Friday, January 13, 2017

Goats Part 2: The End At The Beginning


     Knowing the "end" from the "beginning" is a good way to know if there is a niche to be filled. Having a plan for how our goats would produce an income for us reduced our risk and helped us envision a time when our investments would be returned. There are so many strategies to making an income with these animals. Let's explore a few of those options.

         Meat Goat Prices

     Checking out the USDA goat reports provides us with the ability to find the closest stock pen goat sale to ourselves. One can then review these reports and get a picture of what price goats are commanding. Printing these reports and charting the rise and fall of goat prices annually gives the farmer a picture of the cyclical demand. 
     In my neck of the woods, goat prices begin to fall sharply in July and begin to rebound again in October. Understanding what is happening to our market can lead to mindful breeding and production. Checking calendars created with goat eating holidays in mind can be helpful in understanding market fluctuations as well. Here is a good example of one such calendar
       Here in Kentucky, most producers are breeding for a March kidding with kids hitting the market from July to September.  This means there is a glut of kids hitting the market during these months. Also the major goat eating holidays often fall outside of these months. March is a particularly strong month for us as the buyers cater to the Easter holidays.

        Looking over a report one can see that the kids are graded and the slaughter nannies and bucks are sold by weight. Replacement nannies are often not listed as they are sold by the head. The grading system for the kids gives selection 1 the highest value. Usually there are not many in this pen, but they look very meaty. Selection 2 is where most kids of the meat breed fall. Selection 3 is for the kids of dairy breeds or poorly framed meat kids with little flesh. Here are some pictures and descriptions of grading for clarity.

     Meat Goat Stock Pen Strategies:

       Strategies for buying and selling at the stock pen are many. Some farmers buy young stock called feeder kids. These are in the 30lb to 45lb group. The selection 2 pen in this category is probably a less riskier bet than selection 3, but that is just a guess. These kids can be bought, taken home, and returned to market once they achieve the optimal weight for one's market. Locally that is 45-60lbs.      

         The advantage of this option is not having to maintain the nannie all this time and there can be a quick financial turn around. The downside is that some of these kids will die due to stress/illness. Most will be brought to market unweaned and the stress of the market, weaning, and any illnesses they have been exposed to at the market will make the first week in their new home critical. Remembering that the stock pen is a melting pot of all kinds of  communicable diseases, and wormer resistant parasites is essential. Once a chronic disease is on your farm it is hard to get rid of and some are communicable to cattle and sheep! Still, some farmers make a part of their living this way, so there are ways to be successful.
       Another strategy is to have some nannies and a buck and raise your own kids to the optimal slaughter weight. Here that weight for intact males and doe kids is 45-60lbs. But if we were to whether our males we could keep them much longer and they would continue to gain. Their carcasses are worth more at 80lbs than an intact buck. In this way, one could still have their does kid in March and avoid the market glut of July-September, selling in November/December instead. This is an interesting resource on marketing kids at the stock pen.

Replacement Stock and Dairy Production

     Replacement stock of any breed in demand is a niche many farms try to add to their basket of income producing eggs. Selling goats for seed stock or breeding stock often means saving only the best and culling the rest. But for a farm that is clean of chronic diseases, one can see a niche in directly selling even any basically sound doe on craigslist. If the buyer has the peace of mind that their new stock is free of disease and is looking for a bargain, then less than optimal stock could be sold at a higher rate than the stock pen. Enjoying customer relations would be a valuable asset for this type of strategy.
      Direct meat marketing is also an option.  Meat for sale to the public must be slaughtered at a USDA facility, but that meat can then be sold to stores, restaurants, and internet mail orders. By selling a goat live off the farm, the farmer can allow the customer to arrange for what ever slaughtering they prefer, saving that cost to the farmer in direct marketing.
      For those wanting to raise dairy goats and looking for an outlet for their milk, soap makers are a good connection to make. They will buy frozen milk, allowing the farmer to stock pile it and advertise on craigslist, ect when they have enough to make a sale worthwhile. Selling fluid milk in milk shares or even as pet milk is also an option if one takes the time to read up on the laws and regulations for their area. An inspected production facility to make cheese or pasteurize milk is an expensive option, but if goats become your passion it might be a path worth pursuing.
      Young dairy stock can be sold as breeding stock, slaughter animals at the stock pen, or trained to a cart and sold as working goats!


      Whew! I am tuckered! This is not my favorite end of the business, but it is this end that allows me to enjoy these marvelous creatures at all! Understanding the "end" from the "beginning" gives a farmer confidence that their endeavors are wise investments....because one thing new farmers learn quick is that farming is the biggest gamble there is. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Raising Goats!

Baby Goats
Disclaimer: We love goats!
         We have been raising goats for the last 3 years now and love, love, love our goats. As farm animals go, they are personable and fun loving. Their size makes them manageable for just about any farmer, with a land requirement that is lower too! But most importantly, with the right market, they pay for themselves with some profit left over.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

You Can Do A Lot With A Little: Part 2

          Daniel and the boys built beds out of trees in the woods. Jake's bed was made from dead cedars and the slates that he is laying on was made from some pallet wood. They each took about 8 hours to make but are pretty sturdy and definitely one of a kind!

Motivation To Keep Up Keeping On

           Have you ever needed the motivation to keep up with a project and to see it through to its end? This feels applicable to any of life's endeavors, even life itself. Half done projects are a drain to the spirit and yet so often I am stalled, looking for the imputes to finish what has been started.