What can you tell me about raising meat goats?
August 23, 2007 12:42 PM   Subscribe

Next year, I will likely purchase some meat goats for raising, breeding and eating. My plan currently is for 4-8 Boer goats, which gain weight quickly and allegedly pretty even-tempered. I'm looking for hints and tips for what I should know.

I grew up on a cattle ranch, so I'm not completely foolish on the concepts involved. However, that was nearly 20 years ago, so I've forgotten a lot (perhaps blocked some memories).

In general terms, what advice can you give for food, fencing, safety, diseases, care, butchering (for self and/or for sale), etc.?

If it matters/helps, I am at the 53rd latitude in Western Canada.
posted by Kickstart70 to Pets & Animals (19 answers total)
I'm sorry, but seriously, people eat goats?
posted by wafaa at 1:30 PM on August 23, 2007

Yes, wafaa, in fact they may be served up at a nearby Indian or Afghan restaurant. Tasty, too.
posted by mkb at 1:33 PM on August 23, 2007

Absolutely they do and the curried goat I had in the Bahamas was heavenly.
posted by mmascolino at 1:41 PM on August 23, 2007

wafaa: I would venture a guess that worldwide goats are eaten more often than turkey, duck, venison and pork....combined.
posted by Kickstart70 at 1:41 PM on August 23, 2007

I basically grew up with goats. There are tons of interesting things to know, but the one thing that I always found most remarkable is how status-conscious they are. I'm not sure if this was specific to our North Italian breed or if it's applicable to all goats, though. We gave bells to some of them in order to find them more easily up in the mountains, and they interpreted them as status symbols; if you gave a bell to a weaker one, the others would beat it mercilessly, as this seemed to interfere with their sense of hierarchy (I'm sure I'm anthropomorphizing here, but at least that what it looks like).

Regarding sickness, the most common problems I seem to remember were mastitis and some nasty parasite which would infect the respiratory tract ("worms crawling out of their nose"). I don't remember the name of that one. I would choose a rather robust variant well adapted to the climate you're living in.

They are amazing animals, beautiful, affectionate, and intelligent. I'm full of envy for your plan!
posted by dhoe at 1:49 PM on August 23, 2007

Goat recipes.

I wish I could give actual advice, but I can't. Maybe contact your local agricultural extension (whatever the Canadian version of this U.S.-ian thing is)? There's some stuff here (Ministry of Agriculture), which you probably know about.

Good luck, and good eatin'!
posted by rtha at 1:51 PM on August 23, 2007

Considering the amount of information you need, it may be worth your money to invest in books on modern animal management such as Raising Meat Goats for Profit and Scientific Farm Animal Production (good, practical book, though not specific to goats).

The Canadian Meat Goat Association has some fact sheets available, and there are various extension services and agricultural list-servs that can help you out with specific questions.

If I were you, though, the first thing I'd do is have a chat and a visit with some local meat goat farms to find out how they do things in your area.
posted by zennie at 1:57 PM on August 23, 2007

"if you gave a bell to a weaker one, the others would beat it mercilessly, as this seemed to interfere with their sense of hierarchy (I'm sure I'm anthropomorphizing here, but at least that what it looks like)."

Ooooh, you just describe department politics perfectly!

I had a Nigerian roommate that answered an ad from someone selling a fancy goat. The clubbed it and threw it in the trunk while the owner looked on, horrified.
posted by mecran01 at 2:52 PM on August 23, 2007 [3 favorites]

Meat Goat Marketing In New York City. A fantastic article with a wealth of information about the consumer-end of the meat goat industry. If you don't eat all your goat this will help you learn how to sell it, to whom, and when.

Off-topic, but I sure wish I knew where to get a plate of bírria in San Francisco.
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:02 PM on August 23, 2007

You may know this already, but a big difference between having cattle and goats is the smell. Uncastrated male goats have a very strong, very durable musk that will be in the meat as well. Unlike cow smell, you can't easily wash it out of your clothes, skin, and hair, and it's very offensive to some people.

I was looking for your local extension/ag office, but I can't seem to find it online. That's another thing you may want to ask your local goat farmers while you spy on what kind of fencing they use and find out who gives the best deal on forages. Did find another site though, and there are some good links on fencing there.
posted by zennie at 4:20 PM on August 23, 2007

For birria, try Gallardos at 14th and Folsom. Also see this article. Also La Gallinita on 24th and Harrison?
posted by gingerbeer at 4:32 PM on August 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

I work for an ag extension and we have some goat farmers that we work with. Your local agriculture extension can be a lifesaver. Many have classes and workshops that could be really useful. Agricultural fairs also have the same.

The main goat farmer here does dairy with La Mancha and Nubians. They are very intelligent and friendly...well, except for the stinky males.

They are very dog-like. I'd have trouble raising them for meat personally, though the males seem to be the most-eaten around here, which makes sense because they are so ornery. They are typically sent to slaughter when young because the musk becomes a problem.
posted by melissam at 4:44 PM on August 23, 2007

My BIL keeps goats and the main issue he has had is dogs (large but otherwise ordinary housepet-type dogs) breaking into his pasture and mauling his herd, which resulted in him having to put down some of his goats. It's taken him several rounds of goat deaths to fencing all the weak spots that keeps dogs out and goats in.

For bírria, weekends at Los Jarritos on Van Ness.
posted by jamaro at 5:33 PM on August 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

You will have to learn to castrate or just eat them young. A wether will put on meat faster, be more docile and smell way better than a intact buck. Do not name them, that makes them pets.
Goats can be escape artists but they are not that bad, not like a pig. If you give them a 5 or 6 foot tall fence that they cannot walk through or an electric fence it will probably be OK.
They can bloat, especially when young so you have to keep feed consistent as far as not switching suddenly from dry hay to green pasture or vice versa. You also might want to be careful about how much water a kid has access to when they are switching from the bottle to their adult feed as I think they might overindulge and drink themself into a bloat but that last bit I am not so sure about so seek corroboration. (It has been a looong time since I did this)
And all canids are your worst enemy.
Goats love to play, especially when young so give them something to climb and play king of the mountain with.
posted by Iron Rat at 6:45 PM on August 23, 2007

Kickstart70, here in Texas there are lots of people who raise different varieties of goats, and some groups they belong to are very helpful, offer good advice to newcomers, etc. At least one webring I know of is dedicated to Boers -- http://d.webring.com/hub?ring=texasboergoats

I know you're not in Texas, but this might help, too: http://www.texasgoat.com. This site offers tips like when to call the vet, best goat feeds, etc. -- and lots of ads!

For protection against dogs and wolves, have you thought of getting a donkey as your guard critter? I know some ranchers who put donkeys in pastures to guard sheep; don't know if a donkey would be good with goats.

And I can't believe some people didn't know we humans eat goat. Most of us West Texans love cabrito! (One of the best meals I ever ate was cabrito fajitas.) Mmmm.
posted by Smalltown Girl at 7:29 PM on August 23, 2007

I’m sorry but just reading “meat goat” puts me off on you. “Capricious” is derived from the Latin root for goat. Goats are entertaining and highly social, like dogs, only capricious.

I used to raise goats, and I killed one for meat. It was OK, but I wouldn’t want to make a habit of it.
posted by Huplescat at 8:05 PM on August 23, 2007

We had goats up until recently when we sold our farm. They are so much fun.
BUT, they will eat ANYTHING, they especially love leather, which is a problem if you have cattle or horses with leather bridles or halters.
They also will eat almost any vegetation, and have a special taste for the most expensive landscaping plants you have ever had installed (three goats ate a huge old rhododendron to the bark in one day) so don't let them near your house.
They can tell when electric fencing is turned off, and will make tracks for whatever you are trying to keep them from eating.
We used to let them graze in pasture after horses had rotated through, and they did a great clean-up of the stuff horses refuse to eat.
They will follow you anywhere, they believe they are Labrador retrievers (except wethers)
If they are loose, they WILL climb up onto the roof of your car (or your vet's or farrier's truck). This is comical, but it leaves dents, so beware.
Enjoy them.
posted by mmf at 8:53 PM on August 23, 2007

Something else to know is that they'll eat down below ground level, pulling out roots. Which means that you have to change where they graze often.

(My parents had a goat when I was younger, and it was a terror. My uncle had goats for a while on his sheep farm, but gave them up as too much trouble.)
posted by klangklangston at 11:14 AM on August 24, 2007

Thanks all for some excellent answers!
posted by Kickstart70 at 12:56 PM on August 24, 2007

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