Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas Suzanne W. Gasparotto 300 Happy Ridge
Lohn, Texas
Onion Creek Ranch "Chevon, cabrito, goat... No matter what you call it, it is the HEALTHY red meat™
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Variables Affecting Growth and Performance

The first variable is you. Two breeders can buy the same breed and quality of goat genetics from a single seller, move the goats to their farms, and produce widely different results. Why?

Raising goats can be viewed as more of an art than a science. Not everyone has the aptitude (natural ability) to raise quality goats. Some people have an "eye" for body conformation; some folks don't. With enough persistence and determination, it can be learned, but people with this natural ability will out-perform others. You must also have a natural connection to each of your animals. "Thinking like a goat" will help you see problems before they happen or as they emerge, giving you the ability to take life-saving actions. Develop a relationship with your goats that meets their needs and they will produce a better product for you. Producers possessing these talents will raise better goats.

Let's evaluate your physical location. Sufficient land over which goats can roam, eating mostly "from the top down" like the species they most resemble -- deer -- is required. Overcrowding leads to stress, which goats cannot handle, and to illness, injury, and death. Goats are highly susceptible to Haemonchus contortus, the blood-sucking barberpole stomach worm that causes anemia and death, and you cannot deworm your way out of worms; they are much more adaptable than are the goats. Goats -- all breeds of goats -- are dry-land animals largely because worms are far less likely to be able to survive in a continually dry climate. Goats have adapted to surviving in dry climates because they have been unable to adapt to a heavy stomach worm load. Lots of acreage and a dry climate are vital for goats to thrive. You may be able to keep them alive in wet and overcrowded areas, but you will always be fighting internal parasites. Goats living under such conditions will never thrive. If you are trying to raise goats in a wet climate, clean and dry pens and loafing sheds will help cut down on illnesses and worm infestation but will not overcome basic problems. Some areas and climates are not suitable for raising goats. Some things cannot be fixed.

How much land do you need? There is not a set number of acres per goat, and it is not based upon how much plant material is available for them to eat. You must start small, determine how successful you can be raising them on the acreage you have available, and cull those that cannot handle a realistic worm load. "Realistic" will be defined by the health of your goats, assuming you are not over crowded. It takes years -- even decades -- to develop a herd of goats that are adapted to your climatic conditions. Fifty acres in West Texas can handle far more goats in terms of wormload than in Louisiana, Florida, or other wet climates. In West Texas, you may be feeding them more since it takes more acres per goat to produce sufficient plant materials, but you won't have near the illness or worm loads. Raising quality goats is a long-term venture. Producers possessing such land will have the ability to raise better goats.

Quality of feed and hay has a huge bearing on the health of your goats. Healthy goats grow better. Goats have a fast metabolism, so they cannot thrive on cheap feed and cattle-quality hay. Stemmy hay has too much lignin (non-digestable fiber), and goats cannot digest coarse fiber like cattle can. Unless you are a trained goat nutritionist, never mix your own feed. Feeding cheap nutrition is a recipe for disaster. You cannot starve the profit out of a goat. Producers who understand this will raise goats that will out-perform their competition.

If you want to raise goats and you plan to be a non-resident owner, stop right there. You cannot raise goats successfully without being there every day. Your product won't survive predators and illness. All goat breeds are susceptible to predators as well as worm infestation and pneumonia. You must be on-site to ride pastures, observe your goats, and take actions necessary to keep them safe and healthy. Producers who don't understand this will soon be out of the goat business.

Producers who have supplies on hand for emergencies will produce better goats. You cannot rely on most vets, ag teachers, extension agents, university researchers/staffers, feed stores, supply houses, or your goat-raising neighbors. Most of them will not be available or won't know what needs to be done in an emergency. Almost everything we use with goats is "off-label" or "extra-label" because goats are a minor ruminant species upon which little research has been done and for which few products have been produced due to the small size of the market. It isn't profitable for most companies to develop medications for goats or for vets to learn how to offer services for them. Eighty percent of the students in vet schools in the USA are female, and they are trending to small-animal specialization for which they can charge more and which they have the physical strength to handle. It is important to have a relationship with a good veterinarian, but the producer who takes the time to learn to do his own vet work most of the time and who finds a qualified and knowledgeable mentor will be the one raising better goats. There is a lot of bad information on the Internet about goats. Some of the worst information is found on sites populated by vets who claim to be knowledgeable about goats.

Now let's discuss actual breeding activities. If you are going to raise a better goat, you must learn how to select bucks that will mate with does to produce offspring that are better than the parents. That is always the goal: the next generation needs to be better than its parents. Selecting proper body conformation is only part of this process. Keeping detailed and accurate records allows you to see what is working and what isn't. This is where lots of producers fail. Many people don't like paperwork. To produce a better "anything," you have to keep accurate records and learn to analyze the data. Genetics may be -- and is -- a crap shoot much of the time but you have to use good genetics as the starting point for breeding, change breeding strategies that don't work, and cull frequently. Registration does not mean that the animal is quality, although many people incorrectly believe that. Registration only records the ancestry of the animal. The producer who realizes that there is no "quick fix" for successful breeding of quality goats will out-shine everyone else.

Producers unfamiliar with sound cross-breeding techniques (breeding two different breeds) can make huge mistakes. I often get calls from people who want to mate two different breeds to "see what happens." What a waste of time and genetics. The producer needs to be able to visualize what he wants to achieve and a plan about how to get there. That is more difficult when crossing breeds. The first step is to know which breeds to cross to achieve the goal of maximum meat production at least cost. If the wrong breeds are chosen, you can breed up to a 31/32 % female or a 15/16 % male and it may not look a thing like the fullblood animals which you are aspiring to reproduce. Example: I started developing the TexMaster™ breed in 1995 using fullblood TMG bucks and fullblood Boer does. Over the last two decades, I've changed the percentages around many times but I've never strayed from the two breeds because I have a vision of what my TexMaster™ will look like. Yet I can sell a TexMaster™ buck to someone who has Kiko or other-breed does and the cross bred offspring will look very different from the TexMaster™ I've developed, even though the they will be considered percentage TexMasters™ because the sire was a TexMaster™. Such cross-breeding can result in high percentage TexMasters™ with little meat on them and that look nothing like the breed I've spent the last two decades developing. This is where that "eye" for breeding comes into play.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas 3/16/15

Meat Goat Mania

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Important! Please Read This Notice!

All information provided in these articles is based either on personal experience or information provided by others whose treatments and practices have been discussed fully with a vet for accuracy and effectiveness before passing them on to readers.

In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Suzanne Gasparotto is not a veterinarian.Neither tennesseemeatgoats.com nor any of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.

The author, Suzanne Gasparotto, hereby grants to local goat publications and club newsletters, permission to reprint articles published on the Onion Creek Ranch website under these conditions: THE ARTICLE MUST BE REPRODUCED IN ITS ENTIRETY AND THE AUTHOR'S NAME, ADDRESS, AND CONTACT INFORMATION MUST BE INCLUDED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE REPRINT. We would appreciate notification from any clubs or publications when the articles are used. (A copy of the newsletter or publication would also be a welcome addition to our growing library of goat related information!)

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