Many people think of goats as cute little animals that live in the barnyard and eat hay. In reality, goats are versatile creatures that you can use for various purposes on a small farm. This includes raising goats for meat.
If you’re thinking about adding goat meat to your farmstead diet or just curious about how it’s done, read on for a step-by-step guide to raising goats for meat.
Why Raise Goats for Meat
Did you know that goats are the world’s most popular red meat animals? Surprisingly, many people in North America still don’t know how to raise goats for meat or even that it is an option.
If you consider adding goat meat production to your small farm business, this article is for you.
Whether you are new to farming, a hobby farmer looking to expand, or a full-time farmer looking for new inspiration, goats can be an excellent, profitable stock to help you along your farming journey.
More and more people have been turning to farming and homesteading in recent years.
There are plenty of reasons for this, but the economic pressures and the imbalance between home-life and work-life are the main reasons that more people are seeking better autonomy as of late.
Sure, it sounds nice: to be able to stay home, grow your food, and escape the woes of the modern world.
But, the truth is that that dream might be short-lived without a solid plan and a good source of income. Then there is the issue of, “Will I even like farming?”.
If you are looking for the foundation of a well-planned farming adventure, then goats might be the answer.
Keep reading to learn what makes goat meat unique and why goats can be an excellent plan for starting or expanding your farm!
The Popularity of Goat Meat
One of the biggest reasons that meat goats are a good idea is that more and more people want to buy goat meat.
The demand for goat meat in the United States is on the rise. Of course, where the market is growing, so is the money.
We will get into why more and more people are buying goat meat here in a minute.
Another reason that you should raise goats is that they are not super-difficult to care for, and they require less space than a typical cattle operation.
Goats rear babies like clockwork, multiply, and they will even help mow or clear your acreage!
Goats are also an excellent source for milk and, depending upon the breed that you choose, can even be a super hardy animal in some of the more extreme climates in the United States.
You can also raise them for fiber (their hair) that you can spin into beautiful, warm garments and textiles.
Many people even raise goats as pets!
Goats require far less feed and less space than other ruminants, like cattle. They can survive on poor quality food and are easy animals to raise.
That’s one of the many reasons they are so attractive to new farmers!
The Taste of Goat Meat
If you have read this far, one of the questions likely coming to mind is, “But, what does goat meat even taste like?”
Well, the truth is this – it is sweeter than lamb’s meat, tender, juicy, and savory. You can cook it in just about any way that you might cook another kind of meat (like beef or chicken).
People that prefer goat meat typically like it for how tender and versatile it can be. While it can be tough if cooked incorrectly, all kinds of meat are actual.
Can You Make Money Raising Goats for Meat?
In short – absolutely!
As stated above, the demand for goat meat is on the rise. Therefore, the cost is too. Since they can be simple to care for, the profit margin is extensive.
The large profit margin is because goats require a comparatively little overhead cost. This brings us back to why more and more people are buying goat meat.
It tastes great, and it is a lot better for you than most options out there. It has fewer calories than beef or chicken and less fat than chicken or pork.
The U.S. is seeing more interest each year in healthy eating, so more people are turning to healthy options like goats. There’s strong restaurant demand for this meat, especially in urban areas.
How Long Does it Take to Raise a Goat for Meat?
Believe it or not, there are several ways to sell goat meat. This means that you will have to streamline your ‘niche’ and decide which market to which you will be ‘catering.’
One of the most common types of goat meat is called Chevon. Chevon is meat from a goat that is between three and six months old when it is slaughtered.
This being said, you can offer some choices of goat meat from older goats. However, it is uncommon for goats to be slaughtered and sold after they reach about sixteen months old.
It is most cost-effective to send the younger goats to slaughter, however. This is simply because you will not have to use the food, water, shelter, or labor for as long of a period.
Slaughtering younger goats will help you cut the cost of your operation considerably. Not only that, but younger meat will be more tender and flavorful than older meat.
The Best Meat Goat to Raise
Deciding which goat breed to raise for meat can be an overwhelming task. There are many different people with a lot of different opinions about their goats.
Nevertheless, some breeds consistently rise to the top. Here is a look at the top three goat breeds that people prefer for meat:
1. Kiko Goats
The Kiko goat is a breed that was developed in New Zealand. The word ‘Kiko’ loosely translates to mean ‘meat.’
The breed was developed to improve upon the hardiness of the goats that were being previously farmed in New Zealand.
These goats typically have backward-turning horns that stay close to the head and neck and ears that remain erect.
They can undergo weight gain spells, even when the food is sparse, and they are a stout breed.
The females make excellent mothers, produce kids often, and have little to no problems giving birth in various conditions. Kiko goats are a great breed to consider for your goat farm.
2. Kalahari Red Goats
The Kalahari Red goat is mainly a combination of a South African breed of goat and the Boer goat.
The purpose of developing this breed was initially to create a slightly thicker goat that is hardy, tolerant, and well adapted.
Their dark-red color, long ears, and compact horns make them incredibly heat tolerant (and easily recognizable).
They also can produce kids as frequently as every eight months, and the female goats make excellent mothers.
3. Boer Goats
The most favorite of all meat goats is the Boer goat. Most people consider Boer goats to be the hardiest breed of meat-producing goat.
They are highly adaptable and hardy. One of the aspects that makes the Boer goat the best meat goat is that the breed is highly resistant to diseases that often affect other goat breeds.
The Boer goat is stout and robust, making it an excellent meat producer. Boers are also short-haired, long-legged, and white-bodied.
The head of a Boer goat is deep-red in color and has thick horns. The Boer goat will cost a bit more, but it will produce a lot of meat and survive various conditions. It’s well worth the money!
Raising Meat Goats for Beginners
If you have read this far and are convinced that you want to start raising goats for meat, you will probably need to know some basics.
Goats are slightly different from other livestock. Thus they will need some specific care. Below is a brief overview of some of the basic things that you will need to know about raising goats for meat:
Feeding Meat Goats
Feeding a herd of goats can be a challenging balancing act.
Since goats that live in the wild typically have total control of their diets and eat various food items to nourish themselves.
A goat farmer should try to replicate those available food sources while keeping in mind the needs and eating patterns of the goats.
The first thing that you should note is that goats will need to be able to graze. Grazing stimulates the mind and allows the goat to eat the foods it needs.
Goats also have sensitive digestive systems that cannot break down plant cells as other animals do.
This means that anything less than ‘horse-feeding quality’ hay will not be suitable for your goats.
While goats can forage just fine on poor quality weeds, brush, and browse, you should try to feed high-quality hay during the winter.
Feeding moldy hay may not be as detrimental to your goats as it would be to horses, but it can still be dangerous.
Grain isn’t necessary but can serve as a helpful treat – or as a nutritional and caloric boost when you are pregnant or lactating.
You will also need to supplement with mineral supplements. You must purchase mineral supplements that are made especially for goats.
Some minerals found in other supplements can be hazardous and toxic to your goats!
Other supplements, like those for sheep, won’t contain specific nutrients that your goats need (such as copper, which is toxic to sheep).
How Many Meat Goats Can You Have Per Acre
One of the many advantages of raising goats is having quite a few of them safely on your acreage. This depends on the size and age of your goat.
You can typically keep between six and eight goats on an acre of land. However, keep in mind that if you have two acres, but one acre is poor, you should probably stick with six to eight goats.
Goats like to be in a herd and can even be depressed and unhealthy if kept alone, so do not be afraid to start with a good-sized pack!
When considering the size of your operation, you should also consider the fact that you will either have to slaughter your goats or pay to have them killed.
This means that you will need to either account for the necessity of transport (a truck, trailer, etc.) or the necessity of a slaughtering/butchering facility.
Housing for Meat Goats
Goats, no matter the breed, are pretty hardy animals. You will not need to build a barn with heat and air conditioning to keep your goats happy.
However, they will need to be sheltered from drafts and the heat of the direct sun. They will do just fine as long as they have shade and four walls to protect them from the natural elements.
Goats love to sleep together at night. It allows them to keep warm and safe from predators.
Since they will all be sleeping in their enclosure every night, you need to make sure that they have plenty of room.
Each goat will need fifteen to twenty square feet to bed down. Your goats will also need hay or straw bedding for heat and comfort.
A foot or two thick is more than plenty. Goats should never sleep on highly uneven surfaces! This can cause torsion and other digestive problems.
Should You Raise Meat Goats, Our Final Thoughts
If you want the perfect livestock to add to your farm, or even to begin your farm, goats are ideal.
They are relatively easy to raise, they do not require as much room as other livestock options, and their meat is healthy, delicious, and can fetch a pretty penny at the market.
Goats produce kids frequently and are resilient animals. Don’t forget – goats can be raised for purposes besides meat, too – like for fiber or dairy. There are plenty of multipurpose breeds out there!
If you have the space and the means to get started, creating your goat herd is a great time.
As long as you plan and have a clear goal for your meat goat operation, goat farming will be a fulfilling endeavor for years to come.