DEAR NEW FARM:
How about an article or series on the expanding meat goat
industry in the U.S.? Granted, it’s going to be near
impossible to ever do completely organic meat goat production,
but with parasite monitoring methods like FAMACHA and more
enlightened browsing/grazing practices, this already healthy
meat source can become even more natural and sustainable.
Please contact me if I can be of any assistance in preparing
Kentucky Goat Producers Association
Thanks for the letter. A small page we did about a year ago,
providing resources for those interested in meat goat production
Goat Marketplace), has been one of our most-visited pages,
so we’re sure that more practical information on entering
the market and raising goats would be of interest to our readers.
We'll be making plans to cover this area in more detail in
the coming months.
In the meantime, can you tell us a little bit about the current
state and future prospects of meat goat farming in Kentucky,
from your point of view?
DEAR NEW FARM:
Sure, I'd be happy to. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture
has documented about 70,000 goats in the state, but I really
feel the figure is probably closer to 100,000 or 125,000.
Kentucky currently ranks fifth according to the ag department’s
stats, but I feel we may be either second or third in the
U.S. in terms of meat goat production. I’m not sure
that these numbers really have any relevance past bragging
rights. What I do know is that producers in the United States
currently only meet about 50 percent of the domestic demand
for goat meat, so there’s tremendous room for growth,
no matter where you live and farm.
Kentucky meat goat producers are a mix of people new to farming
and people who have farming backgrounds but may be new to
goat husbandry. The KGPA reaches out to both audiences and
supports production of all breeds.
One group getting into meat goats here are former tobacco
farmers. Many small tobacco producers have 100 acres or less,
including some rough acreage and some tillable land. They
have found it increasingly difficult to compete with big tobacco
but don't want to leave the farm. Of course goats aren't the
total answer, but they are an attractive piece of the overall
diversification puzzle. The key to the successful transition
of tobacco farmers is diversification, and goats are one example
of a sustainable direction that they can take.
Many of our producers who are new to farming are people who
recently moved out to a rural area, have 5 or 10 acres of
land, and started looking for something they could do with
it. Five acres can accommodate a dozen or so goats very well,
even if it's not perfect pasture land. In fact, goats can
do well on non-native, invasive species like kudzu, multiflora
rose and Japanese honeysuckle, so they present landowners
with the opportunity to clean up neglected land and make a
little money at the same time.
The key to sustainable meat goat production is good forage
management, including rotational browsing. Research is being
done at Kentucky State University and the University of Kentucky
on different forage combinations--including chicory, sericea
lespedeza and grazeable soybeans—to provide optimum
nutrition and help control parasites. Goats also work well
in rotation with other livestock, preceding or following beef
cattle into an area, for instance.
So far, there are no certified organic meat goats in Kentucky,
but we're working with producers to establish "natural"
production guidelines including limited use of antibiotics,
browsing above the parasite load, and use of the FAMACHA method
to monitor and determine parasite tolerance and curb the use
of chemical dewormers. We're also working on breeding for
better feet and more suitability to the humid Kentucky climate.
In terms of markets, some Kentucky goat ranchers are selling
direct to consumers, but most of our producers take their
young animals to graded sales around the state and are consigning
them to Tel-O-Auctions sponsored by the Kentucky Department
of Agriculture. Prices are good and people find that they
are making a reasonable profit. I like to say that there's
not a goat born in Kentucky that doesn't have a market waiting
for it. In addition to established specialty markets, more
and more general consumers are discovering how tasty and nutritious
goat meat can be—and when they do they come looking
I can’t say enough about the support the Kentucky Department
of Agriculture and the Governor’s Office for Agriculture
Policy have given to the Commonwealth’s goat producers
and the Kentucky Goat Producers Association. The environmental
climate is sometimes a challenge for producers here in the
Bluegrass State, but thanks to these two agencies the political
climate is very favorable.
I hope this stimulates your readers to consider the potential
of this line of farming. I for one am certain it's not a fad—it
truly is the fastest growing segment of agriculture in Kentucky
and, quite possibly, the nation.
Kentucky Goat Producers Association
us with comments, suggestions and questions.