Saturday, August 09, 2008

Goats, Cattle, and Worms

There is another article in the Stockman Grass Farmer this mouth touting the benefits of grazing goats and cattle in combination. The article by Dave Sparks (a DVM) is titled, "Goats and Cattle Together Complement Each Other and Reduce the Need for Worming". As usual in this publication the title really spells out the entire article, but the research from a field test in Oklahoma gives graziers one more reason to look at diversified grazing.

The field study in Oklahoma is using a 200 acre plot of land divided into three tracts that have similar forage quantity and quality. All three of these areas were stocked by live weight according to the estimated amount of forage in them. One plot was stocked with just goats, another with just cattle, and the final one with cattle and goats together. The article doesn't say how the livestock was managed, but I would assume a rotation with goats following might be the best management method.

Results from the study were very much in favor of combining the two animals. The goats alone group had several deaths because of parasite infection (goats have a problem with worms because most breeds come from desert areas much different from the Midwest). The cattle alone group were fine, but here pasture had a much taller growth of the browse type plants the goats ate in the other plots. In the combination group there was no death in the goat herd and they goats required 23% less individual worming.

Information like this does make goats look pretty appealing. I believe the biggest barrier to farmers getting into the growing goat market is the fact that as Americans we don't know much about goats. We don't know much about cooking them, eating them, or marketing them to the various ethnic groups. But, if the benefits for the cattle, the goats, and the pastures are this great it might be time ot figure this thing out.

6 comments:

Rich said...

"...and the final one with cattle and goats together. The article doesn't say how the livestock was managed, but I would assume a rotation with goats following might be the best management method..."

It seems like I read something about grazing cattle and goats on the same pasture that suggested that the two should be combined into one group.

The reason for combining was that since goats have a strong herding instinct, if one escapes, the remaining goats will try to join the escaped one. The escaped goats become the leaders and the other goats become the followers, and a maddening game of follow-the-leader starts in which the leaders are pushed ahead by the followers and the followers are drawn to follow the leaders.

But, when goats and cattle are combined into one herd, the goats will start to consider the cattle as part of their herd. Since the cattle are usually on the right side of the fence, and the goats want to stay close to the herd, any escaped goats will try to return to the combined cattle/goat herd before the rest of the goat herd has a chance to also escape. Since fewer goats escape at any given time, a smaller percentage of the goat herd learns how to escape, and the goat herd gets easier to contain over time.

Since the goats learn behaviors that lessen the chance of escape, there is less need for a totally escape-proof fence, so adding goats shouldn't require as much investment in updated "goat-proof" fences.

I'm not sure if combining goats and cattle into one herd would make it easier to keep goats from wandering, but it sounds like it might actually work.

Mellifera said...

"Americans don't know what to do with goats."

One word, man, one word: Curry.

Mmmmm. : D

BUDDE FAMILY said...

Goats are also a good farm investment that do not require much capital. I just purchased my first seven goats (one fullblood buck, three fullblood does, and three percentage does) for about $1200, and that includes delivery from 400 miles away! I don't know of any other animal you can buy at that price, and have them registered.

While goats are great in a mixed specie grazing program, producers need to start seeing their value as a stand alone stocker as well. You can place 6 goats on the same acreage as one cow, they have only a 5 month gestation, and they usually kid twins or triplets.

Many sale barns now have a goat sale one day a month, and locally, more processing cooperatives are showing up. In addition, goats are easy to direct market if you are near a populous city or graduate college.

On the downside, you do need good fence, you do need to provide some grain for the kids, and hay in the winter. But compared to swine, beef, or dairy, the risk is quite low.

And who knows, I may sing a different tune after a year of raising goats.

Rich said...

"...I believe the biggest barrier to farmers getting into the growing goat market is the fact that as Americans we don't know much about goats. We don't know much about cooking them, eating them, or marketing them to the various ethnic groups..."

With so many different ethic groups and the resulting many different ideas about the "ideal" way to properly finish goats, I wonder if "chasing" an ethnic market is the best strategy?

As an example, I've read that Boer or Boer-cross goats have a "milder" veal-like taste and texture than other goats, which sounds like something many people might actually prefer to something described as having a stronger "goat" taste.

Would it be easier (and possibly create a larger overall market base) to market something like Boer goat meat to existing customers that typically buy beef or pork rather than trying to find an ethnic market for "typical or traditional" goat meat?

It seems like I've read that it takes five to ten times the resources to attract new customers as retaining existing customers. So you could be more profitable selling beef, pork and goat to the same customers rather than trying to find a separate customer base for each of your products.

Anonymous said...

I very much admire what you have done and think the goats could be a great addition to your project. I have goats in Iowa not far from Knoxville. They are a great animal alone or with cattle. I have mine with sheep. Not only do they provide meat which is easy to home butcher,tasty and very healthy but also can provide milk with can be made into cheese very easily. I would be happy to visit with anyone interested I can be contacted through our web page http://showcase.netins.net/web/beyerpatch/GoatPage.htm

Betsy Shulman said...

This is all great news for me. I inherited a 200 acre farm my father ran on weekends. Since his death over 13 years ago I've learned a the ropes of hay making, pasture maintenance, cattle care, fencing, forestry.... you name it. But my biggest frustration has been trying to control the weeds that have appeared. I simply don't remember them as a problem when I was a kid. Goats were suggested as a way to control weeds with out using poisons and sprays. I'm excited to see that it's working for many of you. "Anonymous" has a wonderful website, but the email address is not posted and I can't use "Entourage" on my Mac. Please contact me at betsyshulman@mac.com.
Where is your farm located. I'm in northern Virginia. Thanks,
Betsy

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