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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ORGANICALLY - RAISED GOATS

Of the many markets for goat meat, one of the more unique and specialized outlets is meat from goats that are raised "organically" or "naturally."

What does "organically-raised" actually mean? "Organic" and "natural" mean different things to different people, and in some places, the definitions are actually spelled out in law. For purposes of this article, the writer will use the terms interchangeably.

"Organic" or "natural" can mean raised without the use of dewormers, antibiotics, or manufactured medications of any kind. It can mean that the goat is raised completely on forage/browse, without the input of any processed feed or feed additives. It can mean both. Or it can mean whatever the state or other jurisdiction in which you raise and market goats says it means. If you think that selling goats raised organically is a good market for you to pursue, first determine what these words mean in your locale by finding out what laws, if any, have been passed defining and regulating them. Just as the word "kosher" has specific meaning, so do the words "organic" and "natural," but with the latter two, the definitions may vary from city to city or state to state.

Raising large numbers of goats with minimal input is doable, but only if you have many acres of suitable forage/browse that is properly fenced for goats. The key to raising healthy goats is lots of space and rotational pasturing. This is even more true if you are trying to raise them "organically/naturally." Realize that modern agricultural feedstocks, chemicals, and equipment have allowed producers to raise more on less acreage, bringing per-unit costs down dramatically. The "organic/natural" producer is wanting to go back to practices that were used when these products did not exist. Such a move makes for a more land-extensive and labor/cost-intensive operation. Product selling price will have to be significantly higher to justify increased costs.

Unlike other livestock species, goats are very susceptible to stomach worms and coccidia oocysts. Goats protect themselves from worm and coccidia infestation by eating "from the top down," creating a browse line, and constantly moving over wide areas of ground. Such behavior keeps the internal parasite load low. Think of goats as "first cousins" to deer in how they live and eat. Under managed conditions, goats need to be rotated into fresh pasture every three weeks (the life cycle of a stomach worm).

If the producer does not have lots of suitable forage/browse, then it is difficult but not impossible to semi-dry lot goats in pens in small numbers. The goats will, however, have to be fed. They cannot survive, thrive, and reproduce on a diet of grass hay alone. Overcrowding and uncleanliness are the primary reasons for internal parasites (worms and coccidia occysts) in goat. To accomplish this, the producer must be focused daily on maintaining clean pens and water/feed troughs, and the goats must be given lots of grass hay free-choice (24/7) to keep their rumens functioning at peak efficiency. Fresh, clean water is essential on an around-the-clock basis. The producer would be wise to employ the services of a caprine nutritionist to ensure that the grain ration or alternative nutrient sources are appropriate for confined living conditions. A loose mineral made especially for goats is essential, since vitamins and minerals that goats normally get from forage/browse won't be available to them. Special attention must be paid to selenium and copper intake. The availability of a daily exercise area is very important. The dilemma: Can the small producer make any money raising goats in this manner?

There is currently no scientific evidence that any "natural" or "organic" product, including Diatomaceous Earth (DE), is effective against internal parasites in goats. Producers regularly receive "hype" about natural dewormers and should know that in addition to being unproven for effectiveness, these products have the additional drawback of being dangerous because effective and toxic levels are very close. Example: Wormwood is a plant-based "natural" product believed by some to be have deworming properties. However, in order for wormwood to achieve any level approaching effectiveness, the dosage has to be so high that it might kill the goat. Plants protect themselves from pests by producing high levels of toxins. Everything contains chemical compounds. Because a substance has been untouched by human hands does not mean that it is safe. Arsenic is a good example; there are many more. Unlike products made by pharmaceutical companies, "natural," "organic," and "herbal" products are not required to submit to Food and Drug Administration examination for safety or effectiveness, so product composition can and does vary.

Kids being reared for slaughter can be managed without using commercial dewormers and coccidiosis medications if the producer follows a strict program of cleanliness and feed management; however, adults retained for breeding purposes will have to be dewormed and medicated over their lifespans unless the producer is willing to let them die from pneumonia, kidding complications, heavy worm infestation, or other illnesses/diseases which strike this species of livestock. Goats tend to be more susceptible to stress and illness than most other livestock species. Goats also have a higher mortality rate and more predation problems. For these reasons, livestock guardian animals (preferably dogs) are a vital part of the producer's goat-ranching operation. Canine guardian animals will require the administration of man-made medications in the form of rabies, parvo, distemper, corona, and other vaccines. See the writer's article on Livestock Guardian Dogs on the Articles page.

In summary, the niche market of "organically/naturally" raised goats can be successfully targeted by interested producers if they have first identified their markets, and if they are aware of the limitations cited in this article and are prepared to follow the recommendations made to avoid health and nutrition problems. The producer should also recognize that his costs -- particularly labor expense -- will be higher than with forage-raised goats, but higher product prices should offset them.

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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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