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Profit Potential of Grass-fed Goats
The profit potential of grassfed goats varies by breed, location, and the qualities of each individual goat. Before you even begin, you should determine which of the two major emphases your goat business will have:
- Animal products: Raising goats to be sold for meat or to provide goat’s milk (sold primarily for soaps and cheeses)
- Herd improvement: Breeding your meat or milk goat herd for higher and higher trait qualities. (Profit comes from selling kids to other farmers, winning fair competitions, and breeders’ fees.)
Keep in mind that goats and their by-products sell better in different locations and at different times of year. Goat meat is consumed in much higher quantities around certain religious holidays, especially if you sell within range of a population that celebrates those holidays. Goat milk does well in many areas, and if you make soap yourself, you can ship it to customers elsewhere. Goats raised for individual quality and herd improvement do well at state fairs and in areas within a reasonable drive of other farmers.
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Choosing A Goat Breed
To profit from grassfed goats, it’s important to choose a breed that has the traits you need (i.e. puts on weight, makes lots of milk, or has top breeding qualities), and that will thrive in your climate. Popular meat goat breeds include Boer, Kiko, and Tennessee Meat Goats, while popular dairy goat breeds include Saanens and Nubians. Pygmy goats are used primarily for show, but all of the preceding breeds can be shown, as well.
Talk to regional goat farmers about the breeds they raise and why they raise them. The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service is a particularly good resource for this type of research. You will find excellent breed overviews in their Meat Goat Production Guide and Dairy Goat Production Guide. (The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service is a quality resource for many other aspects of raising goats and other agricultural topics, as well.)
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Building a Strong Herd
Source your goats from a farmer in the area, so you know that they do well in your weather, and so you know your animals’ background. (The low prices and anonymity of goats bought at auction does not bring with any guarantee of quality.)
Kids cost less than mature goats, but you’ll have to invest time and money while you wait for them to age and start producing (or reproducing, as the case may be). Mature goats have the added benefit of having proven themselves; there’s no question of how they will turn out when they grow up if they’re already grown up.
Almost any goat farmer you ask will recommend starting your herd with a few healthy does plus the best buck you can afford.
- In a doe, look for a broad, birth-ready frame; plenty of milk production; and a proven mothering instinct.
- In a buck, look for a strong frame and the qualities most desired in that breed (see competition judging guidelines or breed guides for more detailed insight).
- In all cases, check that the goat has healthy eyes and teeth and a sleek, healthy looking coat.
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Financial Benefits Of Grass-fed Goats (vs. Grain-Fed)
Knowing how to raise grassfed goats for profit is all about using your resources well—both financially and ecologically. Goats are designed to browse small shrubs and other short plants, and they do an excellent job of gleaning nutrients from what we would consider weeds. So give them plenty to browse on.
Some farmers let their goats wander on large tracts of land; others section the land into smaller pastures and rotate the goats, allowing used portions to grow back. Make sure that pregnant and nursing does, as well as young kids, have access to the areas with the best nutrition, as it makes the biggest health difference to them.
Grassfeeding goats is particularly important for breeding stock (it makes a healthier goat) and milk goats (the nutrition creates a higher quality milk). Some meat goat farmers may choose to feed their goats grain to add weight, but the meat of grassfed goats is higher quality (if not higher weight) and should still fetch a good price.
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Billy Goat: http://www.flickr.com/photos/20299709@N00/291672307/
How to Raise Grass-fed Goats for Profit
Raising goats, whether for leisure or profit, is no small endeavor. Before you even pick out your animals, there’s a lot of prep work to do. Here you’ll find a primer on how research, prepare for, raise, and profit from grassfed goats.