Of all red meat, goat meat is the healthiest. This is because goats survive on pasture and the meat that is got from these animals has a low content of saturated fat. Goats feed on bush honeysuckle, tough vines, and several shrubs. These are found in land that is hardly ever occupied by other animal species. In the USA, the consumption of goat meat is not as much as in many parts of the world. However, the supply still does not meet the demand. The USA still imports at least half the goat’s meat needed to satisfy the current demand.
Although many Americans eat goat’s meat, a large number limits its consumption to goat’s milk and goat cheese. Over the past couple of years, goat rearing has been focused on milk and cheese production because this is what is most consumed by Americans compared to meat. Even then, the goat cheese does not meet the demand so more is imported to meet the supply deficit.
Some goat farmers claim that selling goat meat is much harder than selling cow meat. Although the USA still imports at least half of the goat meat demand, some farmers claim they do not have a direct channel through which they can sell their goat meat.
Selling goat cheese and milk is much easier. Additionally, the profit margins after the sale of goat’s meat are very narrow. This is not because of the price of goat meat, which is higher than that of beef. It is also not about the demand. It is because the production process of goat meat is expensive. Many producers are often caught between rearing the goats for meat or as show animals.
Small-Scale Goat farmers in the USA:
Many small-scale goat farmers own 500 goats and below. This category carries most of the goat farmers, which constitute close to 98% of all goat farmers. These farms account for about 85% of all goats in the USA.
Reasons why farmers keep goats:
Meat production: About 4 out of 10 small-scale farms keep goats primarily for meat. This is less than 50% of the farmers who keep goats. This explains why about 50% of the goat meat consumed by the American population is actually imported.
Milk production: This constitutes about 10-15% of goat farmers who are strictly keeping goats for milk production. Of course, these farmers also consider value addition when they process goat cheese which is highly consumed in America.
Fiber production: Although sheep are well known for the production of fiber, the fiber from goats is luxurious and highly demanded. Most of the fiber produced in the USA is Mohair and USA is considered the world’s largest contributor of this specific fiber. Although there are farmers who keep goats specifically for fiber, goat meat producers and those that keep goats for dairy also contribute to fiber production.
Brush control, livestock shows, pack animals and some farmers actually keep goats as pets. This category has the highest percentage of at least 44%.
Goat Farming Experience:
Although goat farming has been going on in the USA for decades, many farmers are still doing it on a small scale with many keeping the goats for subsistence use. About 66% of small-scale goat meat farmers have been doing it for almost two decades or less.
About 62% of farmers who keep goats for fiber have been doing it for more than 10 years. Farmers who keep goats for other reasons which include brush control and livestock shows have been doing it for at least 15 years.
Most of the goat dairy farmers use the milk they get to feed goat kids and for home consumption. Only about 24% of these farmers market raw goat milk or value-added products such as cheese.
Marketing of Goats:
Although many farmers complain about not having direct channels to sell their goats and they find themselves using middlemen which results in small profit margins considering the expense of keeping goats, there are several associations that have been created to help farmers deal with the challenges they face in selling and marketing their produce. Challenges faced of goat farming in the USA
High demand yet some farmers are stuck with their produce:
Although it is said that there is a high demand for goat meat, there are still many farmers who do not know how to get to this market that is forced to consume imported goat’s meat. Although there are many associations trying to help farmers get the market, it is not a direct process and often these farmers end up using middlemen who offer them a low price that reduces their profits margins considerably.
Although goats are highly adaptable to their environment, diseases have not been kept at bay because many of these goat breeds still get an attack every now and then which increases the costs of rearing goats. This has discouraged many farmers who eventually opt out of it because the operational costs are too high yet the returns leave nothing to talk about.
Some of the National goat associations used by goat farmers in the USA:
American Goat Federation (AGF):
This organization aims to unite all goat farmers so as to improve the goat industry in the USA. This organization not only represents the farmers but also the different goat associations for small-scale farmers who may not have the voice for change in the production and marketing of all goat products such as milk, cheese, fiber, meat as well as grazing services.
There are many other associations that goat farmers have used to drive their agenda.
- Dairy goat associations
- Meat goat associations
- Fiber goat associations
Basically, there is an association to cater to all the reasons why farmers keep goats. These associations have made life easier for all goat farmers in the USA. Without them, it would have been difficult for individual farmers to achieve what they have done in the past couple of years.