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So, You Want to Do Meat Goats

by Frank Pinkerton


Since the late seventies, I have observed with professional concern, personal interest, and occasional alarm as owners and prospective owners considered initiating (or expanding) goat enterprises. Prior to reaching final decisions, some rather skillfully investigated opportunities, constraints, and most probable cost-benefit ratios of various management and marketing alternatives.

Contrarily, others made only cursory investigations of enterprise options, the “fit” of their available resources, market availability/stability, etc. As might be expected, the success rate of such enterprise initiations and expansions was spotty indeed. In some areas, disappointments, if not disasters, considerably exceeded successes. Success rates improved only when bad experience eliminated losers and winners shared good experiences.

Among the most common failings exhibited, the tendency to start too big, or to get too big too fast, was paramount. This tendency was exacerbated when too little technical knowledge was teamed with inflated expectations and (too) short-term financing. A second common failing was to start operations prematurely, i.e., to get the goats on-site before sufficient fencing, facilities, and predator/parasite control programs were in place. Yet a third failing was to realize, belatedly, that slaughter goat prices exhibit marked seasonal highs and lows and, furthermore, that marketing venues, transportation costs, hauling shrinkage, and commission fees were important cost considerations, not mere adjuncts to goat production.

To some, a fourth difficulty was the surprising revelation that their friendly Extension Service person or Veterinarian, who were ever so knowledgeable concerning beef cattle production, pastures, and animal health care, didn’t seem to know shit about goat production. A corollary interpersonal problem sometimes occurred when well-intentioned neighbors with too little goat experience were found, only after the fact, not to know shit, either.

For those currently contemplating the establishment or expansion of a meat goat enterprise, early recognition and detailed investigation of the several different types of operations to choose from would be very useful. Among the alternative types, each of which would require varying levels of financial commitments, physical resources, and site-specific management schemes, are: smallholder/intensively managed herds; larger scale extensively managed herds, small, elite purebred seed-stock herds, specialized herds for the production of Youth Show wethers, and herds held primarily for control of brushy/weedy lands or management of forest under-story vegetation, fire lanes, power lines, and water impoundments. There are also hobby herds for lifestyle enjoyment, and, while raising goat kids along with one’s children may be very satisfying, it may also be rather unprofitable. Only after the final choice among types of enterprise has been made can one logically take further actions, as described below.

Procurement of Foundation Stock
Sourcing Foundation Goats


Made available by the American Goat Federation with the permission of Dr. Frank Pinkerton, aka The Goat Man.

Contact Dr. Pinkerton: Email

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