Looking ahead at meat goat prices and future profitability

I recently received an e-mail from longtime friend and busi-

nessman Wayne Cooper of Charlotte, NC, who has a resident man- ager at a modest meat goat operation at nearby Gaffney, SC. I hauled him TX Spanish goats several years ago as a startup herd. Wayne sent me information from YouTube that features Dr. Reid Redden, director of the TAMU Small Ruminant Research and Extension Center in San Angelo, Texas. Readers may access this Ranching for Profit presentation concerning the meat goat industry, its currently profitable situation, and its likely continuation over the next few years at:

Reid and other University Livestock Marketing personnel see the future of goat production as continuing “well into the future,” as do I and my columnist colleague, Ken McMillin. When I asked him how long he thought the current high prices for goat meat, slaughter goats and breeding goats would last, he replied as follows: “If we could accurately prognosticate the future, we’d do better in the stock market or in the casinos. That not being the case, all of the economists and industry watchers we have contacted are optimis- tic about the prices and profitability of meat goat production for the next few years IF several factors remain stable.

“The first factor is that there will be a continuation of demand from ethnic consumers of goat meat. The recent live goat prices that are subsequently reflected in retail goat meat prices have not yet de- terred goat meat purchases. Experience has shown that retail prices are about 3 X live prices, i.e. about $10/lb when live prices for 50-60 lb goats range between $3.25-3.50/lb. While there is doubtless a “ceiling price” for goat meat for ethnic consumers that would cause them to markedly reduce purchases goat meat, it has yet to happen. “A second factor in play is the quantity of goat meat coming

from Australia to augment our supply of goat meat. Such imports have decreased markedly during the past two years because of short supply and increased exports to the oil-rich Middle Eastern markets. Our short domestic goat supply does, in fact, keep our live goat prices higher.

“A third factor is harvest, processing and logistic inefficiencies. Other domestic meat industries have long since moved packing plants to areas of production and shipped boxes of retail cuts to distant mar- kets. Contrarily, our goat industry moves live goats great distances from widely scattered small-volume producers to packer facilities ad- jacent to concentrated urban ethnic populations. This marketing chan- nel adds appreciably to the cost of retail goat meat. “A fourth factor that weighs against adequate supply of domes- tic goat meat is the consumer preference for small carcasses (25-30 lb) rather than 40-50+lb. Larger carcasses would be the simplest way to increase domestic supply of goat meat, but this would be difficult to achieve because of consumers buying habits and, secondly, be- cause of producer reluctance to spend more time and money to grow goats to heavier weights — and likely experience a small drop in market price/lb.

“As we noted earlier this year, our producers are not, for wha- 12 Goat Rancher | November 2021


tever reasons, increasing goat meat output as live prices/lb have risen and remained high since 2,019. We confidently speculate that breed- ing goat prices will remain high for the foreseeable future.”

Performance-testing your herd is profitable I recently brokered various sized loads of goats to buyers in OH,

MN, WI, KS and OK. I followed up with tan e-mail to them, to wit: I am asking each of you to seriously consider doing on-farm perform- ance-testing of your meat goat herds in 2022 and to share that infor- mation with me and the readers of my Goat Rancher column. I did such an evaluation program for 11 years on my 50-doe herd as I re- tired in 1993. I used the accumulating results to price — and to sell — my surplus breeding females at appreciable premiums over my neighbors’ goat prices. Simply put, it was a paying proposition. I used a single sheet of paper to record the performance of each doe and her progeny from birth to disposal or death. I will send interested readers a copy upon request so that you may decide if it fills a need for proper management of your herd.

And, yes, I am aware that in the current goat world, there are several computerized programs available that let you use your cell phone to input data on individual goats concerning their life stages over time. I’m told that the price of these programs is acceptable and that individual performance data is instantly available for making ac- curate keep-or-cull decisions and for showing pertinent data to pro- spective buyers as they consider whether an individual goat is worth its’ asking price, or not.

This is a vast improvement over leisurely eye-balling a prospec- tive purchase for positive or negative visual traits. Adjusted litter weaning weight figures, plus visual assessment of physical traits that encourage doe longevity, enables both buyer and seller to feel satis- fied with the mutually agreed purchase price.

I now show you how to calculate an adjusted weaning weight figure using the formulation designed by Dr. David Notter, Animal Geneticist, Virginia Tech-Blacksburg. First, calculate a 90-day wean- ing weight by dividing the kid weight (less the birth wt) by the days of age when you weighed the kid, for example, a buck kid weighed 38 lb, less a birth weight of 8.0 lb = 30 divided by, say, 80 days = .373. Multiply this figure by 90 days = 34 lb. Make the same calcula- tion for a female litter mate, say, 30 lb. Using Table 1 (next page), a litter size of 1 male and 1 f emale shows the correction value to be 1.0. If the litter had 1 male and 2 fe- male kids, you would multiple their combined litter weight by 1.14 to get a preliminary adjusted litter weaning weight of that doe’s off- spring.

Then you make a final calculation to reflect the age of dam in years at kidding time to get the adjusted litter weaning weight that lets you accurately compare individual females in your herd. These are tedious, time-consuming calculations, and they are the driving force for using computer programs to get the same data for accurate comparison of herd females.

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