I never ever thought I would be raising meat goats on my farmstead.
Raising meat goats was just an idea Matt and I had when we looked around our new farm. All we saw was goat food. Our new land was covered in more brush and trees than we had time to clear. And we knew NOTHING about what we were getting into. Both of us had grown up raising cattle and only cattle. But, with Bachelor of Science degrees in animal science, I thought we could handle some little measly goats. Over the past six years, we have had our struggles and triumphs with our growing meat goat herd. It has been a learning experience, for sure. Along with struggles, I knew there would be benefits to adding in meat goats. I’ve seen both sides of the table and can narrow 5 key benefits to adding goats into any operation.
Benefits to raising meat goats
Goats eat what cattle and sheep do not.
That being said, I will admit they do NOT eat everything and anything. Goats are very selective about their choices. They prefer to browse invasive trees such as locust and cedar trees as well as forbes such as buck brush and wild mulberry. Goats will eat small leaves of weeds, but in my experience, my stocking rate was low for the pasture and the ragweed still exploded through my pasture. They work well in a multi species grazing scenario with cattle and sheep. The goal of multi species grazing is to clean the pasture and this three way rotation is very successful. Parasite loads are also reduced with cattle-goat rotation. This is key to success and sustainability of any goat operation because parasites can wreak havoc on goats. Goats bond with other species quite well thanks to their care-free personalities.
Their personalities are fun and friendly.
This is important to me because I have young children who love to roam around the farmstead. I have no problem with my girls wandering into the goat pen with the right goats to play with their kids. However, I do educate my children not to trust any animals, especially males. You just never know when they will decided to strike. Attention to males (bucks) should definitely be avoided and given in meager amounts. They will want attention all the time. DON’T give it to them. They do not need your love and they will try to abuse it. All they need is their needs to be met.
Their needs are simple.
- A nutritious diet
- Shelter from weather conditions
- Good tight fencing to keep them safe
My goats are on pasture 10 months out of the year. During their lactation months, I feed does and kids a ration of crimped corn, soybean meal, oats and molasses. This homegrown ration is about 14% protein. They also get brome hay in the winter, which is about 6% protein as well as a high quality loose mineral free choice all year long.
Water is also extremely important. I make sure they have plenty of water each and every day. In the summer, my goats drink from a spring pond but in the winter, I have to provide them water in tubs.
For winter shelter, we have portable sheds to keep them safe from harsh weather conditions. But, when they are on pasture, they prefer to hide out in trees and brush piles. Note: We are STILL cleaning trees and brush out of our pastures.
The pastures are large and we do not overstock with the goats. But, fencing is still important. There are many fencing options available for goats.
Meeting their minimal needs is my number one goal for producing a healthy meat product. Luckily, that goal is short and reachable.
Meat is delicious and nutritious
Did you know that goat meat is the most eaten read meat in the entire world? We as a world cannot produce enough goat meat for the demand it has.
As part of a nutritious farm fit diet, we consume our own goat meat. Goat meat is also called Chevron or Cabrito.
Goat meat is high in protein, vitamins, and minerals as well as low in saturated fat. This is one of the reason it is in such high demand with various markets all across the world.
Markets are easy to meet.
We have absolutely no problem selling goats. The marketing options for any and all goats are endless.
However, you’ll want to be sure to hit the right markets for the type of goats you are wanting to sell. Check out an ethnic calendar and find a market near you that has a sale.
Some different markets I have used include:
- 4-H Market
- Local Sale Market
- Private Treaty Harvest
- Rental goats for grazing.
I enjoy selling goats private treaty to the 4-H or the meat market. I enjoy helping 4-H kids find a good project to help them learn and succeed in 4-H at a price they can afford. People also come to me asking to purchase a finished market goat for meat.
I will sell a finished market goat for harvest using the live weight of the goat on my livestock scale. Whatever the local market price is at the time is what I charge my customer. I will then deliver the goat to the locker plant of his/her choice. From there, my work as a producer is complete.
It’s up to the customer to tell the locker plant how they want their goat meat process and packaged. The customer also pays the processing fees and picks up the goat meat.
This is the proper way to sell goat meat in accordance with proper and safe regulations. I don’t have the licensing required to sell packaged meat from my farm. I recommend local locker processing plants I trust to process goats for my customers. I’ve had great luck with selling meat this way and repeat customers coming back.
If there are no customers wanting goats and I’m ready to sell, I take them to the local sale market. Many markets around us have monthly or weekly goat sales. Order buyers come in from the east where goat meat is more in demand and buy them by the truck load.
This type of market is where the ethnic calendar can really come in handy. I’ve found the best sale times for fat goats to be right before Easter and then again October to December.
The final market we’ve delved into is renting some of our goats to people to graze during the grazing season. We actually don’t charge for this but we get the goats back after their grazing session is complete.
My #1 Advice to anyone wanting to raise meat goats
My top advice to anyone interested in raising meat goats is simple: Find A Mentor. Don’t start this process alone. Like any living thing, goats can get sick and you’ll need to know how to treat it. No one knows better than someone who has experience with the issue at hand. Of course, you’ll also need to find a good veterinarian who can prescribe proper medications for what is ailing your animal.
Raising meat goats has been a truly enlightening and humbling experience.
I’ve given five reasons why my family and I choose to raise meat goats on our farmstead. As with any venture, there are cons to raising goats as well. Over the past six years, I have learned so much about raising meat goats. I’ve had the pleasure of helping other new producers get started with meat goats with the goal of helping them learn and succeed as well as growing the industry.
The next six years will bring changes as I continue to grow my herd and learn from them.
As I look out over my herd, I remember thinking there was a time when I said I would never own a goat. Now, I couldn’t imagine our farmstead without them.
Please post your meat goat question or comment! I want to hear from you!
About the Author
With incredible passion for rural life, wellness, and sustainable agriculture, Mindy fell easily into the role of a teacher. She enjoys positively educating and mentoring others to learn skills such as growing, harvesting and preserving healthy food, living a balanced healthy and comfortable life and empowerment to grow with leadership and personal goals.
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