Sitting Around, Nothing To Do - That's How Raising Meat Goats Should Be!

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As I write this on June 16, 2002 I find myself with an interesting problem. I really have nothing else to do. Which is really too bad because the weather outside is wonderful. It is 70 degrees and cloudy even though it is nearly 2:00 in the afternoon. Normally the temperature would be over 90 degrees by now.

We have had over 3 inches of rain in the last week, so I don't need to water the fruit and nut trees, which is how I typically spend a portion of every weekend this time of year.

The goats normally require little or no attention this time of year. They kidded back in February, and weaned their kids last month. We had a very dry spring, meaning worms aren't much of a problem. The goats' hooves look good since I have been blessed with a bumper crop of sharp, abrasive rocks again this year.

There is still plenty for the goats to eat in the pasture from the rye grass, oats, and wheat I planted last fall. I am even starting to see warm weather grasses and weeds sprout that I haven't seen in several years because of the recent rains. To make a long story short, I don't have to haul feed to the goats.

The little bucks are all over at Angelo State University participating in the performance test, so I don't have to spend any time on them.

There really isn't anything that needs to be done. That, more than anything else, summarizes why I raise meat goats. Meat goats don't require much attention from the producer to do well. For the most part you can ignore them and they will be perfectly fine. In fact, I reckon more goats have been killed by over attentive owners than have been killed by neglectful ones.

I deal with many new producers, and I never cease to be amazed at the amount of work they do that is unnecessary, and in many cases counter-productive. There is nothing that I can think of that a producer needs to do everyday for a healthy herd of goats provided they are kept in a pasture with plenty of food and water and a good perimeter fence.

If you find yourself having to invest time on a daily basis in your herd, you need to find the source of your problems and eliminate it.

One of the ways many producers spend time is dealing with predators. Predator problems can become very time consuming and expensive. The first step in dealing with predators is keeping them out in the first place. A good fence is a necessity. Many predator problems can be eliminated using a good net wire fence. Use the type with the 6 inch vertical stays. This will keep predators from going through the fence, but you will still have predators go under or over the fence. To prevent them from digging under, place a hot wire on a standoff that will hold it 8-12 inches away from the outside of the fence and 6-12 inches above the ground.

Place another hot wire on a standoff on the inside of the fence about 12-18 inches above the ground, and you will eliminate another time consuming and unnecessary task, freeing stuck goats from your fence. Your fence will also last much longer because the goats will not rub on it.

Preventing predators from jumping over is much more difficult and expensive. You either need to make the fence taller or erect a second fence a few feet inside or outside of the original fence. Unless you have really serious problems either option will probably cost you more than you would save.

A good fence will prevent most predator problems, but eventually some predators will figure out a way to get in. Good livestock guardian animals can prevent losses from predators that defeat your fence, and keep you from having to make a full-time commitment to guarding your herd.

Another time consuming activity is feeding your goats. Proper stocking rates are essential. If you are overstocked you will need to feed your goats, and doing so will take considerably more time and increase your expenses. Overstocking will also cause you to have to worm more frequently because the browse will be kept shorter exposing your goats to more worms.

Finally, health problems can eat up a lot of your time. If you recently bought your herd, health problems are probably unavoidable. The stress of shipping will usually cause a large percentage of your new goats to develop pinkeye shortly after receipt. Mild cases (weepy eyes and/or mild inflammation) of this disease do not require treatment and will clear up on their own. Serious cases (severely inflamed eyes) will require you to confine the animal and treat the problem.

Animals that were healthy and disease free when you purchased them may develop health problems after you receive them. The stress of shipping and getting acclimated to their new home causes the goats' immune system to weaken and provides an opportunity for latent infections to develop into serious problems. The goats also have little immunity to the particular strains of bugs that occur in your area, making them much more susceptible to becoming ill.

After the first year you should notice a dramatic reduction in the number of health problems in your herd and corresponding decrease in the amount of time you have to spend treating those problems. During the first year you will also become more experienced at diagnosing and effectively treating health problems.

Unfortunately, I find that many people sell their goats about the time that things should be getting easier for them. Like most big investments it is very difficult to avoid losing money if you invest in a herd of goats and the infrastructure required to keep them, and then turn around and sell the goats within a year. It is even more unfortunate for the goats involved, because now they have to start over getting acclimated to a new home.

Raising meat goats should require little of your time on a daily basis once you get the goats acclimated to your property and get your facilities set up properly, but new producers need to realize that to get to that point may require a year or more (depending on how aggressive the producer is about treating the causes of his problems instead of just the symptoms). If you are not willing to try raising goats for 2 years before making a decision about whether to continue or not, I can just about guarantee you that you will quit after the first year and lose a considerable amount of money in the process.

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This page updated 07/20/02

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