It happens so fast. One minute you're contemplating buying goats, the next minute you are in the middle of kidding season juggling deliveries, cleaning pens, feeding, and marketing your animals. If you're serious about it, or type A (like me), before long you are doing things like milk testing, signing up for linear appraisal, showing, and/or making cheese and soaps. Hopefully you've connected with the goat community in some way and are being mentored. Hopefully your kids or other family members are as excited about the project as you are and are helping out in the barn.
However, If you've been in the community for any period of time you've probably heard statistics about burnout.
Most of the references that I've heard claim that it happens somewhere between 3-5 years after startup. A lot of different factors can precipitate burnout. Sometimes it's that first summer after kidding season when you are struggling to sell your animals. Sometimes it's a death in the herd. Sometimes it's the reality that vacations are hard to come by when you have to monitor does during kidding season or milk your animals daily. If money is tight (which is often the case), then it becomes even harder to sustain the project. Or maybe your kids have grown and all the work is falling on your shoulders now.
I've been there. Multiple times. It's a thing.
Here's what other breeders have said . . .
(Many thanks to the members of the Nigerian Dwarf Serious Breeders Group for their insights)
Many thanks to Alex Appleman at Oak Apple farm for once again nailing farm life:
What burnout looks like:
Falling behind: Not enough time or help
Not enough money / struggling to make bills
What burnout feels like:
More work than pleasure
Unusual levels of frustration when problems arise
Feeling unusually tired
Not wanting to do things that you normally enjoy or at least tolerate
What people have done to repair the problem:
Reduce the number of goats in the herd
Sell the bottom three animals (based on LA, milk, etc.)
Take a hard look at the herd, are there any animals that make it difficult to do your "job"
Yearling milkers that won't get on the stand?
Think about the tasks that are most stressful / least fun, then work to minimize the impact of those tasks.
Streamlining processes and tasks to improve efficiency, like feeding
Space out kiddings, take a year off, breed fewer does
Take some time off of milking, breeding, showing, etc.
Go once a day, dry some does off early, or skip testing does with milk stars
Keep kids on your does so that you don't have to milk as frequently
Take care of you:
Breathe or employ other coping strategies to gain perspective
Ask yourself, are there other background or health issues that may be temporary and are affecting your feelings?
Ask for help: if designing websites are hard for you, see if a friend can help
Talk to someone you trust. Cultivate mentors and goat friends. People who are good in a storm.
If you are having a run of bad luck, remind yourself that these things don't last forever.
Get out and do something to clear your head, walking works for me. When I do that, solutions often emerge by themselves.
Take vacations (even mini-vacations) off the farm.
Schedule a time each year just for non-goat fun (one breeder takes September off)
Big Do's and Don'ts:
DON'T take drastic action! I made that mistake this year, selling two of the most beautiful does on the lot. I thought I wanted / needed the money and my entire being was screaming, "too many goats!" I forgot my incremental steps rule. Don't be me. Fortunately the buyer was a client/friend, who was really rescuing me from me. When I came to my senses we agreed on an exchange for upcoming kids so that I could keep my girls.
DO take small incremental steps, then check in on how you are feeling. Did that last cut relieve the stress? Do I need to do something more?