050516 Meat Goats Popular As Ethnic Populations Rise

May 30, 2005

Trends in livestock raising come and go with the years. Raising goats is one trend that is going strong and shows no signs of stopping.

Todd Nordmann with Central Livestock in Sioux Falls, S.D., said they have been selling goats for about 10 years now but didn't start with their specials until five years ago. They began selling goats in response to producers needing somewhere to sell and market their goats.

"We sell goats every Monday after sheep. Normally between 50 and 300 head sell. It's kind of a booming industry," he said.

One reason for the increase is the rising ethnic population and ease of raising goats. Special sales at Central Livestock are gauged around Easter, Christmas, Ramadan and other holidays. Nordmann said most goats sold are Boer goats, a type of meat goat. Dairy goats are also popular.

"Boer goats are very adaptable to life in the Midwest. Nubian and Alpine are OK too. We get Angora from North Dakota and Minnesota," he said.

Goats sold at Central Livestock come from across the United States. Nordmann said when they have a special, 10 to 12 states will be represented.

"Goats have staying power. They are expanding. They were big in Texas probably 20 years ago. Now it's expanding up here," he said.

Wendell Affield raises goats near Shevlin, Minn., 80 miles south of the Canadian border. When he and his wife Sheila retired, they began to explore other options. Having worked in the meat industry for 30 years and recalling some contacts, Affield knew there was a market for meat goats in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., because of the large Somalian population. The couple met others who were raising goats at a sustainable agriculture conference and they expressed their interest.

"Six months later, a lady called me and said she was selling her herd. She had about 35 or 40. We worked out a deal and brought them up there," Affield said.

He has always used full-blood Boer bucks. The initial herd was Spanish nannies always crossed with the full-blood Boer bucks. Within a few generations, they had nice Boer-cross animals.

"One thing we did discover, as far north as we are, the Spanish have a thick undercoat of cashmere fiber and that's important in colder climates. Over the years, we held back all of our females and built up our herd. With just the two of us, the herd got big and we downsized a bit," he said.

One of the biggest problems he had experienced had been marketing and receiving what he felt was a fair price for his goats, until he began using Central Livestock. Affield uses DeGroot Trucking to haul his goats from Minnesota to South Dakota.

"I'm a real strong advocate of it now. Sioux Falls is the only place I sell. We do one or two loads a season," Affield said.

Affield's goats are on open pasture, a grass legume mix and his goats seem to prefer grass over clover. Northern Minnesota is copper and selenium deficient and he said that a good mix of minerals is important for the goats' well-being. Minerals are offered to his goats in free-choice feeders. Producers should also keep in mind that what is fed to goats can be toxic for sheep.

"Goats are excellent browsers. I've been told that a goat will flourish on what a cow will starve on and I half-believe it. If you look at some arid parts of the world, like Africa, goats thrive there," he said.

One thing Affield learned early on was how to use fencing to contain his goats. He had heard that some will stay inside with electric wire but that didn't work for him.

"We use a 30-inch high woven wire, with a strand of electric on top of that. It serves three purposes. It's maintenance free, we won't have to worry about it shorting out and it keeps predators out. It gives you peace of mind knowing the goats aren't going through it," he said.

The primary predators are coyotes and wolves but Affield has only had one attack by a coyote since he began raising goats. His goats come up to the barn and buildings every night.

An advantage of raising goats for Affield is that they are easier to work with, though a bit more labor intensive, with most of the work occurring at kidding time. He said they are safer than working with cattle.

"You aren't going to get mauled by a goat," he said.

Affield cautions those who are just getting started with goats that they do not have a huge tolerance of parasites. If a goat looks gaunt or goes off feed, a parasite could be the cause and to call a veterinarian. Affield's goats are wormed three times a year and hooves are clipped before they go to spring pasture.

In the late winter, he uses an injectable for worming which will not harm the fetus. In the mid-summer, goats are given a drench and then in late summer, another injectable. The drench is used to kill tapeworms, something the injectable won't kill.

His goal is to kid up to 200%. This spring, they are at 193%. The ideal time for kidding is mid-April and Affield recommends kidding be done inside.

"Up this far north, you still need to be in buildings because it's cold and wet. Wet is the worst, that's true with all newborn animals. Goats hate to get wet," Affield said.

Once the kids are born and the kid and mother have bonded, it's off to pasture. Affield will usually group nanny goats together when they are getting close to kidding and when they are due, put them in individual pens.

"I will leave them in there for 24 to 48 hours. If they are first-time mothers, I may leave them in there for three days, just to make sure the mama and baby are bonded and she is taking good care of it," Affield said.

After a few days, they are moved to a common area with the other nannies and kids. In the event of triplets, which happened five times this year, he leaves the mother and her three in the pen for up to a week. Once the mother has bonded with her kids, he rarely has a problem with abandonment.

He has experimented with an accelerated kidding program where three kiddings would happen every two years. Affield found that it is best to work with nature and do it once a year, which to him, seems more profitable, since kidding only once a year won't stress the female goat and she remains productive.

When buying goats, Affield looks for a clean, stocky animal with a nice frame.

"What I look for are ones with a decent rate of gain. Multiple kiddings are important. If I have one that has a single or if they don't have good maternal traits, I will sell them," he said.

Even as far north as he is, Affield has seen a huge interest in goats during the last five years.

"Just in the last five years, we have been seeing an explosion in goats. Our farm supply store now carries goat products and even my vet has goats. People have realized there is a legitimate market for goats," he said.


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