Makin’ Money With Meat Goat Farming
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Looking for the simplest and most efficient way to earn a little profit in meat goat farming? Look no further than market goats!
While not as familiar to American cuisine as lamb, goat meat (or chevon) is a delicious and nutritious protein option — with a competitively small environmental footprint to boot.
What makes market goats such a profit-generator? Compared to their bovine counterparts, goats cost significantly less to raise from kid to market weight. And, in the right market, they fetch a commendable price.
As the demand for chevon grows from various ethnic populations (in 2017 chevon imports were worth $213 million!) many sale barns are eager to take kids and mature goats.
If you have specialty grocery stores or gourmet dining establishments nearby, you just might find even more enthusiastic buyers.
Once you establish a solid health plan and herd management program, market goats can easily find a place in your herd.
Decisions, decisions – outfitting the meat herd
When setting out into the livestock market world, there are several management styles and market types you could pursue.
A doe-kid type setup is where you own mothers and a few bucks making a “foundation herd.” In this style, you will develop your own genetics as you breed, raise and sell kids. Folks who specialize in this sector can either sell kids shortly after birth as feeder animals or finish them to reach full market weight
Another option would be feeding and selling market kids. Throughout the year you can purchase kids, feed them to a finished weight, then sell.
Similarly, some people close to sale barns report success buying cull goats at low prices and selling them directly to new buyers or at auction with a bit of feeding.
What does it take?
The cost of feeding will depend a lot based on your market and methods. Obviously, the cheapest way to raise and finish kids is a pasture-based diet — if you have a healthy and managed pasture.
A way to determine this is by animal unit months or AUM for your region. AUM is measured by the minimum amount of land to feed one 1,000-lb. beef cow for a month – or five to six meat goats.
This can be measured according to height, density, and forage types. A local extension office, agriculture college, or goat mentor may be able to help you out with this.
On a solid feeding program, goats can have a rate of gain of 0.45 average pounds per day from birth to about three months, with variance for breeds and individual animals.
If your pasture isn’t up to the task, there’s no need to worry! A high protein hay and concentrated grain regimen can be affordable and effective.
Parasites are some of a goat’s worst enemies. As always, you should seasonally evaluate your herd for goat worms. If you manage your pastures well and get into rotational grazing, deworming may not need to be done for every animal each time. However, if you are feeding multiple kids in a smaller space, you will almost certainly need to deploy some prevention or routine schedule.
Utilize fecal samples and discuss with your vet. Something you need to be considered is withdraw periods of certain dewormers. This is how much time required by law between treatment and processing.
If you are kidding does and selling kids, it’s often recommended to time it so they’ve reached optimal weight by the springtime when many religious holidays are being celebrated and buyers will be plenty.
However, your local goat market may have a different sales cycle or specialty sales throughout the year — spend some research time and get to know your local market.
The same idea applies if you are looking to buy, feed, and re-sell. It’s all a numbers game that revolves around knowing when to buy low and sell high.
Once you have these key cycles identified, it is much easier to coordinate your herd management program around them.
Finding a market
Before you ever bring new goats onto your property, you’ll need to identify potential and guaranteed markets.
That said, you should always keep an eye open for ways to grow your business and find new customers.
Sale barns and other livestock auctions are the prime targets. This is by far the easiest and least labor intensive, but it isn’t a one size fits all deal. Part of the research process includes discerning upfront costs including transportation and sales fees.
As many goat breeders know, online sales groups and classifieds are a wealth of eager buyers. Again, this takes knowledge of your area and the best times to buy or sell. There’s also patience and skill required to privately deal with individuals and taking the time to meet with them.
Finally, 4-H and FFA members are great ways to establish yourself in the community. Your local high school or extension office is usually happy to point you towards the right people who may be able to spread your name.
Raising and selling meat goats can seem intimidating at first. But if you have enough goat and business skills, you will likely see why many caprine enthusiasts enter this market with enthusiasm and success.
Are You Thinking of Raising Meat Goats? – Sheep & Goats, livestocktrail.illinois.edu/sheepnet/paperDisplay.cfm?ContentID=9808.
Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg, 26 Feb. 2018, 1:00PM, www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-26/no-kidding-u-s-goat-imports-are-rising-and-australia-s-winning.
Christensen, Greg. Raising Meat Goats in a Commercial Operation in the Midwest. Greg Christensen, 2012.
Educator, Melanie Barkley Extension, et al. “Meat Goat Production.” Penn State Extension, 4 Feb. 2021, extension.psu.edu/meat-goat-production.
Jess, et al. “Raising Boer Goats for Profit (2020): The Ultimate Guide.” Boer Goat Profits Guide, 4 Aug. 2020, www.boergoatprofitsguide.com/raising-boer-goats-for-profit/.
Originally published in the July/August 2021 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.