Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, TX
Lohn, Texas
Onion Creek Ranch "Chevon, cabrito, goat... No matter what you call it, it is the HEALTHY red meat™
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DETERMINING YOUR MARKET
Things To Do Before You Decide To Go Into The Meat Goat Business

Before you make the decision to go into the meat-goat business, you must research the market in the area where you plan to sell them. Whether you plan to produce slaughter animals, show goats, breeding stock, goats for brush control, or pets, you need answers to many questions before you buy your first goat.

Is there a demand for goats in your area? If not, there is no goat business for you to enter. If demand exists, from whom? Is your market area overflowing with people who are raising goats or are there only a handful of producers? What markets do they target? What markets do they not breed for that could provide a niche for you to fill? If there is a demand for goats, what is that demand? Is there a strong show-goat (4H-FFA) program in your area? Do the people who live around you eat goat meat? Are producers raising goats to fill slaughter-market demand? Is there a need for a quality breeder of herd sires and dams? Ask questions and benefit from the mistakes of others. Don't reinvent the wheel.

If there are not enough goats in your area to supply the demand, you might want to consider raising breeding stock. While raising breeding stock is the most cost-intensive route to take, it is a great source of pride to know that you've developed superior meat goats. Understand that it takes deep pockets to hold goats past normal slaughter age, continually evaluating how they are developing, culling heavily, making changes in breeding that improve the offspring with each generation, keeping your name before the public by advertising regularly even if you don't have stock available for sale year around, and investing money into your breeding stock operation during both good and bad times. Even when economic conditions are bad or feed and hay costs increase, you cannot sell off quality breeding stock that it has taken you years if not decades to develop. Those goats won't be available to buy back when markets improve. Raising quality breeding stock requires a long-term development strategy. You have to have the financial ability to hang onto the stock you have through bad times until better conditions return.

If there is a strong 4H-FFA presence in your area, find out the dates of the shows and the requirements to enter, then contact local ag teachers and county extension agents. Find out their specific requirements and breed for that market. Entering this market requires serious personal involvement in the schools' goat-show programs, as well as developing close relationships with the folks in charge. If you can become a member of the inner circle of these usually tightly-knit groups, you can be one of the area's few suppliers of show goats. If many other people are already breeding for this market, it is probably a waste of your time to try to break into it. There is a finite number of goats needed in each show area, and if too many goats are bred, the prices drop dramatically per goat.

The quickest way to make money raising meat goats is to raise slaughter animals. Success depends upon finding out who your (mostly ethic) customers are; what they want at various times of the year in terms of age, sex, weight, color, wethered or sexually intact; what they are willing to pay; where goats can be slaughtered and processed and what that will cost; and what the fall-back position (usually commercial auctions) will bring price wise if you are unable to sell directly to consumers. Slaughter/processing facilities for goats are relatively rare in many areas of the USA and the costs involved can add so much to the overall price of the goat that some customers will balk and not make a purchase. Certain buyers want to slaughter on your site. Find out if that is permissible in your state. Some states have laws that permit on-farm slaughter only by the end consumer.Most ethnic groups have specific cultural, religious, and/or tradition-based requirements for the goats that they buy. Hispanics prefer what they call "cabrito" . . . . approximately 30-35 pound gross weight carcasses for bar-b-quing on a grill. Muslims usually require that goats must be slaughtered under Halal conditions, just as Jews want their goats processed under Kosher conditions. Jamaicans will accept an older and larger (and cheaper) animal that they will chop and cook with curry. Every market segment has its own set of requirements. There are many ethnic populations in the United States to whom you can sell goat meat. If you target your markets and provide personalized service, customers should soon be coming to you.

Contact ethnic restaurants and meat markets and offer to be their dependable source of goat meat. You might have to offer a sample of your product to influential members of the ethnic community that you are targeting to obtain their recommendation of your product. Word of mouth is the best advertising.

What breed or breeds will you choose to raise? Many folks never give this a thought, simply following what their neighbors and friends are doing. Americans are prone to believe that bigger is better, but that isn't applicable to meat goats. Several goat breeds have been bred up to sizes which do not permit them to be raised cost effectively or allow them to be able to feed themselves on forage/pasture. The cattle industry did this with certain breeds before producers recognized their mistake and downsized the animals.

Stop looking at size and instead start thinking meat-to-bone ratio. Goats carry a lot of waste on their bodies which winds up in the offals (trash) bucket. If goats are exclusively or even primarily grain-fed, they can wind up with too much fat on their bodies. Goats do not marble fat throughout their muscle like cattle, so it has to go somewhere, and that "somewhere" is layers of fat around internal organs (liver, kidneys, heart). Search out breeds and/or crossbreeds that produce more meat and less waste. Hint: If a goat has meat on it, it has Myotonic in it. Check out www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.

If you are raising meat goats, do not buy dairy goats. These two types of goats exist for opposite purposes. Dairy goats are not meat goats. They produce lots of milk, but their frame does not carry lots of meat. Quality meat goats do not need dairy influence to produce sufficient milk for their kids.

Evaluate your own property's limitations and scale your goat-raising operation appropriately. Do not over-populate your pens, pastures, and barns. Determine the carrying capacity of goats on your property; read my article entitled Stocking Rates in the September 2012 issue of MeatGoatMania and on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com. Establish a good nutritional program for your herd; the hardest thing to get right about raising goats under any managed condition is proper nutrition. Find a qualified goat vet in your area before you go into the goat business; this isn't easy as most vets don't know much about goats. Stock up on essential vaccines and prescription medications before you need them. I promise you that your goats will get sick on a weekend holiday in the middle of the night in the dead of winter and you won't be able to get veterinary help. You have to learn to do most of your own vet work. The monetary loss you incur when one quality goat dies because you don't have proper supplies on hand would have gone a long way towards stocking your medicine cabinet. Subscribe to ChevonTalk and MeatgoatMania on Yahoogroups; both are free. Attend GoatCamp™ held at Onion Creek Ranch in October every year.

While there are many other items to consider when making your decision to raise or not to raise goats, this article provides information that you can use to create your business plan and set up your goat-raising operation. Always approach raising goats as a business or soon you will see lots of red ink on your profit-and-loss ledger. Make sure you really know the answer to this question: Why do I want to raise meat goats?

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas 10/11/12

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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!)

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