Why Raise Goats? (not Cattle or Emus?) What are the Advantages?
We've mentioned the two major uses of meat goats: meat and land management. Of course, there are other animals that make meat and can use otherwise wasted plants. So, what is special about goats, in comparison to cattle, for example?
Strong market/ethnic demand = strong prices
As previously stated, there is a strong demand for goat meat. This is in contrast to emus, which did not have a good meat market. Many immigrants would rather eat goat meat than any other kind. This presents an opportunity for American farmers and ranchers, as there is a lot of room for expansion in this industry: we are currently importing goat meat equivalent to over 700,000 goats per year with the majority of the goats coming from Australia.
Goats are an attractive enterprise for many who may be intimidated by larger animals. Goats are small and safer to work around than cattle, and because of their size and ease of handling, there is no need for expensive working facilities or head gates, squeeze chutes, and other equipment essential in cattle ranching.
Low cost (to buy and raise)
Goats are one of the cheapest livestock enterprises to start-up, because they do not require much capital to purchase or feed. Also, as stated above, facilities are cheaper than for cattle.
Different grazing preferences = better use of diverse forages
Because goats prefer to browse (eat brush or vines) rather than graze grasses, they are complementary grazing in combination with cattle or horses. Using more than one species to graze an area is called "multispecies grazing," and in nature it maintains species balance and ecological stability in an area. Modern farming practices have tended to limit the kinds of animals on a specific piece of land, and this encourages less useful plants to dominate an area. For example, on a pasture used by cattle alone, shrubs and vines may increase, because cattle do not graze those plants consistently. Adding goats to the pasture will result in more meat being produced on that land, because the goats and cattle will be turning different forages into meat.
Different grazing habits = sustainable control of weeds and brush
Another benefit of goats grazing plants that cattle won't is that they prevent weeds and brush from taking over an area. The brush that a goat eats is converted into money by way of meat. Because it won't be necessary to use chemicals or other means to control the brushy plants, the goats will also save you money. Besides the financial benefits, goats are a much safer tool to use on weeds. Many people develop sensitivity to chemicals after years of exposure; using goats to accomplish the goal is much better for the environment and those living in the area.
Prolific breeders = rapid building of herd size and/or salable kids
For some livestock enterprises (such as cattle), it takes years to build a herd because of the length of time to reach puberty and low reproductive rate. However, goat herds build much faster because goats can give birth to their first kid at one year of age. Also, while the first-time kidders are likely to have single births, most does will have twins thereafter. Therefore, herd numbers grow rapidly — a producer can increase his herd by five-fold in 5 years.
Shorter production cycles = quick return on investment
Not only do they reproduce well, goats also reach market size very quickly. Gestation is five months (compared to nine months for cattle), and the kids may be sold at weaning, about four months after birth, or held a bit longer on pasture. In any case, the kid crop should be ready to market less than a year after the breeding date. This means that the initial investment can be quickly recouped, and cash flow is more favorable than for cattle enterprises.
Goats combine well with cattle enterprises = increased income AND control of brush
Adding goats to a cattle farm at the rate of one or two does per cow can result in a 25% greater return per acre, due to more pounds of meat produced. In addition, the goats will control brush so that cattle pastures are dominated by grasses and clover, with no need for spraying expensive chemicals to stop invasive weeds and brush.