Are you interested in adding a profitable source of income to your small farm or homestead? A great opportunity to consider is raising goats for meat. Demand for goat meat is exploding and seems to keep going up every year. Part of the demand is from ethnic communities which have considered goat meat as a staple for many traditional dishes. Goat meat is also in demand for many religious holiday celebrations. On top of that, lots of upscale restaurants and chefs now use goat meat as part of many gourmet dishes served at some of the finest restaurants. With all of this demand, the supply in the U.S. can't keep up and much of that demand is met with goat meat imported from other countries like Australia. . This is a huge opportunity for anyone thinking about starting their own business raising goats for meat. Meat goats can be the foundation of a profitable business for small farms and homesteads, as well as larger commercial operations. This guide will help you learn more about raising goats for meat if you're interested in a possible new business involving meat goats. After you study this guide to meat goat farming, you will then be able to do the following:
That's a lot of ground to cover, so let's get started.
Also, if you're new to goats in general, we recommend you check out our "9-Step Essential Beginners Guide to Raising Goats."
When it comes to raising goats for meat, the Boer goat is still king if your focus is profit.
Despite the fact that goat meat is a red meat, it is healthier for you than consuming either beef or poultry, such as chicken. Its fat content and the amount of calories are lower than both of those. It is also known to be high in iron and low in cholesterol. Goat meat is extremely popular in Africa and Asia, but in the U.S. also, particularly among Middle Eastern cultures. Its popularity stems from goat meat being a staple in meals during certain ethnic and religious holidays and celebrations. Also, meat goats are generally cheaper to raise, the fact that they consume less than cattle, and that they can survive on very sparse vegetation. This allows them to be raised in a desert-like area and forage for brush, weeds, and brambles. A pastime among many meat goat breeders are livestock shows or exhibitions. Stock shows are where breeders take the best of their stock and exhibit them in front of a judge. The judge evaluates them for soundness, fleshing and muscling ability, and eye appeal. The judge then lines them up according to his or her preference and at the end of the show one animal is crowned Grand Champion and another Reserve Grand Champion. These titles identify the animals as being the two best animals of the day.
Video Credit: Fresh Air Farmer
So, which types of goats are considered "meat goats?" Here's a list of some of the key meat goat breeds in the U.S.
This list isn't exhaustive, but includes the most common meat goat breeds you'll see in the U.S. Most people want to know which of these are the best meat goats. Also, if you want to learn more about goat breeds in general, besides just meat goats, you may want to look at our guide, "15 Best Breeds of Goats for Milk, Meat and More."
Credit: BF Farm
The Kiko goat breed is considered by many goat farmers as the best goat breed for meat. Although the Boer breed is the most popular and expensive, Kikos have been shown to be more parasite-resistant and resistant to foot rot, and Kikos tend to birth more offspring without supplemental food beyond what's available naturally. Many breeders will breed Boer bucks with Kiko does to get the best of both worlds.
The lowest maintenance meat goat is the Kiko. They can survive on very little vegetation and still produce a good amount of quality meat when they are harvested. Also, they tend to be hardier, and less prone to problems with parasites and disease than some other meat goats. Their young mature quickly and they usually do not need much assistance birthing. For someone who doesn't want to pay the premium for a Boer, but still wants a good meat goat breed, the Kiko is a great choice for meat production.
Different goat breeders will argue about which breed of meat goat will make the most money. However when it comes down to marketability, meat cuts, and which breed is the most economic to raise, the best goat breed to raise would be the Boer. It is without a doubt one of the most popular breeds when it comes to running them through sale rings. This could be due to its large numbers on every continent. Goat farmers often prefer Boer offspring because they mature at a rapid rate and can be considered ready to harvest within 90 days of being born. With goat meat in high demand, the tur- around time from birth to table is important. Boer goats also sell very well at livestock markets and often at a premium price over other meat goat breeds. This is probably due to the fact that the rack, loin, and leg cuts are usually very large in the breed and are the most valued cuts of goat meat.
Photo Credit: Kimberly Amarugia
The Boer breed is still the most profitable, well-known and expensive meat goat breed, although some other breeds have been developed which are hardier and more parasite-resistant.
The Boer goat originated in South Africa in the 1900s. There the Dutch bred them to provide valuable meat in the very harsh environment. In 1993, almost a hundred years later, full-blood Boer goats were brought to the United States. Eventually the American Boer Goat Association (ABGA) was formed in order to keep records on Boers in the U.S.. The ABGA keeps track of registration, parentage/genetics, and provides information for people looking to get involved with the breed. Boer goats are normally found in the traditional color, which is totally white body with a red head. In recent years because of crossbreeding there is now a wide range of colors that are acceptable. One of the more popular color patterns are the dappled Boer goats.
The lifespan of a Boer goat can range from 8-13 years of age. If taken care of properly, the females are able to breed past 10 years of age.
The normal Boer goat buck breeding age starts as early as 5-6 months. However, there are some bucks that are ready to mate at 3 months of age. Even so, many goat keepers feel it's best to wait until a buck is about a year old before allowing it to breed. Even though they can show signs of heat at six months of age, the normal Boer goat doe breeding age starts at 4-12 months, depending on season, nutrition and health condition.
A Boer goat's cost can vary greatly. Goats bought at a normal livestock auction can bring smaller amounts from $70-$150 per goat depending on the market. Boer goats with papers and cross Boer goats that are sold for show can bring anywhere from $300-$80,000, depending on quality and bloodlines.
Credit: Honey Stables Ranch
The Kiko breed is the result of breeding with the goal of producing meat goats that are hardier, more fertile and which can produce offspring year-round, rather than just during a particular breeding season.
Kiko goats hail from New Zealand and are the product of breeders crossing wild goats that were in the area with dairy breeds such as the Saanen, Toggenberg, and Nubians. The goal of crossbreeding was to come up with a hearty meat goat that could survive very rough terrain and feed its young well. The name Kiko means "meat" in the Maori language.
A Kiko buck can be recognized by his prominent horns. They lay rather wide on top of his head. The does can have either wide large horns or smaller ones depending on their genetics. Mature Kiko does can weigh anywhere from 100 to 150 lbs. Mature bucks can weigh 240 to 300lbs. Kiko kids are very hardy after birth and are quick to get up and about. Because the breed has dairy goat ancestors, the females milk very well and the offspring flourish, growing rapidly. Kiko bucks are well known for being extremely fertile, as well as the females. The males can cover hundreds of females in a breeding season and the females can go into estrus (heat) year-round, unlike many other breeds. This allows breeders more of a choice as to when kids will be born.
Kikos come in a variety of colors. They can be cream colored, white, black, brown, red, or a variety of other colors and mixes of colors. The dominant color however is usually white. A Kiko's temperament can be somewhat cantankerous, as they are not afraid of people and can be quite lively. This is what they were bred for, as it helps them survive in rough conditions. The more human contact they have, the better the likelihood they can become more docile.
Kikos generally cost less than buying the more popular Boer goats. But they can be more expensive than Spanish, Myotonic, or Pygmy goats.
Credit: Neely-Sawyer Spanish Goat Ranch
The term Spanish Goat is used to refer to a variety of goats as opposed to a particular breed, due to the Spanish breed being diluted by cross-breeding over the years. However, attempts are underway to restore pure-bred Spanish goats as a breed.
Spanish goats were the earliest meat breed to arrive in the United States during the 16th century. They came with the Spaniards on their early voyages from Spain and the Caribbean to the Americas, and were able to survive in the New World. Until the Boer goats' arrival, Spanish goats were the most prominent meat goat in the US.
A Spanish Goat Association has been formed in an effort to help preserve full blood Spanish genetics. Because so many people have crossed them with Boers, Kikos, and various dairy breeds, there are far fewer pure bred Spanish goats in the United States today. The association keeps track of bloodlines of purebred Spanish goats and puts people into contact with breeders who can assist them in purchasing pure genetics.
Image Credit: Kids Discover
Fainting goats don't actually faint. Instead, their muscles stiffen up when they are startled and they fall over, but they are able to start walking again after a few moments. This trait was an accidental by-product of a breeding process that was designed to produce better meat goats.
The Tennessee Fainting goat is better known as the Myotonic goat in the United States. There is no difference between the two other than the name. The breed was developed in Tennessee where a genetic trait or anomaly was discovered that caused the goats to tense up their muscles and fall over. This is why some people make the mistake of thinking the goats are fainting, and that's how they got the name "fainting goats." Most people would think that this is a genetic defect, however, the tensing of the muscles causes the goats to become heavier muscled and great meat producers.
Myotonics don't "faint" until they are several months old. Myotonics "faint" because their brain and neurological system works different than normal goats. Goats have a natural fight or flight response when danger is near or something scares them. This is because their brains process the information and tell their muscles to tense in order to get ready to run. A Myotonic's muscles stay tensed for a short amount of time instead of loosening to allow them to run. They fall over as a result with their legs stiff and unable to move.
Lewisburg, Tennessee holds an annual Fainting Goat Festival each October. There is lots of music and goat activities. Goat yoga, goat runs, goat triathalons, and goat meat are all part of the festival.
Credit: Backkyard Goats
Savanna goats are a popular meat goat because they are fertile, mature early so meat can be harvested sooner and they are parasite-resistant.
Like the Boer, the Savanna originated in South Africa as a meat goat. The first Savanna goats came to America along with a shipment of Boers. They were separated out and the buyers decided to begin raising them in the states because of how hardy the breed was.
Almost all purebred Savannas are white, but the skin or pigment underneath is typically black. Savannas are thick and long-bodied. They are very fertile and consistently produce twins. Savannas mature early and meat can be harvested sooner. They have a tendency to be parasite resistant.
Credit: Maryland Zoo
Pygmy goats were originally brought to the U.S. for zoos. But they became a popular meat goat breed due to their muscularity and small size, which means they require less space or food. Because of their small size, many people just keep them as pets.
Pygmy goats originated from West Africa. There they were used mainly as meat goats. When they first arrived in the United States, they came from zoos in Europe. Their main purpose was to be displayed in American zoos. Full grown female pygmy goats can weigh anywhere from 50 to 70 lbs. Male pygmy goats can weigh 60 to 85 lbs. Pygmy goats can come in every color imaginable - white, red, tan, black, gray, etc. One disadvantage with Pygmy goats is that, if the female does not have enough food resources, she will tend to be less fertile. Because of their small size they are often kept as pets. They have very friendly temperaments. However, close attention must be paid as they love to climb and jump out of fences and on objects.
Pygmy goats should not be confused with Nigerian Dwarf goats. Both are smaller in size than standard goats and are referred to as "miniature goats." But the Pygmy is built much stouter and has larger legs. The Nigerian Dwarf-s main purpose is to provide milk, while the pygmy is a great source of meat.
Pygmy goats can be found in many different places. You can go to your local goat and sheep auction and find them. You can also locate breeders online who specialize in them. You may also find them being sold by different zoos, petting zoos, or circuses from time to time. If you buy a bottle baby Pygmy goat, sometimes you can get them as cheap as $30 from an auction. But generally an adult pygmy can cost anywhere from $70 to upwards of $500 if it is registered.
If you plan to get started with your own meat goat business, or just providing meat for your own family at your small farm, one of the first things you'll need to do is to start understanding the terms used in the goat meat business.
Another important step to take as you get into raising your own meat goats is to identify and connect with a good veterinarian who has experience with goats, and hopefully meat goats in particular.
Because goats are fairly new to the livestock world in America, there aren't as many veterinarians that specialize in them. Before you buy goats, you need to do research and ask other goat farmers in your area to find out which vets are available and are knowledgeable about goats. A livestock vet can help, but unless they know much about goats, it can end up being a risky decision taking them to an unskilled veterinarian. Be careful selecting a veterinarian because many of them don't know what they're doing when it comes to goats and can cause lots of trouble. Ask your veterinarian how many goats they've treated over time. If they don't seem to have much goat experience, you may want to find someone else.
If you are thinking about raising meat goats, you should consider whether you will raise registered Boers, registered Kikos, registered Pygmies, other registered meat breeds or you will simply raise "Grade" goats. Registered goats have paperwork proving they have met certain minimum requirements and are officially recorded in the records of the registering association for that breed, such as the ABGA for Boer goats. Grade goats do not have papers and their lineage cannot be traced far back. Registered goats can be traced and most of their genetics are predictable. Usually the quality and conformation of registered goats is better and they bring a premium over grade goats. However, there is generally more maintenance with care and keeping records for registered goats. Grade goats do not cost as much to buy or manage. Because they aren't as expensive, it's not as much of a financial loss when you have one pass away.
When breeding goats for meat production, there are many traits that you will want to consider. Certain traits allow you to produce the highest quality meat goats. For example, one trait that you will want your goats to have is fertility. If a goat cannot breed or produce plentiful and superior offspring it will do you little good. You also want to save back only females who milk well and wean off large babies. Another trait that you will want to incorporate is keeping back the goats whose babies yield the highest carcass merit. These goats have proven themselves to produce the highest quality cuts of meat.
You can run as many as 3-10 goats per acre of good grass and weeds.
If you choose to raise your goats on pastureland, make sure that you supplement with a good goat mineral. This is because some ground is deficient in copper or selenium, that goats need in order to function properly. You will also need to regularly rotate pastures or provide your goats with routine worming. If you do choose to "dry lot" goats, put them in an area with only dirt, you will have to supplement with minerals, hay, and an abundance of feed in order to meet their nutritional requirements.
Fencing is critical to keep goats in and keep predators out. It's got to be pretty strong, too, because meat goats are muscular and very hard on a fence over time, not to mention that goats are pretty good escape artists. Rather than side-tracking to dig deep into fencing here, we recommend you take time instead to go through our free guide, "Goat Fencing, Most Popular Types."
Photo Credit: Learn Natural Farming
The best shelter for your goats doesn't have to be fancy, because they prefer the outdoors. Free wooden pallets are commonly used by most goat keepers to build affordable, simple shelters for their goats.
Your meat goats will require some sort of shelter. Goats need shelter from the heat, cold, wind, rain, hail and lightning. There are several different options to use as goat houses. Some are fairly inexpensive and some can cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Dog Houses - Dog houses can be used as a way for your goats to get out of the elements. It is only a good option if you have a few goats or for smaller goats such as pygmies. Old plastic water tanks are also great homes for goats. You simply cut the bottom off and make doors for the goats to go in and out. Make sure that these containers have not had any harmful contaminants in them. Wood shelters- You can build a wood shelter or barn for your goats. However, some goats tend to chew on the wood and you will constantly be replacing the walls and beams in the structure. A lot of people who are just getting started with goats will begin with fairly inexpensive goat shelters made with free wooden pallets. If you want to see some creative ideas on that, check out our free guide, "25 Easy Goat Shelter and Sheds Using DIY Pallets." Metal shelters- the most commonly used type of shelter for meat goats are made out of metal. There are smaller hoop sheds that are available as well as bigger lean-to structures that can hold many goats. Many people choose to make these portable shelters that you can place on wheels to move around your property.
To be a successful goat farmer, there are several pieces of equipment that you will want to have. If you are raising goats strictly for breeding, you will need to buy a goat working chute or trimming turntable. A goat working chute will help you hold the goat still if you need to give any vaccinations or worm them. A trimming table will help you turn the goat onto its side to make hoof trimming easier.
You can buy sheep shears or hoof trimmers at your local farm store. They resemble a cross between pliers and scissors. The more expensive ones do work better and for a longer amount of time without being sharpened. Another alternative is to buy a hoof knife or grinder. Specialized online animal stores sell the grinders with the proper pads. Hoof grinders make trimming hooves much faster, but you must also be very careful when using them.
Credit: Ohio Thoughts
A good goat hay feeder is one that allows goats plenty of access to fresh hay any time they want, keeps the hay off of the ground where parasite eggs are found and also keeps the hay from falling on the ground, getting moldy and being wasted.
All goats are what is known as ruminants. Ruminants have 4 stomachs instead of one. Ruminants regurgitate the contents of the stomach (the "cud") to re-chew it. They then pass it on to the other stomachs so that the vegetation can be more easily broken down.
Because the purpose of meat goats is to produce prime cuts of meat, they need to be fed a balanced diet of protein and fat. Protein helps to build muscle. This is more desirable than a fat animal that you have to trim a lot of fat off of. The best way to get the right amount of protein is to feed the animals properly once they are weaned. One source of good protein and fiber is good quality Bermuda or alfalfa hay. There are several feeds on the market that are specifically designed for market animals. Purina, Show-Rite, ADM, Moormans, and many other feed brands cater specifically to goats. Depending on the quality of feed that you are providing, goats will need anywhere from 2-4 lbs of feed per day in order to reach slaughter weight. The best feeding schedule is to feed them twice per day - once in the morning and once in the evening. In addition to meat goat feeding requirements, if you're just getting started with goats, you should probably read through our free guide, "What To Feed Goats: Ultimate Guide to Goat Nutrition."
Goats have many natural predators. Out in rural areas farmers face threats from animals such as coyotes, mountain lions, wolves, bears, bobcats, domesticated dogs, foxes, and even wild pigs. Goat kids can be targeted by owls, hawks, eagles, and falcons as well.
Photo Credit: Roy's Farm
Be sure to get familiar with the predators in your area and protect your goats with defenses like a good fence, electric wire and a team of well-trained livestock guardian dogs.
Farmers in the United States have had to come up with many precautionary methods of protecting their goat herds from predators. One of the ways is to provide an adequate perimeter fence. Special goat fence is sold and has smaller squares of wire to keep out any large animals and keep the goats inside of the fence. There is also a variety of different electric fences available that provide a good defense against predators. Another way that farmers protect their goat herds is with guardian animals for the goats. Several breeds of dogs are specifically bred to be livestock guardian dogs (LGD's) and are now used in conjunction with raising goats. The Great Pyrenees, Anatolian Shepherd, Akbash and several other breeds are among them. They are so large that they can kill a wolf or mountain lion if need be. These dogs are raised with goats as puppies and learn to stay with the goat herd instead of around people. In fact, most of the dogs are so protective over their herd that they will not allow strangers to come into the field with the goats. Other guardian animals that are sometimes used are llamas, alpacas and donkeys. These animals tend to bond with the goats and see them as part of their herd. When they see a dog or other intruder they will race off after it. They use their sharp hooves to kick and stomp any threat.
It is of the utmost importance that you take care of your goats health. A healthy goat will gain weight better, feel better and make more money. A healthy goat needs to be free of parasites. Parasites can be internal or external. Internal parasites are any form of worm. Ivermectin, Cydectin, Prohibit, and Safeguard are some of the best wormers that can be used on goats. It is best to order a fecal kit from a lab and check for parasites, and only treat your goats with wormers as needed. Otherwise, research has found that, if you routinely worm your goats, rather than only worming when needed, then the worms in your pasture can become resistant to certain wormers.
There are a number of Boer goat diseases to watch out for which can affect all goats. Examples of some of the most serious Boer goat diseases are below. For more comprehensive information about goat diseases and how to treat them, you will want to read through our free guide, "Goat Health Care: Diseases, Symptoms and Treatment."
CL is a very contagious disease that goats can pass to one another. Vaccines are not proven to prevent a goat from getting the disease. Extremely large abscesses can form on the face, neck or other parts of the body. They will rupture and have a very nasty looking white cheesy consistency. These abscesses can also be found internally, which causes goat meat to be bad for human consumption. It is important that, if you are producing goats for meat, you buy from a breeder who has a CL free herd.
Enterotoxemia is one of the most common diseases found in goats. It is also known as "overeating disease". Enterotoxemia can occur when a goat is introduced too quickly to a lush pasture with plants that contain the toxin. A vaccine should be given to all young goats along with a booster to protect them from the disease.
Ketosis, or Pregnancy Toxemia, usually occurs in the later stages of a goat's pregnancy. This is when the female's babies are taking too much nutrition away from the mother and it causes the mother goat's metabolism to slow down to to the point at which she is living off of her own body fat. You need to monitor the goat closely. If she begins to swell, has brownish urine or goes down and doesn't want to get back up, its time for action as the condition can be fatal. You will need to get a drench gun and drench her with 3-4 oz of propylene glycol twice a day until kidding.
Note: Kidding comes after breeding and pregnancy. But those are subjects that are involved enough that we aren't going to dig deep into those topics right here. Instead, you can study-up on those subjects over in our free guide, "Goat Breeding 101: Beginners Guide to Goat Breeding Season."
A Boer doe's gestation, or length of pregnancy, is 5 months from the day she is bred or roughly 150 days. You can tell by checking a doe's ligaments around her tail head to see if she's close. Before a doe is ready to kid, the flesh around the tail head will be solid. When she is ready to kid you will notice that she will look sunk-in around the tail head. You can further check this by placing your hand over her tail head around her pin bones. You can feel that the area has become very squishy when she is close. When the doe is approaching impending labor she will be extremely restless. She may move her tail head up and down as contractions slowly begin. She will often paw the ground and make a "nest" for her new kid or kids. The first part of labor can last a long time. When labor advances the doe will push out a large bubble, which is the amniotic sac. She will begin to push very hard. During this process the bubble will burst and you should be able to see two legs and a nose. If the head doesn't present, you will need to make sure the kid is in the proper position. It is possible for her to deliver a baby backwards, but it will not be good if a front leg or the head is in the wrong position.
Boer goats are generally weaned off of their mothers from 10-12 weeks of age. This is because the mother will dry her milk up around that time.
Meat goats can serve a dual purpose by providing both milk and meat. Of course, once you eat a goat you can't milk it anymore :) But seriously, if you want to explore the possibility of using your meat goats for dairy production as well, check out our free information, "How to Raise Dairy Goats for Milk: The Ultimate Guide."
If your goal is to make money with meat goats, you need to consider who you are marketing your goats to because you have several options.
We've given you some ideas for making money with your meat goats. There are also plenty of other money-making possibilities with goats in general, not just meat goats.
If you want to learn more, take a look at our free guide, "Raising Goats for Profit: 7 Proven Ways to Make Money."
Credit: Everson Auction Market
Once you learn how to raise meat goats and how to market them, your meat goats can be the basis of a profitable money-making business.
It is important to remember that market prices can fluctuate on any livestock species. The best time to sell goats is before and during Muslim religious holidays when the meat is consumed at high rates. Currently, in Texas and Oklahoma, the market is stable at close to $2.00 per lb. But remember the price can change. With goat meat becoming more popular, the demand and price are expected to grow in the next few years.
The meat from goats that are processed at only 4-8 weeks of age is known as Cabrito. Chevron is meat from goat kids that are 6-9 months old. The older a goat is, the tougher the meat becomes. Goats need to be humanely killed if they are used for meat. The best thing to do is to take a goat to a processing plant where people know what they are doing and which is certified by the USDA. This helps to ensure that the goats are processed with correct and humane health precautions. When processing a goat, the processor will usually cut straight down the neck of the goat to the belly. This allows them to disembowel the animal. They will then skin the goat and cut the goat up into the appropriate cuts of meat.
Video Credit: HSVP Shows
Now that you've completed this guide to Raising Goats for Meat, you should have a better understanding of the various aspects of meat goats and the meat goat business. But the best way to learn is always by doing. If you think you're interested in getting started with meat goats, I recommend you pick your breed, begin preparations and then purchase a few meat goats to get started on building your own herd. It will be a lot of hard work and an investment of time and money. But if you're one of those goat keepers who are willing to stick with it for the long-run, it can be a rewarding business in more than one way. Not only are meat goats profitable. But you'll be serving the needs of your customers and you'll also have the added reward of working with these amazing animals - meat goats.