Conference provides resources for meat goat farmers

Aug. 17, 2018

Georgia farmers learn the challenges and advantages of meat goat production

Goat meat may not be the first choice of meat for some American consumers, but according to Dr. Mohammed Ibrahim, a Fort Valley State University agricultural economics professor, the demand is becoming greater than the supply.

Interested in providing that need or learning about the process of raising goats, more than 50 Georgia farmers recently visited FVSU’s Agricultural Technology Conference Center to attend a free Meat Goat Conference.

Ibrahim hosted this educational event in partnership with Dr. Benjamin Onyango, a professor from Missouri State University’s (MSU) William H. Darr College of Agriculture.

As part of their research efforts on meat goat production, the one-day conference involved several goat experts from FVSU’s College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology. Presenters included Dr. Brou Kouakou, director of FVSU’s state-of-the-art Georgia Small Ruminant Research and Extension Center; Terrell Hollis, meat processing facility manager; and Dr. Niki Whitley, Cooperative Extension animal science specialist. They discussed the challenges of goat production, marketing strategies, managing parasites and steps to starting a goat farm. In addition, attendees toured the goat center.

Data collected by Ibrahim from focus groups and surveys revealed that goat producers in Georgia, Missouri and Arkansas feel that no one is attempting to assist producers, and they are having problems getting answers to questions unless they go to a university.

Producers also find it hard to sell goats because consumers disagree with the price. Ibrahim agrees that the major problem in the meat goat industry is pricing. He mentioned that Australian goat meat is less expensive.

However, the International Kiko Goat Association (IKGA) reports that goat meat is the most widely consumed meat in the world, with the United States being the leading importer.

Because the meat goat industry is relatively young, Ibrahim suggests that producers adopt alternate marketing strategies such as highlighting the health benefits of goat meat.

“There is room for growth. If we start looking at meat goat production as a business, we will have better marketing strategies,” he said.

Carl Hood, who grew up eating goat meat, owns 65 acres in Fitzgerald, Georgia. Retiring six years ago as a firefighter paramedic, his interest then shifted to farming. A goat farmer for almost three years, Hood’s land encompasses 57 Kiko goats, a breed from New Zealand. He said he attended the conference to gather new information. “What I need to do for my goats is fence in more of my land so I can rotate my pastures. That will alleviate a lot of the problems I have with worms when it rains,” he said. Unaware that FVSU processes goat meat, Hood said the on-campus goat center is a well-built facility. “I want to raise my own food,” he said.

Geni Carden, who grew up on a farm, owns 250 acres in Moultrie, Georgia, with 50 acres containing 31 goats. A retired educator, she began farming four years ago. Now with the equipment to rotate her goats after completing a Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) program, Carden said she attended the conference to learn how to control parasites.

“It is a problem in south Georgia because of the moisture. Every time I lost a goat, it was due to parasites. Now that I have cross fences, I am able to get them out of the pastures and on higher ground,” she said. She further plans to use the information she learned to plant sericea lespedeza, a deep-rooted perennial legume.

“If I had known all of this four years ago, I could have avoided some of my losses,” Carden said. “The research here is all on target for what we need.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded MSU a $549,411 grant in 2015 for the project, “Leveraging Limited Resources for Meat Goat Farmers: An Income Enhancement Strategy for Rural Development Addressing Production, Marketing and Outreach Linking Missouri, Arkansas and Georgia.” Serving as co-principal investigator, FVSU received $155,089 of the funds to assist in this study.

For more information about meat goat production, contact Ibrahim at (478) 825-6815 or ibrahimm@fvsu.edu.