Time spent with animals can improve our health.
If you’re feeling stressed from all the world’s problems, hug a baby goat to restore your inner joy. No kidding — it’s like therapy.
That’s the recommendation of Kathy Mullins, founder of A Better Way Farm and Goat Dairy, which is nestled in bucolic pastures just outside of Charlottesville, Va.
“All my stress instantly melts away,” says Mullins when she goes outside for a dose of baby goat hugging.
“It’s impossible to feel anything but joy,” she says when playing with the average 150 babies born on her farm each year, mostly from January through April, with about 20-40 kids — baby goats — at any given time during kidding season.
Mullins, along with a growing number of goat farms across the nation, offer baby goat cuddling sessions to the public. It’s a recent trend that’s emerged as a way to support smaller-scale farming operations and seen as a triple win for all involved. “More farmers are finding this is a great way to share what we do with the public — the joy of goats,” she says. “Meantime, visitors tremendously benefit from getting ‘loved on’ by the baby goats. I get people that come for ‘regular therapy’ and say it’s a stress reliever.” In addition, she says, the baby goats also flourish. “It socializes them and makes them friendly.”
Mullins, who used to “work for corporate America making really decent money as a programmer” — a career she loved because of the mental challenges the job provided — decided to leave it all to follow her soul’s yearning to spend more time in nature because she craved the outdoors.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) recent reports for 2020, there are about 2.66 million goats and kids in the United States, up 1 percent from 2019.
Studies show that the bond between people and animals such as baby goats or other pets can make a positive impact on health. Among the benefits listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) include:
- Decreased blood pressure
- Decreased cholesterol levels
- Decreased triglyceride levels
- Decreased feelings of loneliness
- Increased opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities
- Increased opportunities for socialization
“I do have one major rule that I tell everyone when they come,” says Mullins. “Do not put your fingers in the babies’ mouths! Baby goats like to nibble on everything, and if you let them, they will nibble on your fingers,” she says. “While people think this is very cute, they don’t think about the fact that they are putting all their germs directly into the babies’ mouths. I’m always watching to give reminders if needed — the health of my baby goats is of utmost concern.”
Meantime, bliss permeates A Better Way Farm, and smiles are abundant as guests are immersed in play with the baby goats. “I get so much enjoyment out of seeing people come and having their first experience with baby goats,” says Mullins.
“Adorable little bundles of bouncing, happy balls of fluff. What could be better?” she says about her sweet serenity restorers.