RAISING A BETTER GOAT
Livestock producers have been breeding for better cattle, sheep, hogs, and poultry for decades, yet the concept of raising an improved meat goat eludes a lot of people. If goat producers are ever going to achieve a stable pricing structure throughout the year rather than being subjected to the seasonality of multiple ethnic markets, then raising a uniformly sized and meatier goat must be part of their marketing plan.
My definition of 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 similarly sized offspring so that slaughter weights vary little from goat to goat. Commercial goat buyers prefer a uniform product.
For decades, commercial meat-goat producers in places like West Texas have gone to an auction house, bought does and enough bucks to cover them, and put them out on forage to breed and fend for themselves through the winter. They checked on the goats perhaps once a week at which time they threw out on the ground some (formerly) cheap shelled corn to serve as a (poor) nutritional supplement , occasionally drenched them with a cheap dewormer, and rounded up what was left in the spring. A 100% kidding ratio (one surviving kid per doe) was considered good. To a large extent, commercial meat-goat production in Texas still follows this outdated pattern. This is not a recipe for raising quality animals for which premium prices can be charged.
Below are listed 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 three or four pastures for rotational purposes.
3) Clean, ample, and consistent water supply.
4) Good shelter from rain, wind, and extreme 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 all involved. "Think like a goat" when designing these facilities and working goats will be much easier.
6) A working knowledge of basic goat nutrition and health. Basic protein, energy, fiber/roughage, and mineral needs must be met, especially for pregnant does and growing kids. Provision of a basic level of preventative medication for common health problems.
7) Ability to supplementally feed in times of bad weather and the knowledge needed to know what supplements are needed and in what quantities when these conditions exist.
8) Livestock guardian protection; dogs bred for this purpose are usually the most effective.
9) Ability and willingness to check on the goats on a daily basis. Yes, I said daily.
10)Selection of a breed that produces lots of meat. High meat-to-bone ratio brings money to the producer's bottom line.
Goats are fairly hardy animals but they are susceptible to several serious life-threatening health problems. Stomach worms, pneumonia, overeating disease, and coccidiosis are the most commonly seen diseases. Others include but are not limited to tetanus, listeriosis, polioencephalomacia, meningeal deerworm, caseous lymphadenitis, caprine arthritic encephalitis, Johnes disease, multiple pregnancy-related diseases, and several nutritionally-related illnesses and deficiencies.
A producer expecting to achieve maximum profit from his goats 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. Regularly checking for worm loads and deworming 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 is the minimum a producer should do. Use the few vaccines labeled for goats: Colorado Serum's Essential 3+T and Mannheimia Haemolytica Pasteurella Multocida Bacterin. Both of these products cost pennies per dose. In areas that are selenium deficient, BoSe injections are required.
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. Several companies are working on a vaccine to prevent Caseous Lymphadenitis (CL) in goats. When this vaccine becomes available, producers should add it to their preventative medications program. While CL is not life threatening, it is a management problem, and the vaccine will go a long way towards getting this nuisance disease under control and off the radar as a problem for meat-goat producers. In the meantime, use CaseBac, the CL vaccine for sheep. The February 2009 issue of MeatGoatMania explains how I use Case Bac.
There are unique problems with pregnant goats that aren't experienced by cattle producers. The very fact that does have multiple kids increases the possibility of complications occurring during the birthing process. I have articles on most if not all of these topics on my website's Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com. Producers 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.
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, ONION CREEK RANCH, 9/11/11
Important! Please Read This Notice!
All information provided in these articles is based either on personal experience or information provided by others whose treatments and practices have been discussed fully with a vet for accuracy and effectiveness before passing them on to readers.
In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Suzanne Gasparotto is not a veterinarian.Neither tennesseemeatgoats.com nor any of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.
The author, Suzanne Gasparotto, hereby grants to local goat publications and club newsletters, permission to reprint articles published on the Onion Creek Ranch website under these conditions: THE ARTICLE MUST BE REPRODUCED IN ITS ENTIRETY AND THE AUTHOR'S NAME, ADDRESS, AND CONTACT INFORMATION MUST BE INCLUDED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE REPRINT. We would appreciate notification from any clubs or publications when the articles are used. (A copy of the newsletter or publication would also be a welcome addition to our growing library of goat related information!)
[GoatCamp™] [Tennessee Meat Goats™] [Myotonic Goats] [TexMaster™ Goats] [Which Breed is Right for You?]
All information and photos copyright © Onion Creek Ranch and may not be used without express written permission of Onion Creek Ranch. TENNESSEE MEAT GOAT ™ and TEXMASTER™ are Trademarks of Onion Creek Ranch . All artwork and graphics © DTP, Ink and Onion Creek Ranch.