Iowa seminar explores goat meat production for niche markets

April 16, 2004: MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa: Eric Finch had no idea that a nanny goat his wife brought home from a veterinary clinic where she worked would help them launch a profitable farm business. Two years later with a herd of 170, he is selling about 300 feeder goats annually, which is still not enough to supply a niche market that serves Iowa's growing ethnic population.
Other offerings in the seminar series are:

• June 24, Plant pathologist Dean Reynolds, Intro to Bio Pest Management, 7-9 p.m., Room 801, Iowa Valley Continuing Education Center, Marshalltown.

• July 13, Plant pathologist Dean Reynolds, Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants, 6-9 p.m., Room 805, Iowa Valley Continuing Education Center, Marshalltown.

• July 24, Leopold Center director Fred Kirschenmann, An Introduction to Sustainable Agriculture, Grimes Farm, 2359 233rd Street, Marshall County. The presentation will be given twice during the Practical Farmers of Iowa field day at that location.
Finch will share his experiences May 4 during a workshop series offered by Iowa Valley Continuing Education in Marshalltown. The series, co-sponsored by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Practical Farmers of Iowa, will explore sustainable and entrepreneurial agriculture opportunities in central Iowa.

Finch sells directly to customers in Marshalltown and Des Moines, and to clients as far away as Perry and Tama. Although most of his time is spent in conventional agriculture with a family row-crop and farrow-to-finish hog operation near Collins, Finch says the goat meat business is growing faster than anything else.

"There's a huge market right now," Finch said. "We don't realize it in Iowa with other options for meat, but two-thirds of the world's population eats goat meat."

In Iowa, goat is the "meat of choice" among many Hispanic populations, and also for immigrants from Bosnia, Sudan and other African, Middle Eastern and East European countries. Preferred are younger, recently weaned animals in the 40- to 60-pound range. In stores where goat meat is available, Finch said the product often is shipped from Chicago and ranges in price from $2.50 to more than $3 a pound.

"We just happened to stumble upon this business two years ago," Finch said. "And it's turned out to be a nice side income for us."

The seminar will explore various aspects of raising feeder goats including nutritional requirements, parasite control, vaccination schedules, breeds and marketing options. Finch also will host a July 17 field day at his farm with other members of the Iowa Meat Goat Association. Although the group was organized less than six months ago, it already has 65 members, he said.

The May 4 seminar will begin at 7 p.m. in Room 614 of the Iowa Valley Continuing Education Center on the campus of Marshalltown Community College. There is a $10 registration fee. For more information, contact Iowa Valley Continuing Education, (641) 752-4645, or go to www.iowavalley.com.



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