You have a special place in your heart for goats. Their stocky little bodies and cute floppy ears are something you have adored all your life and so you decide that you want to start raising meat goats. But how viable is meat goat farming in the USA? Is it worth it and how do you get started?
It comes down to the following:
- Deciding which type of meat goat you want to farm.
- How many goats you want to start with (the prices vary depending on the breed).
- The housing (do you want to buy a premade shelter or make it yourself?) and fencing for your goats.
- Planning on how to raise them so that they are safe, happy and healthy wee critters.
Meat goat farming is a growing industry within the USA. More than 83% of goats in the USA are meat goats and with increasing different ethnic population such as Hispanics, Eastern Europeans, Southeastern Asians and Muslims, the demand for goat meat will continue.
Since 1991, the USA has become a net importer of goat meat to meet the increasing demand. In 1990 a total of $1.9 million of goat meat was imported with this number increasing to $94.7 million in 2014 which is astronomical growth.
Let’s show you how you can start meat goat farming in the USA.
So many types of goats
When you begin the journey of meat goat farming, you need to start by deciding which goats you want to raise. Spanish goats, Boers, Kiko….the list goes on and each type has its own characteristics. You need to decide if you want to raise goats that require little maintenance, or those that grow fast or have great mothering ability
When Spanish explorers arrived in the USA, they brought goats with them for meat. Some of these goats escaped and became wild. These goats were called “Spanish” and most are either feral or semi-wild and were the standard goat of the USA until the Boers became available in the late 1980s.
Spanish goats lived with little management and those that became wild existed with no human contact. They adapt well to their environment and are great survivors. So if you want a hardy goat, go for Spanish goats.
“Boer” comes from the Dutch word for farmer and were developed as a particular kind of goat. It has a quick rate of growth, great body quality and can adjust to different habitats. The first Boer goats were brought to the USA in 1993 where they received a great amount of interest.
It’s remarkably immune to disease and thrives in dry, hot places. It only takes 90 days for Boer goats to achieve slaughter weight being 190 to 230 pounds for females and 200 to 340 pounds for males.
In the 1980s Garrick and Anne Batten developed the Kiko goat in Nelson, New Zealand for the sole purpose of meat production. They cross-breed domestic feral goats with imported dairy goats. Four generations later the Kiko goat was closed off to any further cross-breeding as the Battens had achieved their goal of creating a goat that has great survivability and great growth rate in hill country areas.
The Kiko goat was slow to be accepted by the USA but eventually started to grow in popularity. It’s a more cost-effective choice than Boer goats as Kiko goats love rugged grazing areas and need little supervision
The Savanna goat was created from domestic goats in South Africa. A determining factor for the development of the Savanna goat was the rough, hard bush country that sees temperatures vary along with the amount of rain. They have great reproduction ability as well as strong muscle development. Savanna goats are also known to have great bones, strong legs and hooves.
The Savanna goat was introduced to the USA in the late 1990s. Does are excellent mothers and have great milk production ability. Kids grow fast and don’t need much care as they are greatly resistant to disease.
These are just a few of the various meat goat breeds that you can raise. Remember, your decision as to which breed or breeds you want to raise is determined by how quickly you want the goat to reach maturity, if you want to have a goat that requires little supervision (and therefore will be more economical to raise) or if you desire to have a hardy breed that is resistant to disease and can survive in rugged environments.
How much does it cost to set up a meat goat farm?
You’ve settled on the type of goat you want to raise and now you wonder how much does it actually cost to set up a meat goat farm within the USA. Before you take the leap into the world of meat goat farming, check with your local government as zoning regulations may not allow you to have goats. If you are allowed to keep goats then you can start your meat goat farm.
Buy at least two goats, But because male goats (bucks) can’t be kept with female goats (does) you may need to purchase more than two goats. As you are just starting out as a meat goat farmer, the best option is to buy two does and then hire a buck from another farm to impregnate your does.
The average cost of a goat ranges between $75 to $300. Then there is the cost of building enclosures for your goats. To keep costs down you can build the enclosure yourself by purchasing the materials from your local hardware store. You can learn how to build a goat shelter here. The costs will vary depending on the amount and quality of the material you use.
How to raise a healthy goat
Now you have your goats and your shelter its time to consider how to look after your goats so that they can grow up healthy and happy. It comes down to the food you feed your goat, providing a good environment and disease prevention.
Feeding you goat is one of the biggest costs in meat goat farming. There could be a temptation to reduce the cost by providing your goat with cheap food yet this will affect your profit in the long run by affecting the growth rate and health of your goats. A healthy goat requires food that is rich in nutrients and minerals which will result in profitable meat production.
Mat goats should be fed with leafy vegetation and in winter months you should supply your goats with hay that is full of nutrients and minerals. If you want to learn more about meat goat feeding and nutrition you can visit this site: https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/nutritional-feeding-management-of-meat-goats
For protein, you can feed you goat wheat middlings, whole cottonseed, soybean meal or soybean meal. Vitamins that are needed by your goat are A, and D. Goats that are in need of vitamin A should be fed with a mix containing Vitamin A.and they should receive vitamin A shots. For vitamin D, have you goat spend time in the sunshine and feed them with a diet that contains this vitamin.
By ensuring that you are feeding your goats with a rich, high-quality diet that meets their protein, vitamin and mineral needs mean that you are going to produce strong healthy meat goats. That’s will result in higher profits which means more money in your bank account!
Goats are great escape artists and if you don’t provide secure fencing and housing you are going to spend a lot of time playing “Find My Goats”. Goat housing doesn’t have to be elaborate but you need to provide an environment that will keep your goats warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
A three-sided shed is appropriate enough for your goats and when you are designing the shed consider where you will keep the feed, bedding and water for your goats. Each goat requires its own sleeping area and this needs to be between 10-15 square feet for each goat. For does who are pregnant, you need to provide them with kidding pen that is 4 to 5 square feet for each doe.
Goat fencing keeps your goats in and predators such as bears, coyotes and dogs out. The fence should enclose the entire perimeter of the goat space and then you need to provide cross fencing to separate the goats from each other. This cross fencing can be temporary and made form poly tape, wire or electric wiring. It is designed to keep bucks isolated from does and does from weaned kids, Permanent fencing can consist of high tensile wire. Woven wire is a great option for permanent fencing if you desire to keep predators out.
Though it is not possible to create a completely “disease-free” goat farm, there are certain things you can do. But before we discuss prevention, let’s look at the more common disease that your goat can contract.
Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis is an incurable contagious disease that has the potential to decimate your goat herd. It affects your goat’s immune system and is the goat equivalent to AIDS. Only buy goats that are free of the disease and test your herd.
Coccidiosis is a parasite that is carried by many goats. It can lead to kids getting diarrhoea, rough coats as well as ill-health. It can be treated with Albion or a coccidiostat feed.
Caseous Lymphadenitis also is known as “abscesses” is a contagious disease and is recognised by pus-filled abscesses that can burst and infect other goats. To prevent your goats from contracting this disease, purchase goats that are free of Caseous Lymphadenitis. You can also test for the disease but the test can sometimes be inconclusive
Enterotoxemia is caused by sudden changes in feed, feeding your goats too much, sickness or other things that can upset the digestion of your goats. It has the potential to kill a goat and you should vaccinate your herd and have a CD antitoxin in your goat’s medical cabinet for emergencies.
These are just a few of the disease your goats can get. If you want a more extensive list you can you can check out this Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_infectious_sheep_and_goat_diseases
As the saying goes: Prevention is better than cure so it’s necessary for you to develop a disease management policy for your farm. Diseases can come through different routes such as bringing new animals onto your farm; goat shows (which are incubators for goat diseases); unclean environments; insects, birds and animals that come onto your property. You can minimise the risk of disease by quarantining goats brought onto your farm (new goats should be quarantined for at least four weeks. They also need to be vaccinated and physically examined.
When you decide to enter a goat show and take home that coveted “Most Beautiful Goat” trophy you may also be taking home a disease from the other goats at the show. Talk with a veterinarian or other participants as to how you can avoid your pretty goat from catching a disease.
Make sure your goat shed or shelter is always clean. Wood troughs can carry bacteria so use plastic feed troughs if possible. Also, ensure that your goats aren’t in overcrowded conditions where your goats can become susceptible to diseases such as Soremouth or Pinkeye.
Also, make sure that your goat’s medical cabinet is fully stocked with the essentials so that you are ready to tackle any health issues. For a list of things you should have in the cabinet have a look at this site: https://featherandscalefarm.com/comprehensive-goat-medicine-cabinet/
Where can I get support for meat goat farming?
You have set up your farm, got your goats and shelter built, created a disease prevention strategy. Yet you feel like you are still somewhat overwhelmed and need support/ Yet who can you reach out to in the USA for meat goat farming support?
The American Goat Federation provides you with industry news, education, research and other resources. You can become a member for only $20 per year. So if you feel like you need ongoing support as a meat goat farmer this federation in your best choice.