Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, TX
Lohn, Texas
Onion Creek Ranch "Chevon, cabrito, goat... No matter what you call it, it is the HEALTHY red meat™
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QUALITY MEAT GOATS ARE NOT EASY TO RAISE

When Boer goats were first imported into the USA around 1993, buyers (including this writer) were given sales literature citing the ease of achieving annual profits of 400% and higher. No problems were factored into the profit projections. Nothing was mentioned about the importance of learning about health, nutrition, and management of meat goats. The implication was that Boer goats raised themselves. Same thing happened with emus and ostriches a few years earlier. In fact, some of these Boer goat buyers had raised ostriches and emus and lost money, but ever seeking that easy return on investment, they switched to raising goats.

Around 1995, a goat owner in Houston telephoned me for help. He had bought expensive imported Boer embryos and had them implanted into recipient does. He pastured them somewhere in east Texas -- several hundred miles from where he lived and worked in Houston -- and left them unattended. He lost every kid and could not understand why. He thought of goats as the "tin-can eating" animals of Saturday morning cartoon fame -- indestructible. He never considered that they needed even minimal care. He didn't know about internal parasites, nutrition, abortion diseases, soremouth, pneumonia, dystocia (birthing difficulties), or weather-related problems. This man had absolutely no knowledge about goats nor was he interested in learning. He wanted to make a lot of money quickly. He lost a lot of money, but worst of all, many goats died unnecessarily. Variations on this story have come from many other producers since then. In 2005, calls started coming from Kentucky and Tennessee from new goat owners, some of whom were tobacco farmers who were being urged to switch to goats as their ability to raise tobacco was disappearing.

Urbanites, surburbanites, and even some country folk who should have known better -- chasing that elusive pot of gold at the end of the goat rainbow -- continue to believe the sales pitch that raising goats is easy; they are deciding to raise goats without doing adequate research. Even today new producers oftentimes join ChevonTalk -- this author's meat-goat discussion list on Yahoogroups -- in need of quick help because they are new to goats and have found the learning curve is steeper than they imagined. Turnover is high: the number of producers quitting raising goats each month easily equals new entrants into goat production.

Quality goats are not easy to raise. A lot of hard physical work, knowledge, and commitment to the job are required. The work week includes seven days -- goats don't take the weekend off from eating, kidding, or getting sick. Goats are very susceptible to predators. All breeds of goats are sprinters, not long-distance runners -- they cannot out-run predators. Other than horns, they have no natural defenses. Goats have an early sexual maturity, short gestation, and multiple births; if the death rate was not significant, they would over-run the earth. In an unmanaged "natural" environment, many of them die and only the toughest survive. Even under managed conditions, there is loss to disease, predators, injury, and birthing problems. This is a positive factor from the standpoint of adaptability and selection for hardiness, but it is financially devastating for anyone trying to make money raising goats. The wise producer has to determine where and when to intervene -- to find a place somewhere between total lack of management and over-management that works in each specific setting. Making the situation worse is the incorrect and unhealthy manner in which too many people raising show goats are taught to feed and manage them. When these folks give advice to producers trying to raise meat goats, the animals become sick and sometimes die -- and the goat rancher suffers financially.

Persons wanting to raise goats need to do several basic things before buying their first goat: (1) Get on the Internet. There is a wealth of information available to goat breeders. The producer without Internet access is at a major disadvantage. There are no good comprehensive how-to-raise-meat-goats-properly books. Computers are cheap and easy to learn/use. A good desktop computer, keyboard, and printer can be purchased for less than $500.00. Join ChevonTalk and GoatER on Yahoogroups. These are the two premier resources for getting help. Go to the Articles page and read, re-read, print them and put them in a book to carry with you. (2) Sign up for GoatCamp™ at Onion Creek Ranch near Lohn, Texas. GoatCamp™ is held each October. There is no other educational opportunity like it. You will learn more in five days at GoatCamp™ than you will in five years of goat raising on your own. Information about GoatCamp™ and the GoatCamper™ newsletter is on the GoatCamp™ page. (3) First and foremost, if you are wanting to raise goats to sell for human consumption, approach raising them as a business and apply business skills to your ranching operation. Find out what your customers will want to buy and what time of the year they will be purchasing goats, then buy and breed for those markets.

The good news is that demand for goat meat already exists. Producers can't provide enough quality meat goats. It's the supply end of the chain that needs lots of improvement. For various reasons -- insufficient acreage upon which to run goats, lack of knowledge about raising goats, climate conditions unsuitable for goats, failure to research markets and breed for them, improper stock with which to produce slaughter offspring, inability to keep costs under control -- too many producers are raising goats for show rather than for meat. Unless this changes soon, this industry with product demand already in place will languish and imported goat meat will continue to outsell our fresh domestic product.

Meat-goat discussion group: chevontalk-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

slaughtergoats-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Emergency meat-goat group: GoatER-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

4-17-06

Meat Goat Mania
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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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