Feeding meat goats economically
MITCHELL, NE – Meat goats don’t require prime feed sources to be marketable. Tom Boyer, a meat goat breeder with Chalk Creek Boers in Coalville, UT lead a discussion on feeding meat goats during the Panhandle Meat Goat Expo held June 5-7.
Boyer said many people got out of the meat goat business when feed prices increased.
“It just isn’t financially feasible to feed a commercial goat $7 corn and $200 hay,” he explained.
Many producers in Wyoming have been successful raising commercial meat goats because they can take advantage of federal grazing land.
“They have done phenomenal because they don’t have the high feed costs,” he said.
Meat goat producers can approach BLM permit holders and ask them about grazing meat goats on federal lands. It is up to the permit holder to approach the BLM or forest service. They would have to convert all or part of the AUMs to a goat, which they may or may not be willing to do.
Many producers don’t realize that goats don’t need expensive grains to be efficient. Boyer said the goat feeder for Mountain States Meat Goat Association has said the perfect goat weighs 74 pounds. At that weight, the feeder sends some of the goats directly to slaughter and feeds others in his California feedlot.
“He feeds 10,000-15,000 goats a year,” Boyer said. “He has told us you can’t feed a goat and have them lay in the spot they just ate at or they will just die. They need to travel some after eating.”
Boyer said the design of a goat feedlot is important, in addition to the nutrition and vaccination programs.
“It is difficult for most people to make goat feeding pay, because they are not a miniature beef cow even though some people try to make them that way,” he says. “They need a unique ration and our feeder happens to be able to make it work because he has a cheap feed source.”
Boyer said the California feeder has access to waste from processing plants in California. He picks up tomato, grape and soda pop waste and adds it to some grain and straw to make a silage that is fed to the goats.
Boyer added that in western Nebraska, producers have access to strong grass and have a cheap feed source for goats. If goats receive too much grain, they develop kidney stones and can die. Grazing is a simple way of feeding a goat. A mineral supplement may also be needed.
There are many different feed sources that can be used for goats. Goat rations can consist of mixtures of many feed products like corn, hay, barley, dry bean screenings, dried or wet distillers grains, beet tailings, and cornstalks and most other feed sources. Boyer urged goat producers to work with a nutritionist to develop a goat ration that is economically feasible. Boyer said in his experience storing feed in the field has worked well in his area.
“The goats like dry grass in the fall and it extends their grazing season,” he says. “If the quality is a little low, we just add a protein supplement. We work with ADM Alliance Nutrition and provide a protein tub.”
It is important for producers to do their research and see what’s available in their area, Boyer said.
“Find out what feedstuffs are available cheaply and what protein sources or energy sources are needed to balance the ration,” he says. “Get an analysis on the feed sources available. Don’t be afraid to share that information with other producers. Sharing information generates more ideas.”
After a feed ration is developed, producers need to pay attention to the body condition score of their goats.
“Body condition score is an important management tool,” said Randy Saner of the University of Nebraska North Platte. “It can show you where you need to make changes in your herd. Goats are top end grazers. They will graze from the top and go down. Grass areas with standing water and manure can be loaded with parasites. Body condition score, nutrition and parasites all fit together to make a healthy goat.”
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the Oct. 23, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News