REVIEW: Storey's Guide to Raising Meat Goats
If you are new to goats, here’s a good overview of how meat-goats are different from the rest
Ethnic markets are the challenge with great potential, but this book doesn’t help a producer catch the wave.

By Sandra Kay Miller


Storey's Guide to Raising Meat Goats
By Maggie Sayer
Storey Publishing, April 2007
ISBN 1580176607
344 pages

Posted July 13, 2007: Raising meat-goats is one of the fastest-growing sectors in agriculture today. Immigrants keeping the tastes and traditions of their homelands have driven goat-meat sales to the point where the United States now imports a half-million carcasses each year to meet the growing demand. Despite goat meat being the most widely consumed meat on the planet, only in the past 10 years has commercial meat-goat production emerged in the United States.

As more and more farmers began raising specific meat-type breeds, they realized there were significant differences in husbandry as compared to many of the dairy and fiber breeds. Consider the differences between a Holstein and an Angus in the beef industry. Not only are there physiological differences between the breeds to consider, but the traditional dairy and fiber goat business models were not congruent with profitable meat-goat operations.

While large production herds, mostly in the Midwest, have set the foundation for much of the meat-goat stock, farmers and hobbyists throughout the United States and Canada are raising meat-goats today. With only a couple publications aimed at this trend, Storey Publishing has recently added Storey's Guide to Raising Meat Goats by Maggie Sayer to it's already popular series which includes guides for raising chickens, dairy goats, sheep, beef cattle, pigs, rabbits, horses, turkeys, ducks, poultry and llamas.

As do all of Storey's guides, Raising Meat Goats delivers comprehensive “how-to” information for those new to raising meat-goats. Sayer covers the history and description of all meat-goat breeds as well as a general overview of goat characteristics and behaviors such as myotonia (fainting) and the flehmen response (lip curling), which new goat owners may not understand.

Unlike many publications geared toward meat production in ruminants, Sayer’s promotes a forage-based diet that avoids stuffing animals full of grain and fillers. She explains the digestive system of both adult goats and kids, provides easy-to-understand examples of rumen chemistry, and includes a basic guide to purchasing and storing hay.

Illustrations enhance health care

The chapter most likely to become bookmarked and dog-eared by those who purchase this book is “Keeping Goats Healthy (and What to Do When They Aren't).” Sayer lays out the common health problems associated with goats with a description of symptoms, treatment and prevention, accompanied by drawings. Countless inexperienced goat keepers have lost goats to Bottle Jaw (severe parasite infestation), thinking that it was either the goat's cud or that the animal was stung in the face while grazing. The picture provided will clearly show goat farmers what is wrong with their goats when they see it.

The following chapter, which deals with parasites, will help meat-goat producers to understand an issue that is rapidly becoming a serious problem in the industry. Most meat breeds originated in dry, hot environments. When they are reared in humid, wet and confined conditions, debilitating (and fatal) worm loads can rapidly develop. Unfortunately, the indiscriminate use of chemical wormers has led to parasites now developing a resistance to most of the major wormer classes available to small ruminants.

Sayer explains a management method developed in South Africa called FAMACHA which uses the inner eyelid of the goat to determine the worm load of the predominant parasite in goats that causes anemia. The introduction of this method has greatly reduced the amount of chemical wormers used by producers and is now taught by many of the meat-goat researchers throughout the country.

Sayer includes numerous producer profiles of people actively raising meat-goats, identifying good goat keepers. This is important, because newcomers to the Boer goat world are frequently told to purchase stock from reputable and experienced breeders—traits that are increasingly difficult to find in the meat-goat industry.

While the book provides a wealth of information and an extensive collection of resources in a single publication, it fails to deliver the meat that many experienced goat producers need to advance their success. Sixteen pages into the book there is a shaded box entitled “Choosing Not to Sell Goats for Meat” and later in the marketing chapter, Sayer touches only briefly on selling goats for meat prior to launching into using goats for packing and carting.

Even though the meat-goat demand is being driven by ethnic communities, Sayer only dedicates a few pages to this market in the front of the book explaining why meat goats are becoming popular. This information is stale and fails to state that people who eat goat meat would do so year-round—and not just on holidays—if there were ample supply.

Marketing focus is missing

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 35 million immigrants in the U.S., many of whom would regularly consume goat meat if it were available, yet many authors, including Sayer, continually expound most on the advantages of raising meat-goats for breeding stock, show animals and working goats—leaving out serious information on actually selling meat goats for meat. (Even “Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens” by Gail Damerow in 1995 included a chapter on butchering.)

Also disappointing was that there was no mention of using goats for prescribed grazing and brush control—a rapidly growing sector in the meat-goat industry. Recently, the New York Times featured a story about how the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, has its own herd of goats to control the rapidly-growing noxious weed, kudzu. In California, there are several companies who rent out goats for brush control in fire-prone areas. Additionally, farmers are increasingly running a seasonal herd of meat-goats with their grass-based dairy and beef cattle to help keep down forbs and woody plants in their pastures. They are learning to turn their weeds into dollars instead of spending money and time applying expensive herbicides or trying manual eradication.

This guide is an excellent choice for beginning and small-scale breeders or for reference material, yet it offers little assistance to commercial meat-goat producers who are already scrambling to figure out how fill the demand for goat meat in the United States.