There’s no simple answer when it comes to raising meat goats

What is a goat worth, really? Not too surprisingly, that depends. I am SO sorry if you thought that you would get a super simple an- swer from me!

The value of any given goat, and adding that up for each animal you own or manage to get to a valuation of the total herd, depends on: what you are trying to achieve with your goats, your life, your land, for others and how you treat customers and vendors. I’m sure that there are more, but let’s start with those. There

might actually be an easy answer, but probably only if one bases the question on a single, narrow view of the world and how the world works. The answer can also change as one goes farther down the road toward one’s goals. Yikes! That was NOT supposed to open all sorts of potential philosophical discussions — really it wasn’t. All right, let’s start at the bottom of the stepladder, leaving the soaring heights for others to scale. How about just meat goats, since we’ve been raising them for profit and fun since 1991?

Raising or managing goats is like growing any crop for people to eat. If the goats were plants, you’d need dirt, seeds and water for the plants. And a way to keep competitors like birds and beasts from eating the growing plants, so that the plants will be there when you want to eat some, right?

Please note that I’m only going to be discussing ways of pro- ducing or temporarily owning meat goats that will yield profit for their humans, since I’m genetically predisposed toward earning rather than giving. Starting by countering a misconception, those little dark- brown pellets that goats frequently leave behind them are not, in fact, goat seeds. To have goats that can be grown to be “ready-to-eat,” you could either buy young goats and let them grow bigger, or grow/raise goat kids from birth, for which you would need mature female goats to make new goat kids for you. You will also need a buck (mature male goat) to breed the fe- male goats so that the females become pregnant and produce the kids. Having your own animals that can raise the young for you will take longer than buying some already started, but may well net you more financially.

Owning mother goats and at least one father goat for every 75- 100 females is, according us since we’ve been doing that for decades, a very good example of a self-renewing resource. A female goat can conceive, carry, deliver and raise between one and six offspring per year in a natural system, by which I mean giving birth once per year, as wild animals do. We’ve heard about having the does have baby goats more often

than once per year, but given our environment, mental and philosoph- ical druthers, choose to follow a once per year birthing system. Suc- cessfully, happily and well, I must add! Details to follow. How does a goat enterprise work? Please stop chuckling — that

depends. Let’s look at what is always needed for small or large oper- ations. Any meat goat enterprise needs to raise or import fresh or


stored — green, in our case — stuff for the goats to eat so that they survive and thrive.

Meat goat enterprises in all but the kindest environments need

to offer some degree of shelter for the goats to stay protected from bad weather — genetically, the goat is a desert creature and does not thrive if subjected to cold or wet precipitation or cold winds. Right now, here in Montana, it’s snowing and 21 degrees. The goats, happily wearing their cashmere winter coats, are sheltering in the barn and sheds and chewing their cud, waiting for the day’s feed- ing of hay. The guardian dogs are curled up in the goat herd, keeping their charges safe from predators.

Enterprises need to have or have access to the land on which the goats will be kept, and know that the goats will only be able to explore THAT specific property. Saying it as kindly as possible, goats do not read maps and will explore until stopped from exploring, for example by a goat-proof fence.

(This column’s information is based on raising meat goats in Montana and on The Meat Goat Handbook, written by Yvonne and published by Voyageur Press, which is for sale from Smoke Ridge at E-mail questions to that you would like to have answered in this column.)

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Alberta Farm Animal Care

Do you know AGA is a proud member of AFAC, a provincial multi-species livestock welfare organization created by Al- berta livestock producers which works with producers to make sure they have everything they need to take care of their animals and has developed into the collective voice of the livestock industry on matters of livestock welfare? AFAC has provided a coordinated approach for all areas of live- stock production to work together to advance and promote responsible livestock care.

AFAC projects include: • The ALERT Line - an anonymous, producer helping pro- ducer call line 1-800-506-2273

• Emergency Livestock Handling Equipment Trailers • Look for seminars on the new CFIA regulations with a small ruminant transportation webinar in early 2021 with AGA at

January 2021 | Goat Rancher 9

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