Thursday, March 06, 2008

Found This Video on Meat Goats...

I was bouncing around some of the agricultural websites that I check from time to time when I have a chance when I came across an interesting video on the ATTRA website. It caught my interest because of THIS POST where I wondered about the possibilities of meat goats. The video below comes from a segment on "This Week in Agribusiness" and deals specifically with marketing. You can watch the video below:

I think there are lots of good things to think about in that video ... both positive and negative. Marketing goat meat is going to be more difficult that beef or pork, there is no doubt about that. But, I do think it does deserve consideration ... maybe not on everyones farm though. After watching that video clip and doing the small amount of research that I have done I think one of your biggest deciding factors is going to be your location. How close are you to a large enough ethnic market, and are they looking for goat?

From that ethnic market I think you could expand into other direct marketing opportunities, but I think it is important to have a good place to start. As I read in one of the articles I stumbled across only 50% of the goat meat consumed in the U.S. was raised in the U.S. That is a staggering number considering the number of farms we have and the way goats graze and forage.

Their foraging and grazing ability is probably one of their most appealing things to a grass finishing farmer. Because you can have goats follow cattle and not decrease your number of cattle they make an ideal addition to the farm. They break the parasite cycle and they eat different types of forages ... even the lovely (YUCK!) multiflora rose.

I'm not sure if meat goats are an option that I am going to pursue heavily at this time (maybe sheep are more along my lines), but I do think they need to be in the discussion and this video gave me some things to think about.

Do you have any more thoughts on goats? I would love to hear from people raising them or that have eaten them. What does it taste like? Are they easy to raise? How big and strong are your fences!?!


Rich said...

I seem to read and hear everywhere about how meat goats are moneymaking grazing machines, but about 2-3 years ago one of my neighbors about 4 miles down the road had a nice big herd of Boer goats and now they don't own any.

They upgraded the fences around a 40 acre pasture, and completely rebuilt the fences around a 160 acre pasture right before they got out of the goat business. To my eye, their goats were nice big healthy Boers that looked like they belonged out on a pasture.

The only thing that I saw that would concern me is one day I came down the road and saw a sea of white crossing the road into a wheat pasture. At first I thought they were simply being moved from one pasture to another, but as I got closer I saw that the whole herd was squeezing under a low spot in the fenceline and pouring across the road. In the time it took to find somewhere to turn around to go back and let the owners know that their goats had escaped, the goats had already returned to the original pasture. The hole they went though looked like they could barely get their heads through, but somehow full grown Boer goats had went through it like it was a gate. Then, about a year later they weren't raising goats anymore.

I've been tempted to go bang on their door and ask them why they got out of the Boer goat business, but I haven't because it seems kind of impolite. Their goats looked healthy, there seemed to be alot of them, it would have been easy to add some electric fencing to beef up the fencing, there is a goat auction almost every week locally, so I don't know why they stopped raising goats. The fact that somebody was raising so many goats and suddenly quit causes me to be more hesitant about adding them to my pastures.

The only thing I can think of that might have caused them to quit might have been a disease outbreak, they might have been overstocked and killed all the browse that goats need, or the owners simply decided to raise something else.

On a related note, have you ever considered raising hair sheep? Hair sheep seem like they might have all the benefits of goats or wool sheep without most of the problems associated with goats or wool sheep.

Steven said...

Would Navajo-Churro Sheep be considered hair sheep? I thought they were pretty interesting when I was at fivepondsfarm.

Rich said...

I'm pretty sure that Navajo-Churro Sheep are wool sheep, here's a detailed listing of hair sheep breeds:

I think most of the hair sheep in the U.S. are Katahdin sheep

Ethan Book said...

Rich - I think the key is market. I'm not sure where you are, but it seems that they would be a difficult thing to market if you aren't close to a big ethnic market. I know at the nearest sale barn that sells sheep they do buy/sell goats and the prices are usually okay, but I'm thinking those butcher animals are being trucked to Illinois for processing.

But, I do think they are catching on ... which may be good or bad...

Steven - No, I don't think those are hair sheep. In fact the term hair sheep is a bit confusing in a sense because the "hair" sheep don't have wool, but rather hair and almost look like some goats.

Here is a link to a list ofHair Sheep Breeds.

I haven't thought much about raising them, but I'm always interested in learning!

Mellifera said...

Rich... I too am very curious as to what took them out of the business. Ask 'em! Do it for me! You should say, "So I'm thinking of getting into the goat business. I saw you had some awesome goats a while back, have any tips for a newbie?"

I know a guy whose son is raising Boers right now, only he's gone all the time (doesn't give much time to the endeavor) and the kids keep disappearing. I suspect either coyotes (unlikely- there are usually a couple mules in the paddock with them) or the big giant boar that also lives in that paddock.

He uses normal horizontal-and-vertical wire fencing (I'm sure there's a real name for that but I don't know what it is). It keeps them in just fine, the only problem is that every once in a while one will get their horns stuck in it.

I definitely get the impression that goats might fare better, at least under a beginning goatherd, if they were close to the house where it was very easy to keep an eye on them (escapes, trapped ones, closeness to people scares coyotes away). This guy's dad was telling me that his son was used to beef cattle, which you can leave on the open range with zero supervision and still bring most of them back at the end of the season, and the negligence was probably why he was losing so many.

Steven said...

The only reason I asked is because those sheep had long wool that hung down. It wasn't like the sheep I see at the fair that seem to have an afro.

Kramer said...

We live about 75 miles from Houston so our ethnic market is huge. One reason to look into on my part but not the large reason. I want them for pasture renovation. Only thing is this will be temporary because they soon eat themselves out of a job due to eliminating browse and allowing your grazing pastures to flourish.

I have read lots on meat goats and it seem the Spanish goat is your best meat goat. Lots of people use Boers for show goats selling their culls for meat goats, but very few Spanish are here. From what I read, they prefer more browse than Boers and are much more parasite resistant. I am going to give the Spanish goats a chance, or some cross breeds just for about 5 years then get rid of them. I had the NRCS guy come out and he said if I did decide to run them with the cows, that all I have to do is take the weaned kids to South Houston and they pay top dollar for them right off the trailer. Sounds good enough for me.

Steven said...

I read this a few months ago and just came across it again.

They have a marketing section that describes how they market. It's NOT direct marketing like you would a steer, it's simply hauling all the goats to the right sale barn at the right time, in the right condition.

farm mama said...

My son was at a local family-owned meat processor picking up meat for a barbecue his lodge is having, and mentioned that his sister is raising goats. The owner was excited and said he would definitely buy any goats she wanted to sell, or would butcher them for any direct buyers. She raises dairy goats, so probably would have few, if any, to sell for meat, but that might be a possible contact for marketing the meat - find a local one, of course. (She is located about an hour from Charleston, SC.)

Ethan Book said...

farm mama - Finding a outlet for goats like that is what would make it worth it. I think market research is something that is important for all direct marketing ventures, but even more so in something like goat meat because it is such a niche market.

farm mama said...

Just another note - anywhere you have either Hispanic or Middle Eastern communites, there is a large demand for goat meat. I have a former daughter-in-law married to a Pakistani, and they make a 5-hour drive to Atlanta about once a month to buy goat meat. It is very important to them (Muslims) that it be butchered properly - certain prayers said, etc. so it is probably more practical to let them make the slaughter arrangements. My daughter, her husband and I went to a local meeting of a goat association, and while we were there, we met a woman who raises meat goats. She said she sells to Middle Eastern customers who come to the farm and slaughter the animal there. She said it is amazing how quickly and easily they do it, and they leave no mess whatsoever. Very little stress to the animal - it's over before they know what's happening. Maybe find the proper newspapers and/or other publications to reach the right ethnic groups?

Linda said...

I read somewhere (Attra publication maybe??) that you can get many more pounds of meat per acre raising goats than cattle. It has to do with stocking rates per acre and the fact that most have twins and kid twice a year so one nanny can produce 4 kids per year to market. I have 8 goats of mixed breeds, most milk breed crosses, and market kids through the local sale barn. I took three pigmyxdairy kids in at 4 weeks of age and got $25 each. I am sure they didn't weigh 20 pounds so the price per pound greatly exceeded the price per pound for beef that day.

Currently I let them have range over most of my 77 acre farm and it is more of a problem to keep them away from the barn and house but it can be done. I had them on another farm and trained them to electric fence, something that many told me couldn't be done. It can but it takes dedication to individually train them. Once it is done, as long as the fence stay hot to remind them, it works. An extremely tight bottom wire is key. Just as another post pointed out, they can squeeze under or through the slightest hole. However, with electric, they tend to only want to duck under and try to get through between pulses. The extremely tight wire slows them so that they get zapped before their shoulders get under. That backs them off.

I have 7 wool sheep and they are far easier to keep. I shear them myself and it isn't that big of a deal. I built a milk stand for the goats and just have someone help me throw a sheep up there and lock their head. I shear in mid Spring and it is done for the year. Lambs are very marketable.

Goats are good on browse but mine tend to graze more than I like. My pastures are relatively weed free and I see goats out grazing far more than browsing. I have tried to correct this via staking lead individuals out along fence lines and the herd remains nearby but still graze more than the 70% browse and 30% graze the books report.

The Beginning Farmer's Wife said...

Linda - Thanks for reading the blog and giving a great "first-hand" account of goats/sheep. It is interesting that you mention how much your goats graze as opposed to browsing. That is something I haven't thought about. I wonder if it has something to do with the quality of your pastures?

The Beginning Farmer's Wife said...

That last comment was really from my husband . . . I used his computer last night and it must have stayed logged in as me. Sorry for the confusion!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the info.

Farm Mama: Please give some contact details for the Charleston area goat meat vendors. Thank you. Please email me
sundara (at) gmail (dot) com

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