The Sandlin family raise their goats as God intended — letting them thrive on pasture and in the woods, drinking from streams and living outdoors. Taking the Savanna Goat into the Future By Mitch Sandlin

The Savanna goat first caught my attention seven or eight years ago. I have raised goats since I was around 10 years old. While grow- ing up I raised fainting goats and sold them for pets. Goats were a great experience growing up, helping me learn responsibility. So in 2009, after not having goats for a few years, my wife and I had the opportunity to move out to the family farm that my mother was raised on. One of the first things I was interested in doing was finding some goats to buy so our children could grow up on a work- ing farm. I wanted to do something on a larger scale so meat goats seemed to be the way to go.

For a few years we tried a couple different breeds and then set- tled on the Kiko and raised those for a number of years. We culled our herd hard and eventually had a herd of good hardy, productive mama goats.We were selling kids at market and growing our herd. Things were going pretty good but one thing bothered me. My

goats didn’t look very meaty. And I wasn’t the only one who thought that. When I would take my kids to market they would always grade #2 or #3 — never #1.

Now I am someone who likes to do things well or not at all, so this was something that needed some work! I started looking for a buck to cross onto my Kikos to get some more meat and better grade on my kids. I kept noticing a small advertisement in the goat rancher with a Savanna buck on it. Every time I saw that I thought to myself, “that is what a meat goat should look like!”

That was what led me to contact Chris Luton of Boulder Hill Farm and the Luton Meat Goat Company. And that led us to purchase our first group of fullblood Savannas. We used a BHF Savanna herd-

sire that fall on our Kiko mamas and we were amazed at the results. We received #1 grade on nearly all our kids that first year with faster growth rates. And the doe kids we retained looked great as well. I was sold on the Savanna!

Fast forward to 2020 and we are still loving our Savannas. We currently have percentage does 50-88% and fullblood and purebred Savannas. We also still have some of our Kikos around producing great 50% kids as well. We continue to cull our herd hard. If it doesn’t make meat and

do it efficiently with minimal inputs then it becomes meat. As we moved toward becoming seedstock Savanna producers, our philoso- phy on goats hasn’t changed much from commercial production. Goat meat is what this industry is all about. Our Savannas are all reg- istered but we have sent plenty of goats — Kiko and Savanna — to slaughter that we could have put a set of papers on. In the end all that is is a piece of paper. It’s great for tracking ped- igrees and keeping track of who’s out of which dam and sire. But to move any breed forward we have to be able to look past what’s written on their papers and see if that goat can stand on its own four legs. We have to be willing to make the decision to cull an animal that we may have paid a lot of money for. No producer knows for sure how a doeling will perform later in life or under different man- agement practices. We turn our does loose on the pasture April through November. We catch them up three or four times through the summer to Famacha score them and check them over — otherwise they live off the land. Sheltering in the woods, drinking from the streams and eat- ing whatever they find in the pastures and woods. The only supplement they get is a mineral mix and maybe a round

November 2020 | Goat Rancher 15

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