Goat farming means different things to different keepers. Like cattle, goats are raised for either their meat or milk. But, goat farmers also raise these animals for their hair, to make a truly soft leather from their hide, to collect their droppings to make both fertilizer and an alternative type of fuel, and also to simply rent them out to clear dense parcels of land.
Goat keepers who raise goats simply to sell them are known as breeders but are also commonly considered to be goat farmers. Meat and dairy goat farming is more than any of the other types of agriculture business centered on goat noted above.
Goat Purchase Price
The purchase price of goats variey not only by location but also by breed, sex, and age. A rare goat breed, heritage goat breed, quality meat or dairy producing breed will fetch a higher price than a common breed. On average, the typical price for all but rare goat breeds ranges from $100 to $300. Female goats, especially those who are already impregnated, commonly bring a higher price than males.
Sometimes Pygmy and Nigerian Dwarf goat can bring in the high end of the goat price spectrum because they are often kept as farm pets, can be raised on small homesteads – even in a small town or suburban backyards, and are a great starter animal for 4-H members. I keep both breeds of goats and never have to wait more than three hours to sell any animal I post in local online livestock, farming, or goat groups on Facebook.
The time of year can also play a role in how much you will get when selling live goats as part of a breeding operation. Typically, the price of all types of livestock drop in the late fall because butchering season is over and the buyer would have the extra expense of wintering the animal over. But, there are always exceptions to the rule, especially if you are breeding goats that have cute little kids right before Christmas. Just this week I sold a male kid for $150, which is the going rate during peak season in the spring and summer and not the usual lower winter price.
When investing in a breeding pair to start a meat or dairy herd, the price tag could be higher than the average indicated above. You should research the breeder well and inspect the parents if they are on-site and any documents related to pedigree. Garnering cheaper goat prices at a livestock auction is always an option, but you tend to get what you pay for and may not even be able to see, much less verify, and lineage or vaccination records before bidding.
Meat Goat Farming
In recent years, the demand for goat meat has increased in the United States, prompting more farmers and homesteaders to add top quality meat goats to their livestock operations. The meat garnered from goats is often referred to as cabrito, chevon, or natale – when the meat harvested stems from “kids” or young goats.
Beef from cattle is typically less expensive to purchase than goat meat because the large livestock can be raised more economically on the many factory farms that replaced family farms across America. Setting cattle up in a feedlot drastically reduce the amount of money it costs to both feed them and see that they are tended to by workers.
Goats do not graze for food like cattle but instead browse for their meals. Browsing is a mixture of grazing and foraging. Small goat farmers and homesteaders, on the other hand, find goats one of the least expensive meat producers to keep. Why the disparity? On family-owned farms and homesteads goats are either free ranged or penned in a manner in which they have free access to low-quality brush and grass that cattle and horses refuse to eat.
Meat goats are often butchered before they reach 12 months of age. Banding male goats to make them wethers because they will be slaughtered for meat and not used as a Billy goat (or buck) for breeding, is also commonplace on a meat goat farm.
When a kid from a standard size goat breed is only three to five months old it will weigh roughly between 25 to 50 pounds and can be earmarked for butchering. Small stature goat breeds, like the Nigerian Dwarf and Pygmy goat varieties, take a lot longer to hit that same weight and must be wintered over before butchering.
Goat kids typically do not accrue a high ratio of body fat until they are older than 12 months. Due to the slow rate of body fat development, many goat farmers that can afford to winter over their herd do so in order to get a better price at market for the heavier goat.
Dairy Goat Farming
Dairy goat herds are typically comprised of one Billy goat per ever five to seven doelings or nanny goats. The breed of goat you purchase will dictate how often the nanny or doeling can reproduce in any given year.
Typically, a female goat has just one kid during her first kidding but then throws twins or sometimes even triplets in future kiddings. A female goat is not milked until after she finished nursing her kids – which usually takes place when they are two months old.
It is illegal to sell raw milk in all 50 states, but dairy goat farmers can sell shares in their herd, allowing the holder to milk the goat they partially own themselves. Goat milk can be sold in most states to make soap and other beauty products. It can also be sold to businesses that will pasteurize the milk for resale.
Goat Herd Leasing
Goats can easily browse for food in a wooded area right up through February, eating twigs, dead leaves, and all sort of undergrowth – even poking their noses into the snow to find it. It is not uncommon in rural areas for goat herds to be rented out to both residential and commercial customers who need land cleared. This is a massive feed money saver for goat farmers.
The farmer or homesteader makes money on the rental agreement, gets their goats well fed without sacrificing their own browsing material – all while getting their meat goats fattened up nicely for the fall butchering season. A small herd of only 10 goats is capable of clearly a densely wooded acre in 30 days of less.
How Much Does It Cost To Raise A Goat?
There are a whole lot of variables that must be factored into answering such a very important question.
- First, you must consider how much acreage the goats will have to roam and what type of browsing material exists within these boundaries.
- The region where you live will also make a difference on feed costs. If the goat herd can browse for at least half of its food intake year round, it will cost a lot less to feed each one through the winter months.
- If you live on a large acreage farm or homestead, baling your own hay to provide the dietary staple of the goat herd will also significantly cut down on feed costs, especially during the winter months. But, you will have to purchase or lease baling equipment to attach to your tractor – both can be expensive propositions. If you have an older farm tractor without modern hydraulics, it will likely be difficult to impossible to find baling attachments from a commercial supplier – but a local farmer may still have usable equipment he or she is willing to rent out.
- Supplementing what the goat herd browses to eat, or replacing browsing meals entirely if you live on a small homestead, will require the purchase of grain feed. The cost of a 50-pound bag of sweet mix grain feed and – or cracked corn, will range in price depending upon your location. In my rural Appalachian region a 50-pound bag of quality feed costs only $8 to $10, but in some regions the cost can easily range from $12 to $20 per bag. A typical mature goat will consume at roughly two pounds of feed per day – be it grain, hay, browsing material or a mixture of the three.
- If you have a pond or creek that runs through your property, the time and money spent watering the goat herds will be drastically reduced. If you have a well as your water source, which is common in rural areas, expect your electric bill to increase if the goat herd does not have access to a natural water source. A mature goat is capable of drinking a half gallon to three gallons of water per day. Lactating nanny goats or does tend to drink more water than they normally would when not nursing kids or being milked.
- The expense of building a barn or livestock to house the goats and protect them for the weather is essential.
- Fencing is necessary even if you free range your goats. Our goats have the run of our 56 acres, but the boundaries are fenced and there are several gates that separates pastures from both each other and hayfields, as well as the road entranced of our half mile dirt farm road. High tensile fencing panels, hog panels, or a combination of electrical fencing, barbed wire, and wood fencing will be necessary to keep goats in. The fence must be four feet tall to prevent standard size goats from climbing or jumping out. The cost of the necessary fencing and pen gate will depend on how large of an area you seek to enclose.
- Your goats will also need a waterer if they are not using a natural water source, feeder, small feeder for free choice snacks of baking soda, salt blocks, or other supplements, and perhaps a hay ring. The total cost of these items may range from $100 to $300, depending upon how many feeders you need to purchase. But, these are durable items that will not need to be replaced for a decade if you purchase rubber waterers and feeders and not plastic.
Goats are low maintenance animals and can fend for themselves fairly well most of the time. But, they are easy prey from some common predators, like coyotes, wolves, and even domesticated dogs. Kids, especially those of small stature breeds, can even be attacked by a fox of fall victim to a hawk that swoops down and steals it from the barnyard in mere seconds.
In addition to becoming aware of predators in your area and taking steps to deter them from entering your goat barn, you must also remain mindful of vaccinations and worming schedules and the need to trim hooves of most goats every six months. Becauses my goats free range over rocky ground, I have never had to trim hooves. Even if you keep your goats penned, you can simulate a naturally rocky terrain and browsing experience by putting rocks or cinder blocks and other climbing structures in their pen along with planting some shrubs and small trees for the herd to dine upon.
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