DEVELOPING A COMPETITIVE GOAT-MEAT INDUSTRY
The most important question to the American meat-goat breeder should be: What's it going to take to develop a competitive American goat-meat industry?
1) Establish an Organization. The American goat-meat producer needs to take a lesson from our goats: There is both safety and effectiveness in numbers. Living in a country and world in which just about everything we do is in some manner controlled by one or more levels of government, we need to learn to play the political game. Effective organizations start at the local level. Expansion comes state-by-state, and then onto the national and international levels.
Goat-meat producers need such an organization to lobby legislators and bureaucrats, identifying for them the areas in which we require help and, just as importantly, working to keep them out of our business as much as possible so that free markets can work well. A nationwide goat-meat producers' organization should be "at the table" in all important discussions that affect our livelihoods. Goat-meat grading systems adopted by the United States Department of Agriculture and state meat-inspection boards are just one example of where producer input and research should be involved.
That means we need to organize into one organization that represents all breeds of goats used for meat consumption. Currently the Boer breeders have three breed associations, none of which primarily addresses the promotion of that breed for meat consumption. The Kiko breeders have two organizations, one of which is pedigree registration only (as it should be). Myotonic, Spanish, Pygmy, and other meat-goat producers have no formal organizations in place.
In this writer's opinion, this group needs to be new . . . started from the ground up . . . so that it will have none of the 'baggage,' perceived or real, that existing organizations have.
Producers need to recognize that business is operated on a 'divide and conquer' basis. People too busy fighting each other over which breed is best or who is going to sell one more goat than the next person will see the loss of the goat-meat market to better-organized and more cost-effective producers in Australia and New Zealand.
2) Determine Your Market. Taking into account the amount of land you have to work with and money you have available to put into your operation, find out who your potential customers are and figure out what market niche best permits you to serve your customers. Analyze what size, weight, age, sex, and/or color of goat your buyers want to buy and what time of the year they want them. Visit auction houses and learn how goats are priced and sold. Find slaughter facilities and learn costs involved in killing and dressing the animals. In short, develop a business plan and implement it.
3) Produce More and Better-Quality Goats. Demand is not the goat-meat producers' problem. Supply and Quality is. If every goat in the United States . . . meat, milk, or hair . . . were slaughtered today, it would not meet the demand for goat meat. Too many of the existing animals are poor quality, but they are in demand because people can't buy meatier carcasses. Five years ago, the top grocery chain in San Antonio, Texas wanted 700 goats per week for its stores; no one could provide them on a consistent basis.
Once the consumer begins eating goat meat as a part of his normal diet, he will demand better quality and more variety of cuts and value-added products. If the American goat-meat producer does not provide this, the major meat packers will . . . and we will have lost our market forever.
4) Set up Distribution. This is another area where the organization mentioned above comes into play. We can have the best product on the planet, but if we can't get it to people who want to buy it, nothing else matters.
5) Get Breeding Stock Prices Down to Affordable Levels. Get the "greed" out of the breeding-stock market. Commercial producers cannot afford to pay thousands of dollars for breeding stock. Breeding-stock producers cannot continue to sell to each other for long. There has to be an end market, or this industry will go the way of emu and ostrich breeders.
6) Get Production Costs Down. This means paying attention to the cost of everything you buy. This means figuring out up front what you can afford to pay for bucks and does in order for them to make money for you. This means getting feed costs in line. This means raising a good portion of your own hay. This means having forage/browse available so that your goats "work for their living." This means using minimal animal health-care products so that your operation is more cost effective. This means running your farm/ranch like a business.
7) Educate Yourself. Find and learn everything that you can from successful goat-meat producers. Attend training groups that focus on goat-meat production methods.
Onion Creek Ranch in Texas held its first GoatCamp(tm) in October 2002. Attendance was populated heavily by people wanting to raise goats commercially and seeking information on how to do it successfully. GoatCamp(tm) will be held again in October 2003, and then every March and October thereafter.
8) Promote Goat Meat. Tell everyone you know about the health advantages of eating low-fat, low-cholesterol, low calorie goat meat. Eat goat meat yourself. You can better promote a product that you believe in and consume yourself.
This is all common sense, but it helps to be reminded of the obvious. We are not on the ground floor of an industry . . . we are in the basement . . and there is no where to go but up. Let's pick up this ball and run with it, making money for ourselves and helping to feed America and the world.
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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