Increasing slaughter weights would increase meat supply

In Calendar Year 2019, we reversed a long industry decline by achieving an increase of 2% in U.S. herd numbers. We may well in- crease it a bit more in CY 2020. However, the increased slaughter prices make it difficult for producers to retain replacement numbers for herd expansion.

So… what can we do to expand goat meat availability and re- duce imports of lower-priced goat meat? I suggest that readers/pro- ducers consider strongly the option of increasing the weight of their goats going to slaughter. Historically, the average slaughter weight/goat nationwide has ranged closely around 62 lbs shrunk weight at slaughter (after auction and hauling shrinkage). The average hot dressing % is about 50% of kill weight and there is a further 3- 4+% loss of carcass weight during chilling and awaiting sale to re- tailers who buy about 30 lb carcasses (and sell at prices about 3 times the auction price/lb — at a markup of abut 30%). Increasing on-farm sale weight to 105 lb+, would allow the av- erage shrunk slaughter weight, post-cooler, to be about 48 lbs. This 48 lb carcass is 18 lb heavier than the current average 30 lb carcass, an increase of 60% salable meat (18/30 x 100) — a most helpful in- crease in supply of meat from the same number of producers. I expect that packers and retailers would welcome such car-

casses. Contrarily, ethnic consumers might not be so receptive… for two reasons. Historically, they have preferred carcasses under 40 lb and have paid less/lb for heavier ones. Secondly, their culturally-in- duced cooking recipes/styles are based on such ‘small’ carcasses. Tradition-bound consumers, ethnic or not, are slow to adopt new techniques while younger cooks have been found to be more open to novel products and cookery styles. I speculate that young, time-constrained ethnic cooks will do as their non-ethnic friends are doing, i.e., they will come to opt for convenient, portion-controlled cuts of meats ready-to-cook or ready-to-eat. As I have told in earlier columns, mostly non-ethnic consumers of goat meat are even now buying frozen retail cuts when available. As always, time and adver- tising will tell…

On-farm economics of producing 100+ lb slaughter kids Producers have multiple ways to increase slaughter weights. For example, they may creep-feed suckling kids from 10 days of age to increase weaning weights via better FCE (feed conversion effi- ciency) and higher ADG (average daily gain). Feeding concentrate to kids is always preferable to feeding does to increase milk yield and kid gains; don’t go there.

Note that creep-feeding may be accomplished in various ways. When suckling does are in winter quarters, creep-feeders may be sim- ple troughs behind a barrier that permits the kids to enter, but not the does. On spring/summer pastures, a portable creep-feeder may be used inside a panel or wire pen with access for kids. At weaning age, the kids may be moved to separate pastures (with no adults) with troughs for concentrate feeding until desired selling weights are reached. Doelings can be separately pastured/fed at 4-5 months to encourage early breeding.

18 Goat Rancher | October 2020


The FCE of young goats on creep-feed is typically quite good (2-3# of feed = 1# of gain). As the kid ages/grows, his FCE drops be- cause his maintenance needs increase and early deposition of internal fat begins (building fatty tissue requires about 2.25 as much feed en- ergy as building a pound of muscle protein). Put differently, as the kid increases in body weight, it requires more lb of feed to make one lb of gain, say. FCE of 7 or 8+:1. As a consequence, the feed cost/lb of gain goes up as the kid ages/grows.

Economically speaking, when the feed cost, plus overhead cost, per lb of gain equals the selling price/lb, it is time to sell. Readers should recognize the feed cost/lb of gain depends, first, on FCE and, secondly, on the cost/lb of feed. As rule of thumb, if the feed + over- head cost/lb of gain exceeds one half of the selling price/lb you will not likely make satisfactory returns on the feeding margin (the dif- ference between the feed + overhead cost/lb and the selling price/lb). To illustrate, suppose your feed + overhead cost/lb of gain was $1.75 and your selling price/lb was $2.75/lb (after commission and hauling costs). Your feeding margin would be $1.00/lb ($2.75 - $1.75). If the selling weight was 100 lb, you would make a profit of $100/hd… a good return, for sure. However, there is a second calculation required to determine

the marketing margin (the difference between the purchase price/lb and the selling price/lb). Suppose you had paid $3.00/lb for this 50 lb feeder kid and his selling price was $2.75/lb. The marketing margin would be -0.25 cents/lb ($2.75 - $3.00/lb). Ergo, you lost $12.50 on marketing margin (50 lb x $0.25/lb). Thus, this negative margin ‘earning’ must be subtracted from your feeding margin profit ($100 - $12.50) to determine your real $87.50 profit/hd. Sharp readers will realize that both margins could be positive (profitable) or both could be negative (unprofitable) or one could be positive and the other negative. These outcome possibilities are the reasons why goat feedlot operators are rightfully called gamblers. Cat- tle feedlot and lamb feedlot folks play the same game; sometimes they win and sometimes they lose — and that is the way gambling is… Goat producers typically make their decisions to feed-lot or not to feed-lot as their market kids reach 55-75 lbs in late summer/early fall. Do note that meat goats have never been genetically selected for post-weaning FCE and ADG. Some goats and crossbreds will re- spond favorably; some will not. All will experience falling FCE and thus falling ADG as they get older during the extended feeding period. The prevailing high slaughter prices for atypically heavier goats is the decisive factor in making the choice to feed to heavier weights or not. Vaya con Dios, amigos!

Meat goat marketing update

I am surprised, but pleased, to report that prices for #1 slaughter kids in the 55-70 lb range are still moving in TX auctions at just over $3.00/lb; #2s are about 25 cents/lb lower. This pricing pattern differs significantly from the historical pattern of June-swoon and lower summer/fall prices. Since the volume of goats on offer has apparently not diminished appreciably, the only rational explanation is that de-

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