Capra aegagrus hircus, better known to your average person as the domesticated goat, has been raised for meat and dairy around the world for thousands of years.
They’re hardy animals that can survive in areas where many other livestock can’t survive.
Raising goats for dairy is becoming more popular, but there’s a huge demand for goat meat that is far outstripping supply.
If you’d like to get in on meat goat farming, read on.
Advantages of Goat Farming
Goats have many benefits over other livestock raised for meat. They can eat forage that other animals like cattle won’t touch.
In fact, if you raise cattle, goats can help add healthier grazing to your pastures. Goats can be picky about their food, but they will eat a wide variety of plants.
Goats are also smaller and require less space than most other meat animals. They can also grow quickly if you pick the right breed.
Goat breeds generally come in two varieties — dairy goats and meat goats.
There are also mixed breed animals or dual-purpose breeds. If you’re only interested in meat goat farming, you’ll want to stick to breeds that grow quickly and pack on weight easily.
Below are the most popular meat goat breeds:
- Nubian (dual-purpose)
- Myotonic Aka Tennessee Fainting Goat
- Moneymaker (cross between Sannen and Nubian)
- Texmaster (cross between Boers and Tennessee fainting goats)
Dairy goat breeds tend to grow more slowly since you want them to produce milk for as long as possible.
If you have harsh conditions like heat or very cold winters, this will be another consideration in what breed you’ll choose to raise.
You won’t need anything fancy for meat goats. Just pick for your weather and pasture size as well as how quickly they grow.
Feeding – what do goats eat?
Goats are herbivores, they eat primarily plants.
Alfalfa is a common feed, particularly in winter months when there might not be enough plants in the pasture to keep the goats fed.
The best option for raising organic goats is to have a pasture with grass that has legumes planted as well as plenty of forage and cover such as trees or brush.
In fact, if you have a lot of overgrown pastures, your goats can help clear them and put on weight for sale later on.
Most breeds of goats don’t put on enough extra weight to make it worth feeding them extra grain like you would cattle.
Just make sure all your feed is organic as well to meet regulations for organic meat in your area.
If you’re trying to build up your goat farming business, breeding is a topic you’ll need to consider.
The first thing to know is your goat breed. Some breeds will only go into season during the fall and winter, while others can breed year-round.
During their fertile season, females will go into heat every 21 days. They’ll generally be louder, exhibit mounting behaviors, or wagging the tail.
You can do an ultrasound about 30 days post-breeding or a blood test 60 days after breeding to check if your doe is pregnant.
Gestation in goats is about 150 days or 5 months. A single pregnancy can produce between 1 and 5 kids, with the average being 2-3.
What is the best meat goat to raise?
What breed you’ll select depends on your land available and climate.
The most common meat goat currently is the Boer goat from South Africa. They can grow up to 300 pounds in males and reach market size in only 90 days.
They do well in hot climates as well as drought conditions.
Both Spanish and Brush goats are less of a breed and more of a category. They’re hardy and deal well with nothing but forage.
You can also make a decent business renting these goats out to clear brush.
The Kiko is another large breed, but they require more space than Boers.
The Tennessee Fainting Goat and the Pygmy goat can also be raised for meat.
You can also pick crossbreeds that fit your climate or ones that can produce dairy as well if you want options.
This is one of the biggest sticking points for anyone raising goats for meat.
Always check your local laws to be sure you’re meeting regulations for meat safety if you intend to sell the meat.
You might make less if you need to send your goats off to be processed elsewhere or have your clients buy and send them off themselves.
If you can butcher and package the meat yourself, you’ll find it much easier than larger livestock like cattle and pigs.
A quick blow to the head gives your goat a painless end.
You should be sure to hang and bleed the goat by slitting the throat to the bone immediately.
After the animal is bled, remove the head and hooves before skinning and gutting the animal. Be sure to save the organs since most are edible and are also considered delicacies.
Aging the meat for a few days is generally a good idea for more flavorful and tender meat.
Hanging the meat in a refrigerator works well, but be sure to do additional research to make sure you’re doing so safely.
You can follow a typical butcher’s guide to portioning goat or decide on your own method of packing meat, particularly if the meat is for your personal use.
Using Goat Manure
If you have a garden, the manure your goats produce can make goat farming even more valuable for you.
The pellet manure can easily be applied directly without worry of burning plants like cow or horse manure can.
You can also compost goat manure for a wonderful mulch. Goat manure is also generally odorless, so it’s less offensive to the nose than other manure options.
It is rich in nitrogen and you can work it easily into tiled soil right before planting or leave it over winter to let the nutrients merge into the soil.
The Bottom Line
Meat goat farming can be a wonderful addition to your life.
Not only will you get meat, but you’ll have manure perfect for organic farming or even a side business renting your herd for clearing brush.
If you have the land, definitely look into raising goats.