July 2019 Issue
IN THIS ISSUE:
HOW TO MAKE MONEY RAISING AND SELLING MEATIER GOATS
Livestock producers have been breeding for better cattle, sheep, hogs, and poultry for decades, yet the concept of raising an improved meat goat doesn't occur to very many people. This is a missed opportunity, because high demand for fresh goat meat exists and there is no continuous supply of uniformly-sized meaty goats available to sell. Raising goats of comparable size that have more meat and less waste must be part of every meat-goat producer's breeding and marketing plans.
An "improved" goat is a hardy, parasite-tolerant meat goat that has high meat-to-bone ratio and grows steadily to market weight with minimal producer-supplied feed and medical care. The sires and dams must produce offspring of similar size and meat cover because commercial goat buyers want and pay more for a uniform product. This may sound simple, but it isn't. Few goat breeds meet these criteria.
I am a firm believer that when you start a project or business, you should do it right or don't do it at all. This approach also applies to raising meat goats.
Historically, people who raised goats in places like West Texas have gone to an auction, randomly bought grade does and bucks to cover them, and put them on acreage to breed and fend for themselves.. These folks usually lived off site, checked on the goats maybe once a week at which time they tossed out some shelled corn to serve as a (poor) nutritional supplement , occasionally dewormed them, and rounded up what was left in the spring. A 100% kidding ratio (one surviving kid per doe) was acceptable because they put little money or effort into the goats. To a large extent, meat-goat production in Texas and elsewhere still follows this 'survival of the fittest' pattern. This is not a recipe for raising quality animals for which premium prices can be charged nor is this a viable business plan.
Until Boers came into the USA around 1992, no one cared if meat goats lived or died. They were feral animals who had to survive on their own and were worth about $5.00 per head. Despite their shortcomings, Boers generated interest in goats in the USA. Even today, there is no established meat-goat industry in the United States. I've been raising goats since 1990 and I have never met nor heard of anyone who raises goats as their primary source of income. Forty percent (40%) of the goat meat consumed in the USA today is imported frozen from Australia and they are mostly feral goats that are rounded up, slaughtered, and shipped frozen to market.
If you are a goat-raising hobbyist, there is nothing wrong with that. But if you are trying to make some money raising meat goats, it is wise to evaluate what you are breeding.
Goats as a species are categorized as meat, milk, or fiber (hair). "Dairy" and "meat" are opposite characteristics. You cannot produce lots of meat and large quantities of milk on the same animal. Genetics just doesn't work that way. Cattle folks have tried it, as have the Boer people. You either get meat or milk but not both. There is no such thing as a productive dual-purpose goat.
Raising good goats involves many things, the first of which is selecting a MEAT breed, beginning with the buck. If you want to raise meatier goats so you can make more money, there are only two breeds that have exceptional meat yields: the heavier-muscled fullblood Myotonic goat developed in the early 1990's by Onion Creek Ranch in Texas and trademarked as the Tennessee Meat Goat™ and the TexMaster™, also developed at Onion Creek Ranch in the mid-1990's. These two breeds have much higher meat-to-bone ratios than any other goat breed and have no dairy genetics in them.
Do you know the genetic origin and meat-to-bone ratio of the goat breed that you are currently raising? Since meat is what you are selling,it makes sense to find out. This is especially important with goats because there is no significant market for the offals (trash, i.e. FAT, hooves, ears, teeth, internal organs, and even hides) because there are so few goats in the USA. There are less than 2 million goats in this country and the number continues to decline.
When you sell a goat for meat, the slaughter buyer looks at the goat, mentally dresses it out, and offers you less for the fatty (non-meaty) animal. The order buyer can tell fat from muscle by the way that it moves on the live animal. FAT layers on the goat and is cut off and thrown away at slaughter. FAT is a major part of offals on a goat and you don't get paid for it.
Once you have those meatier kids on the ground, you have to market them as the better product that they are if you expect to get top dollar for them.
Advertising exists for a reason. It focuses peoples' attention to get through the clutter in their daily lives. If you are a small producer, you don't have to run print or internet ads, but you do have to make people aware of your superior meatier product on a continuing basis to everyone you know who might be interested in goat meat.
This also means educating the auctioneer at your local livestock auction house. Chances are good that he doesn't know much about goats in general or anything about meatier breeds in particular. Few auction houses even have computer programs that have space to identify different goat breeds. They know "Boer" and likely lump everything else as "spanish”.
Minimum requirements necessary in order to raise quality meat goats:
1) Sufficient land over which goats can roam with good forage/browse for them to eat.
2) Goat fencing in good repair, with at least four pastures for rotational purposes.
3) Clean, ample, and consistent water supply.
4) Good shelter from rain, wind, heat, and cold.
5) Working pens, chutes, and traps designed with goats in mind to make handling them easy, fast, and with minimal stress on both the goats and you. If you "think like a goat" when designing these facilities, working goats will be much easier.
6) A working knowledge of basic goat nutrition and health. Basic protein, energy, fat, fiber, and mineral needs must be met, especially for pregnant does and growing kids.
7) Provision of a basic level of preventative medication for common health problems.
8) Ability to supplementally feed in times of bad weather and the knowledge needed to know what supplements are necessary and in what quantities when these conditions exist.
9) Livestock guardian protection is critical. Livestock guardian dogs are bred to protect goats.
10) Ability and willingness to check on the goats on a daily basis. It is best if you live on the property where the goats live. It is extremely difficult to raise goats remotely.
11)Selection of a breed that produces lots of meat. High meat-to-bone ratio brings money to your bottom line.
Goats are a prey species; they are regularly targeted by predators. Goats are also susceptible to life-threatening health problems. Stomach worms, pneumonia, and coccidiosis are the most common. Others include but are not limited to tetanus, listeriosis, enterotoxemia (overeating disease), polioencephalomacia (goat polio), meningeal deerworm, caseous lymphadenitis, caprine arthritic encephalitis, Johnes disease, multiple pregnancy-related diseases and complications, and several nutritionally-related illnesses and deficiencies. There are unique problems with pregnant goats that aren't experienced by cattle producers. The fact that does have multiple kids increases the possibility of complications occurring during birthing.
If you expect to make money raising meat goats, , you must perform at least a minimum level of preventative care. When goats are raised under managed conditions that limit their access to what they eat and where they roam, the potential exists for producer-induced problems. Monthly random fecal counts and deworming only as needed are basic essential tasks. The FAMACHA field test for stomach worms should be used every time a goat is handled, but fecal counts should also be done to confirm field results. Fecal tests for coccidiosis are also needed, especially in young kids. Vaccinating against overeating disease/tetanus and pneumonia are the minimum you should do. CD/T for overeating disease/tetanus, Presponse for pneumonia, and Texas Vet Lab's CL vaccine are the vaccines that I use. . In areas that are selenium deficient, BoSe injections are required.
I keep a bottle of C&D Anti-toxin on hand for those instances when a toxic condition exists and immediate treatment is required. There is no good alternative to C&D Anti-toxin and it will not be readily available or easily found to purchase when your emergency occurs.
I have articles on most if not all of these topics on my website's Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com. You are also encouraged to join ChevonTalk on Yahoogroups, my free meat-goat education group that has been on the Internet since 1998, and MeatGoatMania on Yahoogroups, my free online magazine on goat health, nutrition, and management. Sign up for GoatCamp™ at my Texas ranch; it is held every October. You will learn more in four days than you will in four years on your own. Avail yourself of my very affordable one-on-one fee-based one-on-one consultation services. Details on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, ONION CREEK RANCH, Texas 7.3.19