This article is for you if you are thinking about raising meat goats or if you are already raising meat goats and are having problems. I'll explain what it takes to raise meat goats and what you'll need to have or acquire to do so. This is what I tell people who call or email about raising meat goats.

The Fundamental Truth: It's not what you don't know that gets you; it's what you don't know that you need to know that gets you every time.

Because of start-up costs such as purchasing land and animals (goats and livestock guardian dogs), as well as installing pens, fencing, waterers, and other infrastructure, you won't make any money for several years. This is true in any industry. You are unlikely to be successful if you do not have enough money to survive for three years without taking money out of the business. Droughts, abortion storms, predator strikes, floods, cold and heat stress killing kids and adults, to name a few, will derail your plans.

It doesn't work with goats if it's simple or inexpensive. None of the financial projections of what you can earn raising meat goats take these unexpected events into account while painting a rosy picture of how easy it is to raise goats and how much money you can make. Both statements are flat out false; raising goats is never easy, and ranching/farming is hard work that most modern Americans aren't accustomed to or prepared to do.

There are no vacations, holidays, or sick days. Animals eat on a daily basis, get sick at inconvenient times, and the weather is a constant foe. You must live near the goats and dogs and check on them daily; you cannot raise them absentee. This is a bygone era's way of life, and you'd better be sure it's what you want to do because you can't get out of it once you start.

Goats are a desert species. They can withstand extreme heat and cold, but they do not fare well in wet or wet and windy conditions. Goats are not "little cows," and they should not be used interchangeably with sheep. Cattle and sheep consume grass. Goats are foragers/browsers, not grazers; they move across land and eat "from the top down" like deer to avoid stomach worms that suck blood and cause anemia and death. You can't deworm your way out of stomach worms either; frequent deworming creates super worms that are resistant to all types of dewormers. Goats die in wet, marshy environments

I know that many people are attempting to raise goats in such areas, but they are plagued by worms, hoof rot, coccidiosis, and a slew of other issues that they will never completely overcome, and their goats will never perform to their full potential because of these conditions. I live in goat country in dry west Texas. Dr. Jim Miller, a parasitologist at Louisiana University, has to bring goat pills containing worm eggs to use in doing fecals under microscopes every year at GoatCampTM because we can't find worms in my goats' fecal pellets.

If you want to raise goats for meat and make money doing it, you must have enough land for goats to feed themselves most of the year, supplementing only during bad weather. Extreme cold and heat, droughts, floods, high winds, especially when combined with rain, and other environmental stressors are all considered bad weather. You can't make a living raising goats on less than 100 acres, and even 100 acres won't allow for much production. Meat goats are unable to tolerate crowding and the stress that it causes; goats cannot be feedlotted like cattle or sheep without significant mortality (death). Please keep in mind that I am not writing about highly domesticated and heavily managed dairy goats; they are quite different.

When purchasing goats for breeding, few people consider adaptability. Goats require time to adjust to new surroundings. Before breeding, dams require time to develop immunity to the bacteria, viruses, and other organisms that live on the land to which they have been introduced and which differ from those to which they have previously been exposed. Never purchase pregnant does. Goats have poor mobility and frequently abort or reabsorb embryos. Does that were bred at their previous residence will not be able to provide immunity to the "bugs" on your property to their newborn's through their milk when they kid at your location. Kids are born without an immune system and receive all of their immunizations from their dams' colostrum and milk. Bucks must be adaptable in order to breed. There are no surplus quality goats to be found at commercial auctions, so never buy breeding stock there. In fact, the number of goats in the United States is declining. You purchase problem goats from other producers at commercial auctions in the hopes of getting better than slaughter prices.

Goats are not the famous tin-can eaters from Saturday morning cartoons. They require high-quality hay and plant materials – horse nutrition, to be precise. It is extremely simple to upset the rumen and kill the goat. Consider "feeding the rumen, not the goat." Goats can survive on plant materials that other ruminants cannot, but they will not thrive or do well. To make money, commercial producers need their goats to thrive.

"Number of goats per acre" has no bearing on meat goat production. There is no "x" number of goats per acre formula that works when raising goats. Animal load is not determined by the plant materials available to eat. The ability to control the worm load is the defining factor for raising meat goats. Starting small, culling heavily in each generation those goats with bad traits (worm susceptibility, poor mothering abilities, delivering kids that are too large resulting in kidding problems, poor feet and mouth, etc.) and selecting those goats to keep that have good traits (ability to carry a reasonable worm load, good mothering traits, small kids that birth easily and grow well, good feet and mouth, etc.). If the goats that need to be culled are your children's favorites, it will be difficult to do so, but it is necessary because their weaknesses pose a threat to the herd's overall health and safety. The goal is to create an entire herd that can tolerate a reasonable wormload while also exhibiting other positive traits that contribute to minimal producer maintenance and maximum productivity.

Raising goats requires a lot of common sense, which a surprising number of people lack, especially when it comes to livestock and agriculture in a time when most people live in cities. I know this firsthand because I spent the first 42 years of my life in a big city, where I worked in an office as an adult and never had a pet. You will not be successful if you do not have a gut instinct for what it takes to raise goat Pay close attention to your animals. Take note of how they move, eat, rest, and get from place to place, as well as what they eat and avoid eating. Discover how to think like a goat. When I first moved to West Texas, I would take one of my goat herds to a north pasture each morning and bring them back to the ranch's shelter at the south end at night. I went to collect the herd from a pasture with a gate at the north end one day. The goats were waiting at the pasture's southern end. I herded goats north to the gate that led to the center alley for three afternoons so they could go south. They looked at me as if I were insane. They were aware that home was to the south. I cut the fence wires on the third day and instructed the fence builders to have a gate on the south end of that pasture by the next afternoon. The goats knew how to get home better than I did. Find how to think like a goat.

Don't follow your friends and neighbors' lead; they're probably as confused or misinformed about raising goats as you are. When someone tells you something that they insist is true, ask questions. They could be repeating what they've heard and spreading false information. Listening to a lot of different voices will only confuse you. Take no advice from people who raise show goats unless you intend to raise show goats, because almost everything they do is contrary to what you should be doing with your meat goats. Choose your mentors with care. Find a good goat vet or one who is willing to learn alongside you; goat vets are hard to come by, even in West Texas goat country.

Goats are difficult to raise properly. Proper nutrition is the most difficult aspect of any managed herd, no matter how minimal the management. Goats have a high mortality rate. Any species with early sexual maturity, short gestation, and multiple births will experience high mortality or will overwhelm Nature's balance and consume its food supply. When you work hard, you will have a 5% fatality rate. If you do nothing, your kid mortality rate will range from 12% to 100%, with the latter representing an abortion *storm* over which you have little control. There will be times when you must put a goat down because it cannot be saved. This is part of the process of raising livestock. You can't do live goats if you can't do dead goats. These animals have taught me that there are far worse things in life than death. Goats are not afraid of death; it is a natural part of their existence. They are terrified of being terrified; death is preferable to living in terror. If a goat knows it is about to die, it will stop eating to hasten its demise.

When raising goats, you must have all necessary supplies and medications on hand because you will not have time to get them in an emergency, which almost always occurs at night during bad weather during a long holiday weekend. Goats are considered a minor species animal, and almost all of the medications and dewormers we use are "off label," which means you have a lot of learning ahead of you if you want to raise healthy animals.

The issue isn't with the breed; it's with management. People are prone to seeking a quick solution to their problems. "If Boers can't tolerate our worm loads, let's try Kikos because they come from wet New Zealand and will do well in our wet area," for example. Nonsense. There's something called adaptability, which states that goats need time to adapt to their new environment and develop immunity to the organisms present. Just because a goat survived well in wet New Zealand while roaming over thousands of acres in a largely unmanaged situation where "survival of the fittest" took out the weak and the strong survived, doesn't mean it will do well in wet Alabama on 50 acres when raised in pens or small pastures and fed rations by new owners who don't cull because the goats cost a lot of money and are all thought of as quality breeding stock. At the new location, adaptability must begin from scratch. There is no "quick remedy" for issues that arise with raising goat

Another "fast fix" is to acquire registered goats, assuming that registration guarantees a quality animal. That could not be further from the truth. Registration only offers pedigree information. Genetics is a gamble. The best buck and doe can produce fantastic offspring one year and absolute garbage the next. You must learn how to choose high-quality breeding stock meat goats. Quality has nothing to do with registration.

You can raise any breed of goat to adulthood with correct management, land, facilities, and nutrition. This does not, however, imply that the breeds or cross-breeds you've chosen to produce will necessarily fulfill the needs of the market in your area. That is a very other consideration. Your success is dependent on market research. Many farmers raise animals to weights considerably in excess of the liveweights that provide the highest price per pound. Historically, the most money has been generated for goats weighing 45 to 60 pounds liveweight.

Let us now discuss BREEDS. The goal of this discussion is to objectively assess what people consider to be meat breeds. Since January 1990, I've been growing Myotonic goats. I am the only individual I know in this country who has reared Myotonics and Boers side by side since the Boers arrived in the United States in 1993-94. I've had a variety of dairy goat varieties and even bred Pygmies and so-called Spanish goats. Every breed has advantages and disadvantages, and I will discuss both for each breed studied.

A MEAT goat's phenotypic (body conformation) is short legged, deep, and wide, with udders that are tight against the body and provide milk on demand. This body type results in more meat and less waste (bone, fat, internal organs) at slaughter, as well as a lower risk of udder damage when foraging/browsing across briar and bush-infested territory. Dairy goats, on the other hand, are long-legged and long-bodied, allowing the does to bear large udders that will likely be harmed by shrubs and briars in a forage/browse or pasture scenario. Dairy goats, like typical West Texas whitetail deer, have very little meat on them. They are not *meat* goats; they are the polar opposite of flesh.

Boers arrived in the United States from New Zealand in 1993-1994. When apartheid still existed in South Africa and most of the world boycotted trade with that country due to its racial practices, embryos from show-goat culls were smuggled into New Zealand and implanted into surrogate dams ("recipient" does), whose offspring were sold to US goat producers at high prices. People who paid a lot of money for these goats took great care of them in order to safeguard the value of their investment. An unintended consequence of this close management has been spoiled goats who grew feed bucket dependent and were never forced to adapt to their new surroundings.

There was very little culling for bad traits or selection for positive traits in a breed that is predominantly Nubian (dairy) to begin with, and Boers that producers had issues with were not slaughtered for meat but instead sent to sale barns to become other producers' problems. Americans also completed the over-domestication of what had previously been a successful dual-purpose (meat & milk) stock in South Africa. As a result, Boers have earned a bad name in the United States as an unadaptable goat, but this isn't due to a breed deficit because the goats were rarely given the opportunity to adapt to new environments.

The majority of them were significantly wetter than the eight-inch annual rainfall climate from which they came. Because most people don't have enough space to grow commercial goats, Boers have mostly remained show goats in America. For years, serious commercial producers have been shifting away from fullblood Boers.

Kikos were produced in New Zealand around 1978 in an attempt to breed a larger brush goat. New Zealand is a predator-free island, and feral goats have taken over. Toggenburg, Saanen, and Anglo-Nubian bucks (all dairy breeds) were crossed to hundreds of feral does, and the result was dubbed "Kiko" after seven generations. Kiko, like the traditional Spanish goat, has little meat and the phenotypical long legs of dairy goats that are symbolic of the dairy bucks used to produce the breed.

Despite some assertions to the contrary, fullblood (pure) spanish goats no longer exist as a breed, having been mixed with dairy goats and then with Boers to improve their size. I've seen many (but not all) so-called pure spanish herds, and if you look closely, you can detect dairy-goat colorations and patterns on what people currently call pure spanish goats. The appeal of so-called Spanish goats to farmers has been their hardiness rather than their size or amount of meat. This toughness exists because the goats have adapted to their environment, as you have seen in earlier paragraphs. Adaptation does not follow them to new areas, but must occur over months and years in their new home.

In this country, there are three actual meat breeds: Pygmies, TexMastersTM, and Myotonics. Pygmies are considered pet animals by most Americans and are primarily used in exhibitions, yet they are a good small meat goat. TexMastersTM are a breed that I started developing in 1995 by breeding my Tennessee Meat GoatTM bucks to Boer does and then changing the breeding protocol over the years to remove as much Boer influence as possible because I quickly learned that it didn't take much Boer to take the meat off the offspring. As a commercial meat breed, I created TexMasterTM.

The Myotonic breed is the most reviled by producers who don't know goats and don't comprehend how myotonia works and its contribution to meat development. Myotonic goats are classified into three types: (1) smaller sized Myotonics that pet and show breeders have crossed with Pygmies and Nigerian Dwarf goats or have been line bred within the smaller Myotonics to create special features appealing to pet buyers, such as long silky hair, blue eyes, and unique color combinations; (2) small to medium-sized, and occasionally larger sized goats that exhibit myotonia but are not fullblood Myotonics. Producers that deny Myotonics fall into this category.

Texas ranch trademarked as "Tennessee Meat Goats." The pet category, as mentioned above, has given the Myotonic breed a negative reputation by coining colloquial terms for it (fainting, fall-down, scare, wooden-leg) that imply the breed is faulty and more vulnerable to predation than other breeds, neither of which is accurate. Predators prey on all goat breeds; goats are sprinters, not long-distance runners, and can be quickly captured by predators. In any goat-raising operation, livestock guardian dogs are vital.

If you see a goat with MEAT on it, especially in the back, I guarantee it is of the Myotonic breed. I've seen supposed fullblood Kikos and Boers, and I can see the Myotonic impact in those goats. If you are familiar with breeds, Myotonic structural features will stand out and shout "myotonic" to you. The fullblood Myotonic goat has a 4 to 1 flesh-to-bone ratio, which is 25% higher than any other breed, and meat studies conducted by Dr. Lou Nuti of Prairie View A&M University north of Houston, Texas, have proven that any goat that is at least 50% Myotonic has a 6-10% higher meat production.

This enhanced meat output and higher meat-to-bone ratio more than compensate for fullblood Myotonics' slightly slower growth. Even the show-goat industry recognizes the value of breeding Myotonic into show wethers to provide the firm topline desired by many show judges.