity as pets, Ms Baxter hopes those who buy them get as much joy from them as she has.
“They’re so funny, you can watch them for hours, with all the little things they do and their jumps,” she said.
“They’re constantly intrigued by what you’re doing, so it kind of takes your mind off if something hard is going on in your life.”
Every goat has its own unique personality, and that’s what I love about them — they’re so so unique when you get to know them and they have so much to give.
“I did a lot of research and that’s the biggest thing when I sell my goats I tell people that they have to do a lot of research, they’re not just backyard pets, they make fantastic pets but they are livestock.”