Raising a goat is highly beneficial due to the multiple products it produces. Over the years, its popularity among farmers has risen due to its considerably low maintenance as it thrives even in poor grazing matter and in high and low temperatures. Its products include nutritious, cholesterol-free, and easily digestible milk and meat. Additionally, it contributes to the leather and textile industries and to the crop production with its skin, fiber, and manure, respectively. Hence, farming goats could be an extremely profitable enterprise.
Besides, goats can be very friendly and lovable that taking care of one means little to no challenge at all.
To start a goat farm in the USA, a good few elements should be considered. This should include the following:
- Examining whether a location is suitable for a goat farm;
- Determining how many goats to purchase, which breed, age group, and sex;
- Building a shed and fencing, and identifying which type of bedding to use;
- Learning about goat feeding;
- Studying health or veterinary measures;
- Learning about goat breeding;
- Calculating expenditure; and
- Studying the market.
Goat farming has a very promising potential in business. In fact, there is a high demand for goat meat and milk in the local and international market in the present. Thus, there is no way one should miss out on such a great opportunity. However, several elements are essential in determining how a goat farming venture will thrive. Here are a few things to gain knowledge to start goat farming.
Examining the Location
All US states house meat goat farms, with most production in the Southeast. However, the primary meat goat producer, representing 38% of US production, is in the South-Central, particularly Texas.
As a beginner goat farmer, one should check the regulations within a specific area. Apparently, an urban area may not be a suitable place for a goat farm. Hence, one should get permission or a license from the local government before setting up a goat farm.
Should one find a place that allows for goat farming, he or she should consider several variables like the following:
- Space. Goats like open spaces where they can roam around.
- Atmosphere. An area far from the city and pollution should be beneficial for the goats.
- Surface. Clean and dry surface is preferable. Mud floor can be acceptable except for where there is high rainfall or snow. Goats tend to hate puddles and wet weather.
- Plants. Goats graze or chew on typically almost any plant. Thus, an area should be free of poisonous and strong-smelling plants that may spoil the goat milk’s taste. Specifically, milkweed, bracken fern, or wild cherry leaves are the plants that should be avoided.
- Pasture. Having a pasture makes the food cost cheaper, aside from the fact that it keeps the goats healthy.
- Water. Like most animals, goats need accessible clean water.
Picking the Goat: Number, Sex, Age, Breed
Number & Sex
Goats, like humans, are typically social animals. They tend to be uncooperative once they are kept alone. Hence, it is advisable to get at least two goats to satisfy this concern. However, male goats or bucks, especially the uncastrated ones, should be separated from the females or does. The reason for this is that bucks are often aggressive. Other than that, they tend to develop a strong odor, which may spoil the milk’s taste. Therefore, it is preferable to get more than just two, especially if one’s purpose of goat farming is for profit.
Fifteen or twenty is a good number for starting a new goat farm. Sometimes, beginner goat farmers opt to buy just does and pay another goat farm that has a buck for breeding. Otherwise, one may purchase a buck with breeding papers that contain useful information such as its traits and potential defects.
Young goats or kids, those that are around eight weeks old, require one to two years of care before they mature. Only after that period that they can be bred, produce milk, and be sold as meat. On the other hand, six and twelve-month olds take less time to mature. In fact, they may even come with the option to have them bred before they are purchased. Through this, they can produce milk quicker. Lastly, adult goats are the cheapest to purchase, next to the eight-week-old kids.
Aside from getting separated by sexes, goats should also be separated according to size. Unless they are kids that need their mother, goats of significantly different sizes should be in different areas.
Determining one’s purpose for goat farming is essential in selecting a goat breed. For instance, if one desires for milk production, then Pygmy, Nigerian Dwarf, La Mancha, and Alpine are the best choices. Nubians, Alper, Oberhasli, Saanen, and Toggenburgs, are also world-famous as dairy goat breeds. Alternatively, if one desires for meat production, Spanish, Tennessee, and Boer are the goats to go. Lastly, for fabric production, one shall get Angora, Cashmere, or Mountain goats.
Fencing, Housing, Bedding
Goats are good at getting into small gaps and climbing over fences. Therefore, it is advisable to create a sturdy fence that is five feet or higher, especially for bucks. This should prevent the bucks from accessing the does; hence, preventing unplanned breeding. Also, wire fencing that is strung between posts should be harder to climb or more difficult for slipping through.
Conversely, a shelter should be made for when the goats need a place to go during winter or rainy weather. A pole barn shall suffice and shall last for about 10 to 15 years. Moreover, an area with cold winters requires for a fully-enclosed, draft-free environment. Otherwise, if an area has a mild climate, a three-sided enclosure shall be fine.
For a professional goat farming level, a shed that is 25 x 30 feet can house around 100 to 200 goats. A few compartments shall also be necessary for different goat types and levels of maturity. For instance, compartments shall be different for bucks, does, kids, junior goats, and different compartments for breeding, ill-care, and feeding.
Goats need an area where they can comfortably walk and lie down. Hence, bedding is typically essential, which is also beneficial to the farmer for mucking out goat wastes. Moreover, like humans’ bed sheets, goat bedding also needs to be replaced regularly. Normally, once a month shall suffice during summer as the goats spend more time outdoors. However, during the winter, the bedding can be built up by layering new bedding on top of an old one. This will provide extra heat to the goats due to the composting bottom bedding.
Bedding can be any of the following:
- Straw. Straw, preferably wheat, helps for an easier muck out. It is less dusty, and the goats can eat it if it’s fresh. Also, it is cheap and easy to store as it comes in bales.
- Hay. Hay, like straw, is easy for mucking out. It is also less dusty and something that the goats can eat. It is easy to store and comes in bales, as well.
- Sawdust. This option is preferable in areas with little rain. As for its storage, these may be kept outside, which can be convenient.
- Wood chips/pellets. These are effective in absorbing urine and odors. However, they may be too hard and uncomfortable for the goats. They may also be relatively expensive.
A goat food should provide a substantial amount of calcium and phosphorous in about one to one ratio. These components are essential in preventing health problems, especially if coupled with other mineral supplements. Natural food is preferable in terms of its cost, but it may be slower for weight gain than supplementary food. Moreover, goats are ideally fed four times a day for proper muscle buildup. Also, the place of food serving should be at least an inch and a half from the floor.
Natural food can be weeds, herbs, shrubs, grasses, and small trees in the woods or in overgrown fields. Besides, other ideal goat food can be oats, crash corn and sunflower’s black seed, barley, and field peas. These contain protein, fiber, carbs, potassium, and more.
Aside from a clean house and healthy food, goats also need vaccines so that they are free of health problems. If possible, goat farmers should have a stock of vaccines and medicines and contact with a veterinary doctor. Does that are not vaccinated should be vaccinated at the fifth month of gestation period. Kids should also be vaccinated as they reach five months old.
These are the viral diseases goats should be immunized for:
- PPR or goat plague (peste des petits ruminants) with 1 ml dosage
- goat pox with 1 ml dosage
- foot and mouth diseases with 2 ml dosage
- anthrax with 1ml dosage
- brucellosis with 1ml dosage
Goat Breeding and Maturity
As mentioned earlier, six to twelve-month old goats are suitable for breeding, provided that they are about 80 to 105 pounds big. Bucks can breed typically at any time of the year. However, some dairy breed does only go into estrus or heat every 21 days that lasts about one to three days during the fall season. Nigerians, Boers, Spanish, Pygmies, and sometimes, Nubians can breed year-round, though. A few signs can indicate if a goat is in estrus. These can be wagging of the tail, and mounting other does, fighting, clear mucosal vaginal discharge, yelling, or bleating for no reason. Many people breed their goats every year to maintain milk supply.
Moreover, goat gestation is a period of five months. Averagely, the number of offspring is within the range of one to five. Pregnant does can still be milked. However, it is advisable to let the doe dry up for two months before giving birth. This is in order for her build up nutritional reserves for the offspring. Also, does can give birth to offspring in their entire lifetime, although complications may arise when they are older. Their lifespan is typically around ten to twelve years.
The cost of starting out a goat farm depends on various variables. These include the location, breed, cost of food, time, number of goats purchased, and overall planned farming system. But typically, a well-bred goat shall cost around $75 to $200. This is depending on its age, and whether which type of goat it is – meat, dairy, or show goat.
Of course, small scale farming will likely require less investment with less profit. Otherwise, large scale farming for commercial purposes is likely to require higher investment. Those that are raising young goats should take note that the farm may not be profitable for two years. As mentioned, it takes about this length of time for goat kids to reach maturity.
These are the specific questions that may be considered when starting out a goat farm:
- Where is the location of the goat farm?
- How many goats should be purchased?
- How much is a certain goat breed?
- How much does it cost to build fencing and housing?
- How much is a veterinary procedure?
- How much are the bedding and cleaning tools?
- How much are the legal fees (e.g., if the farm aims to sell milk and meat)?
- How much do food and supplementary minerals cost?
Many people obtain goats as pets, but profit is more likely the purpose of a lot of goat owners. Hence, in line with the previous concern on cost and location, one should consider where there is a market. A goat farm near a market allows for a goat farmer’s easy access to the market. Other than that, good market proximity will allow for the easy purchase of goat farm products and tools.
As mentioned, a goat farmer that is raising kids may not be able to earn income until about two years. However, when he or she does, a significant amount of profit shall be possible until the second year of income. After that, a definite high and growing production and profit shall transpire throughout the succeeding years. To do so, it is essential once again to consider the market and also determine a preferable distributor.
Goat meat and milk have enormous demand and popularity locally and globally. Hence, considering these two options upon starting up a goat farming business may be advantageous. Small scale goat farms may target the nearest market with meat and milk products. Otherwise, large scale goat farms or commercial producers can shoot out to the international market to export in foreign countries.
How should goat farmers address different seasons and temperatures?
Areas with generally warm temperatures shall require at least a three-sided enclosure or shed. Typically colder areas shall require a fully-enclosed shed, a pole barn preferably. As for the bedding, warm areas or season shall require for once a month muck out.
Otherwise, for cold areas or season, the muck can build up in layers. This will allow for extra heat due to the bottom composting layer. It is important to keep the goats away from cold and rain to avoid mass death. As for the feeding, hot weather or the summer season shall require salt and mineral with a lot of water.
What are the specific traits of specific breeds?
Each goat breed has its own distinct personality. For instance, Nubian goats are the divas are very loving and loyal, but incredibly demanding. They are demanding in a way that they can’t be forced to do something if they do not want to.
La Manchas, on the other hand, are sweet, hardworking, and easy to train. Saanens, conversely, are typically mischievous. However, this may not be true at all times. Those that want to start out a goat farm, thus, shall also consider studying the temperaments of the different breeds.
What are the things goats are vulnerable to?
Goats tend to be very vulnerable to cold and rainy weather. If neglected, a farm may experience a mass death of goats. It is for this reason that cold areas are required for fully-enclosed pole barns. Mucking up layers of bedding should also help in keeping the goat shed extra warm. Other than that, goats generally can get very sick easily, and they can also die very fast.
It is typically the nature of an animal who can breed young and has multiple offspring in a birth. Goats can breed in as early as three months, but it is not recommended. If a goat gets sick, it needs to be watched and treated quickly as soon as something amiss is detected.
With that, a person that plans on starting a goat farm needs to plan on studying much. One needs to be significantly expert at identifying what is normal and not with his or her type of goat. A difference of two hours in giving a medication may do a lot for a goat’s life or death. Hence, one should have a connection and a good relationship with a veterinary doctor. In addition, one should also be meticulous and on time with worming and vaccinations.