Tunbridge Farmer Says Goats Were Stolen From Randolph Land

  • One of the eight goats stolen from a Randolph farmer this week. The Randolph Police Department is seeking information. (Courtesy photograph)

  • Three of Amber Connolly's missing goats, in the middle from left are one-year-olds Violet, Ivy and Petunia in an undated photograph. “Pretty much I’m devastated,” Connolly said after the goats disappeared from a friend's pasture in Randolph Center, Vt. “These are my babies." (Courtesy Amber Connolly)

Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, July 14, 2017

Randolph Center — Two Upper Valley farms have lost goats in what appear to be thefts in recent weeks.

A farmer keeping goats on a friend’s property in Randolph Center found eight missing on Tuesday morning. And, last month, a Corinth couple returned home to find five goats and a male sheep gone without a trace.

The disappearances carry both financial and emotional costs.

“Pretty much I’m devastated,” said Amber Connolly, who owns the goats that disappeared in Randolph Center. “These are my babies. They’re obviously worth money too, but that’s not the point for me. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Connolly, a Tunbridge resident, discovered the goats were missing when she arrived at her friend’s Davis Road property to milk them Tuesday.

With no hole in the fence and a neighboring garden untouched, Connolly believes the five Alpines, two Nubians and one Saanen — all female dairy goats, ranging in age from 1 to 10 years old — were stolen from the field on Monday night.

Connolly estimates the goats are worth $2,800 and she is offering a $1,000 reward for their return.

In what appears to be a similar situation, Sarah and Joseph Nolin arrived home to their Hurricane Ridge Farm on Chelsea Road in Corinth on June 4 to find one Lamancha and four Alpine dairy goats, along with a Romney ram, missing from their pen, Sarah Nolin said in a phone interview on Friday.

Though the Nolins initially thought the animals had escaped and wandered off, when none of the neighbors called in response to Listserv postings and outreach to the town garage and town clerk, Sarah Nolin called the Orange County sheriff, she said.

“They just vanished without a trace,” she said.

A week later, Nolin tried calling around to auctions in New England. But, no luck.

“I’ve been hopeful all along that sometime I’ll find my animals and get them back,” she said. “If there’s somebody who’s going around taking goats, I’d really be happy if we can catch them.”

The Nolins’ goats were all 2 years old and the ram was 3 or 4, Nolin said. Together, they are worth at least $900, she said.

But the monetary value is just one measure of the family’s loss. The Nolins bottle-fed the goats for about 10 weeks when the family first got them and they were very friendly, she said.

“My kids loved them,” she said.

Connolly and her husband, Mike, first began raising goats at their home in Tunbridge about six years ago.

Connolly, who grew up in Gaysville, Vt., said she always loved goats. Mike Connolly, who grew up in Braintree, Vt., has spent most of his 40 years working on dairy farms.

The family, which includes four children, drink the goats’ milk and make cheese, Amber Connolly said.

As they have expanded the herd, they found the space in Randolph Center and now are seeking property elsewhere, maybe Kentucky, where land prices and other costs of living are lower than in Vermont, Connolly said.

The recent disappearance will delay their herd’s expansion, Connolly said. Three of the eight were likely pregnant, she said.

The loss of the other five, which were producing milk, has reduced the amount of milk the Connollys get from about five gallons per day to less than three, which is not enough to use to make cheese, Connolly said.

“If we don’t get them back ... pretty much we’re starting all over,” she said.

At this point, she’s not optimistic that they will turn up.

“I just have a really bad feeling,” she said.

All the information she has to go on is that a friend of the family who owns the Davis Road property where the goats were living saw a dark truck driving down the road around 11 p.m. on Monday night, Connolly said. Another friend heard a loud vehicle on Davis Road that evening, she said.

Though both Connolly and Nolin wonder whether the two cases of missing farm animals could be related, it’s unclear if they are.

Those involved with the Connollys’ case at the Royalton barracks of the Vermont State Police and those involved with the Nolins’ case at the Orange County Sheriff’s Department were out of the office on Friday.

Members of the state’s agricultural community appeared to be paying attention.

“This is troubling,” said Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts. “Farming is hard enough.”

As soon as agency staff saw an online post about the Connollys’ missing goats, they reposted it to the Agriculture agency’s Facebook page, Tebbetts said. As of mid-day on Friday, it had reached 14,000 people and had been shared 235 times, he said.

Dave Martin, president of the board of directors of the Vermont Sheep and Goat Association, was also aware of the recent farm animal disappearances.

“I’m assuming they were taken,” Martin said. “If they had wandered through a hole in the fence they would turn up.”

Martin said he hopes anyone with information about these disappearances will come forward. Martin has 100 ewes on his Underhill, Vt., farm, but he also keeps two goats as pets for his wife, he said.

“They weren’t just random farm animals for (Connolly),” Martin said. “They were important to her. Goats have personalities and you get attached.”

The Royalton barracks of the Vermont State Police can be reached at 802-234-9933 and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department can be reached at 802-685-4875.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.