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The Agribusiness Of Goats | Fall 2006 Out Here Magazine

Fiber from Angora goats, like those owned by Trace and Darcy Jacoby of Bertram, Texas, are used in apparel and home fashions.

Market them for meat, milk, mohair, and more

By Hannah Wolfson

Photography by Jeff Frazier

At least, that's the goal of Robert Duke and other American breeders of meat goats. Duke, president of the American Boer Goat Association, has more than 1,000 head on his ranch in Utopia, Texas.

Meat goats are a lucrative new market among all the agribusiness opportunities provided by goats. They are also raised for their fleece and milk, bred for show, and even kept as pets, he says.

"Contrary to what a lot of people in the U.S. may think, goat is the number one red meat eaten around the world," Duke says. "It's a very healthy meat, low in cholesterol, low in saturated fat, very high in iron."

Demand here at home is also increasing due to growing ethnic populations. As health-conscious consumers become more aware of goat meat, Duke expects a sizeable market there, too.

Besides raising purebred Boer goats, Duke also breeds crosses for sale to members of 4-H and FFA.

"It's a growing market and it has a lot of opportunities for people," Duke says. The key, he says, is breeding quality stock so the youngsters win ribbons. Then, they'll keep returning each year for superior goats.

The Angora goat, producer of luxurious mohair, is one of the old mainstays of the goat business. Though that market is not as prolific as it once was, due to changing fashion and imports, some raise the goats to make and market their own mohair products or sell to those who do.

Small-scale dairy goat operations might be most approachable for the inexperienced. The average dairy farm has about 13 goats, and many produce milk just for family use, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Although a few large dairies sell their product through grocery and health-food stores, the fastest growing market is cheese, which is growing in popularity and can demand top dollar at gourmet markets.

The USDA estimates there are more than 100 domestic goat cheese makers, but about half of goat cheese sold here is still imported. Goat milk can also be made into yogurt, soap, and is even used in some pharmaceuticals.

Looking for more selling opportunities with goats? Some large companies use them as living lawnmowers, and there are even packgoats for low-impact wilderness transportation.

Although goats can be higher maintenance than cattle due to vulnerability to parasites, they're easier to move around due to their smaller size. And because they prefer to browse, they make a great add-on to an existing cattle operation, says Duke, who pastures his cows and goats together.

But most of all, they're fun to have around.

"Every one of them have their own personalities just like people do," Duke says. "I think that's one of the unique things about goats. They're a very magnetic animal."

Hannah Wolfson lives in Birmingham, AL.