How to Raise Goats for Meat

meat goats Jul 31, 2020

 

 

A lot of people make money selling “meat goats” or “market goats”, which refer to goats you raise to sell for their meat, as opposed to goats someone might raise for other purposes like producing milk (dairy) or being a pet. Goat meat demand in the United States is steadily increasing, so the profit potential in raising meat goats is good. It helps that goat meat is healthier than other meats. It has about 2/3 the calories of beef and 3/4 the calories of chicken. It also has 1/3 the fat of pork and less than 1/2 the fat of chicken. There is so much demand for goat meat that most of it is being imported from other countries outside the U.S. like Australia. This is why raising meat goats can be a profitable business. If you want to get started with meat goats, there are several things you need to do.

 

GOAT VIDEO - What Is The Best Breed of Meat Goat?

Video Credit: Rebellion Ranch

 

1. Set a Goal for Your Meat Goat Business

There are multiple ways to make money in the meat goat business. You will do better if you start by focusing on one goal, rather than trying to do it all.

Here are the different directions you can take with your meat goat business.

 

Raising Pure-Bred Meat Goats

By raising 100% pure-bred goats in a particular breed you can take advantage of several opportunities. If you buy and keep “registered” pure-bred goats, you can enter them in shows.

Winning show awards can make the value of your goats and their kids go higher for later resale.

You can also sell registered goats for a higher price to other goat farmers who need to replace pure-bred goats in their herd or who want brood stock to get their own line of pure-bred goats started.

 

Breeding “Percentage” Meat Goats

You could choose to focus your meat goat business on raising “percentage” goats. A percentage goat is not purely 100% from a certain breed, but it is blooded at some percentage of that breed.

The percentage of a goat’s pure blood is rated on a scale ranging from F1 (1/2 pure blood) to F5 (31/32) pure blood. You can breed percentage meat goats for the purpose of showing them or selling them to other goat farmers as replacement or brood stock.

The advantage of percentage goats is that they are less expensive than pure-bred goats, which is helpful when you’re first getting started with meat goats.

Raising Goats for Programs Like 4-H or FFA

An alternative niche for your meat goat business can be selling to 4-H or FFA. These programs will often buy doe kids or whethers to use in their educational programs for students.

 

Raising Meat Goats to be Sold at Market

Another option for your meat goat business is to sell your goats to a trader, auction, processor or consumer to be used for their meat.

 

2. Choosing the Right Goats

Technically you can use any goat for its meat. But to optimize your success in the meat goat business you need to focus on breeds that tend to produce the best quality and quantity of meat for your investment.

Mixed breeds can be good if they come from good meat goat stock. Here we will focus on the particular breeds that are best for meat.

 

Boer Goats

Boer goats are the breed used most often as meat goats. They tend to be very muscular and stocky which is perfect for producing the best meat.

Boer goats tend to gain weight rapidly, develop heavy muscles (meat), are very fertile and often give birth to more than one kid at the same time.

This is because Boer goats were selectively bred by South African farmers for many years specifically for the best meat production.

 

 

 

Kiko Goats

This goat breed originated from new Zealand and is probably the second most popular meat goat after Boer goats. They are hardy and muscular which make them a prime candidate for meat.

Kiko goats are a little less expensive than Boer goats, but still have similar qualities, so Kiko goats are popular as meat goats. Kikos are also parasite-resistant and have less health issues compared to Boer goats which are susceptible to Barber Pole worms.

Kikos exhibit strong mating habits, rapid growth, excellent meat production per goat and require minimal care.

 

Tennessee Fainting Goats (Myotonic Goats)

These goats have great meat qualities, so they are the next best choice after Boer goats and Kiko goats. They tend to have a higher meat-to-bone ratio than some other breeds.

Also, they cost a little less than Boers and Kikos. They have been specifically bred to be meat goats, and are often cross-bred with Boer goats to get the best characteristics of both breeds. 

 

Spanish Goats (Brush Goats)

For more than 300 years, Spanish goats were the only goats in the Southern United States and South America. They were originally imported to Mexico from Spain hundreds of years ago.

Now there are many mixed breeds of Spanish goats, and fewer pure-breds. Spanish goats are known to do well in rough terrain and wild forage and are also referred to as "brush goats".

They are rugged and strong, and they resist parasites. Because of this they are commonly known for clearing brush.

But because of their qualities, they're desirable for producing meat too, so many breeders cross them with Boer goats for meat production.

 

Pygmy Goats

Pygmy goats as a breed are used primarily for meat in Nigeria because they are muscled heavily, adapted to humid climates and often give birth to twins which produces more goats quickly.

However, in the United States they are mostly used as pets and for show, since they are much smaller and produce less meat than larger goats.  

 

Cross breeds

There are several cross-breeds of goats which also make excellent meat goats, because they were specifically bred for that purpose.

 

Moneymaker Goats

This is a cross-breed of goats mixing Boers, Saanens and Nubians, aimed at creating a line of meat goats that could produce weaned twin kids in less than 5 or 6 months.

Because of this quick turnaround time, this cross-breed is becoming increasingly popular among meat goat breeders.

 

Texmaster Goats

Texmaster is the trademarked name of a composite breed that is a cross between Tennessee Meat Goats with Boer goats produced by Onion Creek Ranch. They have heavier muscling and faster growth rates than some other goat breeds.

Also, Texmasters have a significant portion of Myotonic goat in their breeding, which is known to increase their meat-to-bone ratio.

 

Savanna Goats

They're called "Savanna" goats because they are bred from goats originally designed to thrive in the Savannah environment in Southern Africa. Because of this, they require minimum care and can tolerate heat, dry climate and pests.

Savanna goats can forage well for their food. They have good meat quality and resemble Boer goats, but are a little smaller with shorter legs.

 

Rangeland Goats

Rangeland goats are found in Australia and are called this because they have been raised in the "rangelands" of Australia to be meat goats. They account for at least 90% of goat meat production in Australia.

This is important to people in the U.S. because a lot of the goat meat in the United States is imported from Australia.

 

Choosing a Meat Goat

When you start buying meat goats, be careful who you buy from. Ask lots of questions.

Sometimes goat breeders are selling goats because there is something wrong, and you don't want to let their problems become your problems. If you're just getting started, you will want to read our free report, "10 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Goats".

This will help you understand some of the basics for identifying healthy goats and looking for some of the specific problems to avoid.

For meat goats in particular, this may sound obvious, but your goal is to look for goats that have the most meat on them (not fat), which will live well outdoors without much care and which have a good chance of producing quite a few kids on their own with little assistance.

Normally a typical ratio of bucks to does can be about 1 buck for every 30 to 50 does. Aim for a full-bred buck, but the does can be mixed-breed.

Focus on paying a little more for a good, quality buck since he will be breeding with many does and spreading his line through your herd that may last you for many years.

If you try to save money with a cheap buck, it may cause problems that will stay with you for a long time.  

 

 

 When considering a goat's qualities for meat production, look for goats that look strong, healthy, thick and heavy (not fat and saggy).

A goat's body should look balanced when looking at it from the front or side, and it's back should be straight and level. The barrel of the goat's body should be large but not a pot-belly.

You want there to be plenty of room for the goat's rumen, where forage is digested.

The goat's loins, from the ribs to the rump, should be long, wide and deep, which translates into more meat.

When choosing does, it's preferable to pick those which have already had at least one kid, but aren't too old. You want those that have already kidded because they are proven to be fertile.

Ask the seller whether a doe has had problems kidding or other issues. Once you have a few goats to get your herd started, then you need to get ready to take care of them.

 

3. Preparing to Raise Meat Goats

If you’ve already been raising other types of goats before, and you want to get into meat goats, then you are probably already familiar with basic goat requirements for land, shelter, feeding, healthcare and other goat needs.

But if you are considering goats for the first time, you will need to get familiar with those basic needs.

To learn more about that, check out our various articles on each of those topics which we have written to help people who are just getting started with goats for the first time.

The rest of this article will assume you know the basics of goat raising and will focus mainly on things you need to know about meat goats in particular.

 

4. Raising Your Meat Goats (Market Goats)

 

Feeding Market Goats

With meat goats, an obvious goal is to maximize the amount of muscle, which translates into the amount of meat they produce. As with most goats, you will want them to have access to forages, grains, minerals and water.

But with market goats you also need to give them protein supplements. Such supplements need to be added to the grain you give your meat goats to bring the grain up to a level of about 14% to 18% protein.

If you feed a lot of goats grain at the same time, the more aggressive goats may take food away from the less aggressive goats. You can avoid that problem by providing the equivalent of about 2 lbs. of feed per feeding per goat, which should provide more than enough for all goats to get a fair share.

Your goats will need at least 18% fiber in their feed to avoid issues with their digestion. All of this assumes you are giving them a regular supply also of forage, hay or pasture as well.

You may want to consider using cattle feed for market goats, and avoiding goat or horse feeds which can be more expensive for the same results.

The cost of feeding your meat goats is critical. It can make the difference between a profitable herd versus a herd that incurs losses for you and can't be sustained. Profitable meat goat breeders often find creative ways to save on feeding costs.

If you have lots of acreage where the goats can find natural browse, that's preferable.

Some people with limited acreage make arrangements to let their goats eat forage on someone else's property, such as areas that need to be cleared of brush, or federal lands that may be available for free grazing.

Some enter into agreements with breweries to take their wet spent grain for free that is still good to be used as goat feed.

The more you can use outside available grain or forage sources for free, the more profitable your herd will be.

 

Minerals

Understanding the minerals goats need can get complicated, but you don't really need to worry too much about the details because most feed suppliers sell goat mineral supplements that already include all of the important minerals goats need.

This includes about 8 different "Trace" minerals and 7 different "Macro" minerals. You will need to decide if you prefer to provide these as loose minerals, or mineral blocks.

Loose minerals can be spilled, but goats can eat them more easily. On the other hand, block minerals may last longer but can collect residue from feces and bacteria which could increase the risk of parasites like worms.

You just have to decide which works better for you depending on your herd's situation. The bottom line of profitable meat goat nutrition is balance.

Make sure your goats get a proper balance between browse, forage, grain, protein supplements, hay, minerals and water. Getting out of balance in any one area can lead to problems.

The more browse and forage your goats eat, the cheaper it will be and the more exposure there is to worms and other parasites. The more grain they eat, the higher the cost and the higher the chances of kidney stones and digestive issues.

Many meat goat farmers will consult with a farm animal nutritionist with one of the popular feed supply companies for advice.

Once you gain some experience, you should be able to tweak the feeding program for your own goats to get the healthiest and most productive herd while keeping costs at a minimum so you can be profitable.  

 

5. Marketing Your Goats for Meat

 

Showing Meat Goats

Showing meat goats may seem to be different than selling your meat goats at market. But the two really go hand-in-hand.

If you can win awards showing your meat goats, and use your award-winners for breeding, it can greatly increase the value of your herd.

 

Marketing Meat Goats

If you raise meat goats, you can market them by selling your goats through multiple different channels, depending on which is the most cost effective for you at the time.

Some meat goat farmers save time by selling to a middleman, like a trader or an auction, but you will have to accept a lower price due to the middleman.

Other farms may skip the middleman and sell direct to a meat processor, restaurant or even to a consumer who is buying for their own needs. It all depends on what the best deals are that you can work out.

 

 

 

Butchering Your Goats Yourself

You can also make money if you slaughter, skin and butcher your own goats. This will take some learning and practice, of course, but eliminates the cost of paying a middleman to do this.

The downside is that it's very time-and-labor intensive. Also, you must make sure you comply with federal, state and local laws requiring licensing and inspection of meat to be sold.

If you are merely butchering meat to be eaten by your own family and guests, that is usually exempted from such regulations. You also may not have to follow the same regulations if you join together with a group of people in a "herdshare" program.

In that case, a group of people share ownership of the herd, so when people in the group eat meat from the herd, it is not considered as selling the meat to the "public".

If you try this, be sure to check the rules in your area for herdshare programs.

 

6. Demand for Goat Meat

There is a lot of demand for goat meat, mainly among certain ethnic groups. For example, Hispanic people in the Southwest love to eat it, and refer to it as "Cabrito".

That's why there are a lot of meat goats raised in Texas and nearby states.

A lot of the goat meat being shipped to states further North, like New York, is being used by other ethnic groups, such as Muslims who traditionally eat goat meat for certain holiday celebrations.

If you intend to sell goat meat for that purpose, keep in mind that those holiday celebrations often have some very strict requirements concerning how old the goat is and how the goat and its meat are handled.

A lot of goat meat demand is not even due to ethnic needs.

Goat meat production has been increasing steadily for upscale restaurant demand where Chevon is often considered a culinary delicacy and included by many chefs in different recipes.

Some chefs buy Chevon directly from nearby goat farms.  

 

7. Demand for Goat Skins and Fiber

 

Goat Skins

Money can also be made from goat skins. If you slaughter and process goats for meat yourself, you can make more money if you work carefully to remove skins with as little damage as possible.

You will need to learn how to handle the skin after removing it to prevent it from drying out, picking up bugs or getting damaged. Better skins will bring better prices.

There are plenty of people who are into leatherwork, African drum-making, etc. who are looking to buy goat skins which are ideal for those purposes.

Goat leather is considered more durable and softer than cow leather. Check out goat skins on eBay and you will see many skins being sold for $15 apiece, $65 apiece and more, depending on color and quality.

That may not sound like a ton of money. But keep in mind that it's only one of the many income streams you can develop from your goat herd, and it all adds up.

Plus, if you process your own meat goats, you're going to be removing the skins anyway. Why throw them away if you can sell them?

 

Goat Fiber (Hair)

Another income stream you can diversify into with slaughter goats is with their fiber (hair). Angora goats produce mohair.

Other goats can produce cashmere.To be clear, the fiber is the softer material (like fuzz) that comes from a goat's undercoat, as opposed to the goat's regular hair in its outer coat.

Both mohair and cashmere are in high demand and expensive, so there is profit potential in this type of goat business. Fiber is usually combed or cut from live goats, so you can produce fiber from your goats while you are raising them for slaughter later.

You can sell the fiber by the pound, but you can increase your profits if you also take care of washing it and getting it ready for spinners, or turning it into yarn before you sell it.

In these cases you can sell it for a much higher price per pound. Many goat farmers gather fiber from dairy goats as well. It takes a lot of fiber to make up a quantity big enough to sell, so you will probably need a sizable herd to do this.

 

 

 

8. Financial Considerations

To be successful with market goats financially, you need to take the time to prepare a detailed financial business plan, including projections of year-to-year income, expense, investment required, borrowing needed and cash flow timing.

But there are several financial considerations on top of that which set apart the successful meat goat businesses from those that fail.

History has shown that one of the biggest mistakes made by breeders getting into the meat goat business for the first time is when they try to start off too big and grow too fast.

It's better to start off small and grow slowly as you gain more knowledge and make some money.

With this in mind, if you want to be one of the successful meat goat breeders, focus on connecting with more experienced meat goat breeders who can be a source of trustworthy advice along the way.

Also, manage your financial expectations and don't expect too much profit from your herd too quickly. Look at it as a slow investment in your future as a meat goat farmer.

It takes time and patience to develop a quality meat goat herd. Also, it helps if you can arrange some reliable long-term financing to help you through the ups and downs as you grow slowly.

This helps avoid financial pressures that can push you to do too much too fast.

A good way to ease into the financial requirements of a meat goat business is to start with a part of the business that will get you some initial experience while allowing you to start off small until you learn more about market goats.

For example, you can select goats, breed them and sell the kids to other breeders as brood stock. This doesn't require as much investment as a large market goat herd, and will get your feet wet in the skill of selecting, breeding, raising and sales of meat goats.

With a smaller amount of investment you can also work at showing your goats in meat goat shows, which is a great way to hang out with other breeders and slowly learn the business and learn about different meat goat breeds.

Remember - be patient, learn from trusted sources, grow slowly and plan carefully. If you do this, you may not get rich quick, but you will slowly build a lasting, successful market goat business.

 

9. Sharing Knowledge

The most successful goat breeders learn that a profitable meat goat business doesn't happen by working alone.

They seek out to become part of the community of goat breeders who all share knowledge and learn together as they build their successful market goat businesses.

The best time to start practicing this is now. As a first step, take a moment right now to think of one thing you struggle with as you contemplate the start of your own meat goat business.

Type a question about that in the Comments section below at the end of this page so our other readers can offer their help. This will give you some practice in seeking advice from others who may have a little more experience that you in the meat goat business.

Also, look through the Comments section of the various articles on this site and find a question posted by someone else that relates to something you may have experienced.

Take a moment to post a response to their question so you can start getting experience sharing your own knowledge with other goat breeders around you.  

 

 GOAT VIDEO - Kiko Goat Auction

Video Credit: Bois D' Arc Kiko Goats

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