In The Beginning...
Greetings! I am Chad Wegener, and I would like to share with you the beginning of our SCI goat journey, a bit of history, and future plans…………….
The San Clemente Island Goat Association was started by the inimitable late Leslie Edmundson. She managed it independently until her death in 2017. My partner, John F. Carroll, and Leslie became friends in 2008 when John obtained his first two goats from Elizabeth Graser Lindsey through her website. In late 2015, as Leslie battled ovarian cancer, she told John that she wanted him to be the person to carry on the San Clemente Island Goat Association. In 2017, John inherited the SCI Goat Association along with the website scigoats.org, and all of Leslie’s SCI Goat related intellectual property (pictures, databases, historical documents, etc…).
John also reached out to Dr. Phyllis Larsen and had several phone calls with her. Dr. Larsen spent time on San Clemente Island in the 70s documenting the flora and fauna including the goats. John was in awe of the work Dr. Larsen did back in the day and was always happy to talk with Dr. Larsen about ‘her’ goats. She was in disbelief that all these years later her goats ended up in Nebraska. Dr. Larsen and Leslie were also close and shared many conversations regarding the SCI Goats. Prior to Dr. Larsen’s death, me and my mom, Barb, drove to New York to bring some goats to Julie “Jules” Murray of Mack Brin Farms. Mom and I had the opportunity to sit with Dr. Larsen in her home and reminisce about her time on the island and to chat about the goats. She also agreed to a recorded interview. Dr. Larsen sent me with all her SCI goat related property and life work. Later, her daughter would send more materials related to her time on the island including slides of goats with many unique ears, horns and colors proving that the goats were not just one phenotype.
Dr. Larsen and Leslie were pioneers with this breed. Both documented and verbalized their wishes for John and I to carry on their work. We inherited a big task. Both provided instructions on what should/should not be shared publicly because of potential misuse of data. In addition, because of Dr. Larsen’s extensive work with the SCI Goats, everything she kept was extremely personal to her and she was extremely protective of where it would go (hence the reason we have only posted limited material in the public forum). John spoke to both about creating a digital museum to store the information and to safekeep its integrity.
In the Spring of 2019, the Nebraska Floods were declared a National Disaster. Many of you may remember hearing the rescue of 250 San Clemente Island Goats from a farm in Nebraska. This was our farm. 39 of our 40 acres were underwater. A huge rescue operation ensued, and all the goats were rescued after eight hours of work. It took us until almost midnight, but we did it with the help of approximately 50 people, mostly strangers that showed up to help when the cry for help went out on Facebook. This climate disaster became a Local, National, and International story. We heard from people in Hong Kong, Italy, Canada, and Australia among other countries. With the glare of the media on this disaster, we saw a major increase in interest in the San Clemente Island Goats. Even the Clintons knew about our goats and donated to our farm’s recovery.
As soon as we came up for air, the pandemic hit. And as we hunkered down on the farm, and started planning our future, we realized that we needed to get our goat act together. We have learned that there is no time like the present. There will always be “something” to slow you down or destroy the best made plans. As we spoke to other breeders and looked inward, we realized that its going to take a team of people to put together the infrastructure to save this breed. We need a team of compassionate and organized people to do what it is going to take to keep this breed for generations to come. We know that we cannot do this alone and that there are many SCI Goat breeders that are willing and able to help who will bring their own talents, experience, ideas, and passion. We also know that it will take consistency and collaboration. People that walk the walk and talk the talk. We recognize that we have a lot of time to make up and that we can no longer allow our personal tragedies to get in the way of saving the breed. We need a safety net as well and we believe that that the SCIGI (San Clemente Island Goat International) and its board can tie together the past and lay out plans for the future. We have moved the Association/Foundation over to the new SCI Goat International website and are in the process of launching it. We are very excited about it. And we believe Dr. Larsen and Leslie would be equally excited.
In 2021, we anticipate unveiling many changes, projects, and progress however there are two major projects we are currently working on:
1. For several years, we have been working on (with the help of Dr. Larsen’s Alma Matter, UC Davis, a fellow SCI breeder Jules of Mack Brin Farms and IGSCR, LLC, (fka IDGR) a DNA purity and Genetics profile test. Currently, parentage is available and will be discussed at length in a different post. We are also working on identifying a purity profile SCI Breeders can use to identity potential lost goats and herds that may not have paperwork to back up their purity. Many exciting details will follow as we will look to the experts to help further conserve and protect this breed. Genetics are so very important with rare breeds. Especially with low genetic diversity like the SCI Goats. Both their island history and removal have led to the low genetic issues we have today.
2. The IGSCR, LLC (fka IDGR) is the USDA approved and official registry for the SCI Goats. We are working closely with them to incorporate the Official Registrations and Pedigrees along with the future DNA and Genetic work mentioned above into a powerful registration and herd book tool.
3. We have formed a working group with other breeders to establish an International Board for SCI goats. We are forming this group to help bring the breeders together to support the evolution of this endangered breed, defining directions to take this breed, help new breeders get starter goats, and move the very limited genetics of these goats around the US and Canada. There will be an announcement on this board shortly, along with a web site. The board is forming from volunteers initially but will have an established voting for roles and defined terms, going forward. This group will help drive meetings for discussions on topics and make decisions, putting guidelines in place, making this breed stronger and more available. We are very excited about this as it will support the SCI Goat Foundation and IGSCR-IDGR Registry moving many things forward.
We believe it will be an impactful and exciting year to get involved with the first board of the San Clemente Island Goat International Board. We are looking for a diverse, synergetic, transparent, and collaborative board made up of breeders, experts, and enthusiasts alike.
We will continue to work with and take guidance from organizations like The Livestock Conservancy to establish an exemplary, successful, and functional board.