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About Our Farm

Background on Fainting Goats

This description is courtesy of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, of which we are members - Fainting Goat.  The goats of this breed have a host of names: Myotonic, Tennessee Fainting, Tennessee Meat, Texas Wooden Leg, Stiff, Nervous, and Scare goats.  The names refer to a breed characteristic known as myotonia congenita, a condition in which the muscle cells experience prolonged contraction when the goat is startled. The transitory stiffness associated with these contractions can cause the goat to fall down.  This is not a true faint, but a muscular phenomenon unrelated to the nervous system. The degree of stiffness varies from goat to goat, with some showing a consistently stiff response and others exhibiting stiffness only rarely.


The breed's history can be traced back to the 1880s.  An itinerant farm laborer named John Tinsley came to central Tennessee, reputedly from Nova Scotia.  Tinsley had with him four unusual, stiff goats.  Goats of this type gradually became known across the region.  They were less apt to climb fences and escape from pastures than other goats, and their muscular conformation and high reproductive rate were also valued.  Farmers began to appreciate them, and the numbers of "stiff," "nervous," or "fainting" goats increased. During the 1950s, some Tennessee Fainting goats were taken to the hill country of central Texas. They were further selected for meat qualities, including larger size, and came to be known as "Wooden Leg" goats.  In the late 1980s, both the Tennessee and Texas branches of this breed were rediscovered. 


The new enthusiasm for the goats diverged into two major endeavors.  One group of breeders worked in the historic tradition, emphasizing the meat qualities of the animals and selecting for growth rate, conformation, and reproductive efficiency.  The other group selected for extreme stiffness and small size, promoting the breed as a novelty animal.  As a landrace breed, Tennessee Fainting goats were always variable in size.  This variability, emphasized by recent selection, has given rise to a population which ranges in weight from 60-175 pounds.  Heavily muscled conformation is consistent among the goats. The ears of Tennessee goats are larger and more horizontal than Swiss breed goats, but smaller and less drooping than Nubian or Spanish goats.  The facial profile is usually concave. Most goats are horned, and horns vary from large and twisted to small and simple.  While most of the goats have short hair, long haired goats are not unusual and some animals produce cashmere.  Tennessee Fainting goats are found in almost all colors known in goats. 


Kidding season is always exciting, as new color combinations pop up. Since does like to keep their kids hidden for a few days, looking for these multicolored kids can be like hunting Easter eggs.  Does are prolific, with an extended breeding season, and some does will bear kids every six months.  Most does produce twins or triplets regularly and have plenty of milk to raise them. The Tennessee Fainting goat breed is gaining attention for its combination of meat traits with reproductive efficiency, and it is increasingly recognized as an important genetic resource in the United States.  Goats are being used both as purebreds and for crossing with other breeds, especially the Boer goat, a recent import from South Africa.  While crossbreeding can demonstrate the genetic value of the Tennessee Fainting goat, overuse of purebred does for crossing would threaten the survival of this unique and important American goat breed. 

It is a conservation priority.

The Story Behind the Name:

                The word ‘syncope’ is a medical term, referring to fainting or "to a state of passing out".  Our journey in finding the name for our farm began in 1996 at Bristol Regional Medical Center in the great state of Tennessee.  My husband and I had just graduated from physical therapy school at ODU and were starting out as newly weds in Jonesborough, TN.  During the first week at BRMC, I had an order to ambulate a patient with a recent hip replacement.  As I sat her up on the edge of the bed, she became light headed and fainted into the arms of another physical therapy staff member.  Unknowingly, her doctor was standing in the doorway and proclaimed, “That’s the prettiest syncope episode that I have ever seen!”  Well, the events from that day and the term stuck in my head.  That same week, my husband and I enjoyed an evening at the Appalachian State Fair in Gray, TN where we saw for our first time, Tennessee Fainting Goats.  We made a pack that day, that when we were able to start our own farm, we would include this mild tempered and hardy goat, and we would christian the name as “Syncope Falls Farm”.  While our friends and visitors with medical backgrounds quickly realize the humor in the name, several people still wonder ‘why the name?’ 

But, this is just the beginning of our story...........

We thank God for a healthy, happy herd to date. We've been raising goats for over 25 years.  Our herd has also been extremely parasite resistant and by keeping to the FAMACHA system for parasite control and along with rotational pasture grazing, we hope to continue our success.  We have added patches of AU Grazer® Sericea Lespedeza in various parts of our fields.  This is a perennial legume proven to reduce and control barber pole worms (Haemonchus Contortus) in goats and sheep while providing high quality, cost-effective forage protein.  The goats love it and we have noticed that goats that have foraged on the Lespedeza are more parasite resistant and rarely need worming.  

We also have a small herd of dairy goats to provide the milk that we use in our Southern Grace products  that we offer for sale (please see link above) and cheese/yogurt making adventures for the family.   

Our goats are mainly pasture fed and supplemented with specially milled grains during pregnancy and lactation.  The hay that is fed, as needed during the winter, is from our farm and contains a variety of grasses and clover. 

In 2007, we added to our farm the extraordinary breed of Karakachan Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGDs) by bringing back an unrelated pair from Bulgaria.  In 2008, we again went to Bulgaria and were able to acquire a male pup of completely different lineage from other Karakachans in the U.S.  In 2010, we traveled again to bring back female pups from different lineages.  You can read more about them in the Karakchan LGDs page.


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