So You Want to be a Goat Rancher
James “JJ” Jones
The meat goat industry is an expanding U.S.
business. Estimates indicate that approximately 48.4 4
million pounds of goat meat are consumed each
year. Imports from other countries total 24.5 million 7 8 6
The increasing popularity of goats is due to sev-
eral factors. The biggest factor is increased demand. 5
A large number of ethnic groups whose members
prefer goat meat have settled in the U.S. Outside of 2
the U.S., goat meat is the meat protein highest in de-
mand. Another factor is the attraction to agricultural
producers as a sustainable enterprise. Goats can be
a profitable enterprise for those producers with lim- 1. New Jersey 37% 6. Delaware/Maryland 4.5%
ited resources, time, and capital. 2. Texas 6.7% 7. Illinois 4.5%
In 2006, the USDA estimated the number of meat 3. Pennsylvania 6.6% 8. Indiana 4%
goats in the U.S. to be around 2.287 million head. 4. New York 5.9% 9. California 3.9%
Figure 1-1 shows the location and distribution of 5. Tennessee 5.2% 10. Florida 2.7%
meat goats in the U.S. Texas has the most meat goats
with 1.08 million head. Oklahoma ranks fifth with Figure 1-2. U.S. inspected meat goat slaughter
74,000 head. numbers for 2005.
Although a majority of the goats are raised in the trates the top ten goat slaughter states’ percentage of
southern part of the U.S., almost 50 percent of goats goats slaughtered in federally inspected plants. The
are slaughtered on the east coast. Figure 1-2 illus- difference between production location and slaugh-
ter plants is partially due to the large demand for
goat meat in the northeastern U.S.
So You Want to Raise Goats
A producer who wants to start a meat goat en-
terprise needs to answer a few questions before the
4 7 6 first goat is purchased.
2 8 The first question producers need to answer is
3 why they want to raise meat goats. There are several
1 different reasons for raising goats. Each reason has
a different set of goals for producers to achieve and
9 different methods of achieving those goals.
> 1,000,000 10,000 to 49,999 Brush Control Operation
1,000,000 to 100,000 < 10,000 One reason to raise goats is for brush control;
to clean up woody areas. Producers who use goats
50,000 to 99,999 for brush control are generally not concerned about
overall goat production. They are only interested
Figure 1-1. Meat goat inventory numbers for in the effectiveness of the goats in controlling or re-
2006. moving brushy plant material. Making a profit on
the goats is a secondary concern. These producers
do not need to buy expensive full-blood does and
bucks; they would probably be satisfied with a com-
mon crossbred goat. They might even want to con-
sider purchasing weaned wether kids (castrated
male goats) instead of breeding stock.
Also, the stocking rate per acre (discussed in
Chapter 10) is considerably higher for brush con-
trol than for a meat goat enterprise. Therefore, the
number of goats required per acre is higher. Another
concern for a brush control enterprise is the fencing
needed around the brushy area. The type of fencing Figure 1-3. Adult Boer goat.
required to hold a goat is discussed in Chapter 3.
tain registration papers for the goats. The process of
Multi-species Grazing Operation marketing these types of goats is also more difficult.
Producers just starting in the goat business do not
Another goat enterprise is a multi-species graz- typically sell the high-dollar pure-bred or show goat
ing operation. This producer would start a goat in their first or second years. Usually, it takes several
operation to compliment other animal enterprises, years to build up a reputation and a breeding pro-
normally cattle. When goats are grazed simultane- gram where quality warrants a high price.
ously with cattle, a higher percentage of the pasture
production is utilized. Goats typically eat weeds Commercial Meat Goat Operation
and forbs that cows will not eat, which leaves the
grass for the cows. Possible goals for this producer The fourth type is simply a commercial meat
are that both the cattle and goat enterprises would goat operation. In this type of operation, the goal
be profitable. Typically, these producers would con- should be to produce the optimal number of goats
centrate on the production side of the meat goat to maximize profits. Although this sounds simple,
enterprise. Again, this producer would not have to the optimal number of goats will depend on the re-
purchase expensive full-blood does, but could start sources available.
out with a set of commercial crossbred does and a To determine which enterprise is best for an in-
full-blood buck. dividual producer, the critical factors are the pro-
Unlike the brush control operation, these pro- ducer’s needs, objectives, and resources. Once the
ducers would face the challenge of where to sell producer’s resources are determined and matched
their weaned kids. Determining a market outlet is a with the production goals, a long-term business
critical component of any agricultural enterprise. If plan can be developed.
no markets exist to sell the product that is produced,
then production cannot be profitable. Marketing is Business Plan
discussed in greater detail in Chapter 12. Fencing,
discussed in Chapter 3, is also very important for a Determining the type of operation is just the first
grazing operation. step of completing a business plan. A business plan
is like a road map. Producers start with what they
Pure-bred Meat/Show Goat Operation know about where they are now and then determine
where they want to be in the future. Identifying the
A third type of operation is raising purebred best route to get from present to future is one of the
meat goats and/or show goats, such as the Boer goat main purposes of the business plan. The plan can
shown in Figure 1-3. Although this type of operation also help to measure the progress between the two
seems to be the most profitable due to the higher points. It lets producers identify their operation’s
prices received for such animals, it is also the type of mission, goals, key planning assumptions, opera-
operation that has the highest start-up costs and the tional organization, marketing strategy, and finan-
highest percentage of failure. cial planning. A business plan helps producers de-
These producers are typically required to pur- termine if an operation can be feasible.
chase higher priced full-blood does and bucks for A business plan consists of a mission statement,
this type of operation. This producer is also usu- goals, key planning assumptions, organizational
ally required to join breed associations and main- management, and marketing and financial plans.
Mission Statement and Goals Financial Plan
Developing a mission statement and setting Once the production and marketing systems
goals help identify why the operation exists and have been determined, a financial plan can be de-
what it hopes to achieve. The mission statement veloped. Producers can develop a financial plan
should reflect the producer’s values and describe on their own or with the help of programs such
what the operation will be and what it will accom- as Intensive Financial Management and Planning
plish. By developing a mission statement, produc- Support (IFMAPS). IFMAPS helps producers mea-
ers have a basis for developing long-term plans and sure resources and develop viable long-range busi-
objectives. ness plans. This service is available free of charge
Goals can be tangible and intangible, short term through the OSU Cooperative Extension Service.
or long term, and/or monetary and nonmonetary. See Chapter 15, for more information on IFMAPS.
Goal setting should involve everyone in the op- A financial plan helps producers work out a
eration. It can be used to anticipate problems and plan on paper and evaluate possible outcomes. If a
plan strategies to overcome them. Goals need to plan will not work with the available resources on
be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, paper, then it will more than likely not work in ac-
Reasonable, and established in a Time frame. tual practice. A financial plan can also help identify
possible strong and weak points in an operation. A
Key Planning Assumptions good sound financial plan is an important step in
developing a profitable goat operation.
Before getting started on a goat operation, the A financial plan uses producers’ current bal-
type, quantity, and quality of resources available for ance sheets, cash flows, and income statements
that operation must be determined. Resources such along with enterprise budgets to generate project-
as available land, capital, management capabilities, ed balance sheets, cash flows, and income state-
fencing, and marketing channels all need to be eval- ments. A good record keeping system is needed
uated. Once the resources are determined, then pro- to generate these financial statements. Record
ducers can match them up with a production and keeping and financial statements are discussed in
marketing system and develop a business plan. Chapter 15.
Organizational Management Budget
A producer can operate five types of operations: As a part of the business plan, producers need
1. A sole proprietorship. to develop a enterprise budget for the operation.
2. A general partnership. Although no two producers will use the same bud-
3. A Limited Liability Corporation (LLC). get, the sample budget, shown in Table 1-1, for a 30-
4. A C-Corporation. doe goat herd can be used as the starting point.
5. An S-Corporation. The sample budget only takes into account the
cash operating costs associated with goat enterpris-
The majority of operations will be sole pro- es. The return to land, labor, and capital may or may
prietorships or general partnerships. An LLC, C- not cover the capital expenses (depreciation, taxes,
Corporation, and S-Corporation have their own ad- insurance, and land costs) associated with a goat op-
vantages and disadvantages. Producers interested eration. Since each operator has different capital ex-
in these type of operations need to consult with a penses, producers should estimate these expenses.
professional. This sample budget shows a positive return to
labor, land, and capital of $953 for a 30-doe herd.
Marketing Plan Although a positive return of $31.77 per doe will not
nominate this goat herd for business of the year, it
A marketing plan is a detailed program to pro- does show that a potential return above operating
mote and sell a product. Producers must identify the costs could be made by a meat goat operation. Of
product and determine the best time and place to course, this budget is just an example. Management
market that product. Marketing plans are discussed practices and cost controlling methods that im-
in greater detail in Chapter 12. prove the bottom line are discussed throughout this
Table 1-1. Meat goat budget for 30 does, 1 buck, 170% kidding, 10% death loss.
Income Description Total Per Doe
Market Kids 23 wethers @ 70 lbs @ $1.10/lbs 1,771 59.03
17 does @ 70 lbs @ $1.10/lbs 1,309 43.63
Cull Does 4 @ 125 lbs @ 0.55/lbs 275 9.17
Cull Replacement Does 3 @ 90 lbs @ 0.90/lbs 243 8.10
Total Income $3,598 $119.93
Pasture 10 acres @ $15/acre 150 5.00
Hay 8.16 tons @ $70/ton 571 19.04
Mature Does 675 22.50
Buck 30 1.00
Replacement Does 240 8.00
Salt and Mineral $2.14 per head 64 2.14
Guard Animals 14.6 bags @ 50 lbs bag/dog/year @ $14/bag 204 6.80
Vet (Health and Deworming) $5.05 per head 151 5.05
Marketing $6.52 per head 196 6.52
Fuel and Repairs $8.17 per head 245 8.17
Annual Operating Capital 118 3.93
Total Operating Expenses $2,645 $88.16
Return to Land, Labor, and Capital $953 $31.77
Interest 451 15.04
Taxes and Insurance 102 3.40
Depreciation 246 8.20
Total Fixed Expenses $799 $26.64
Returns to Labor and Land $154 $5.13
Conclusion can begin the meat goat operation. This manual
will provide the basic information needed to help
Going into the goat business is not a decision that answer these questions and produce meat goats
should be made quickly. Much thought and plan- successfully.
ning needs to go into the operation before the first
goat is purchased. Answering the following ques- References
tions is critical to the success of any goat operation:
• Why raise goats? OSU Enterprise Budget Software. http://www.age-
• What type of goats to raise? con.okstate.edu/budgets/
• What are the available resources? USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service,
• Where are the available markets? Statistical Highlights of U.S. Agriculture: 2005.
Once these questions have been answered and
a successful business plan developed, producers