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Demand for meat goats continues to grow

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

The nuances of the meat goat market make numbers harder to track compared to other livestock, but demand definitely continues to rise, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Expert Jake Thorne.

Thorne, PhD and AgriLife Extension sheep and goat specialist, said meat goats are a specialty item and not marketed via traditional livestock producer-to-consumer logistical chains.

“Meat goats do not typically follow the traditional livestock harvest pattern of other livestock. You don’t have large numbers going to a feedlot for several months, harvested at a large-scale commercial facility and individual cuts distributed to retail grocery stores,” he said.

“Some goats are fed and then processed at a heavier weight, but many are not. And it is common for whole carcasses to be sold as opposed to just individual cuts,” he added.

Meat goat numbers hard to track 

Herd numbers and the economics of the meat goat market are difficult to pinpoint because the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) doesn’t track them with the same detail as cattle, hogs or even lambs.

Most meat goats are taken to butchers or smaller harvesting facilities which handle 100 or less animals per week, making the actual number of meat goats processed harder to gauge.

For example, during a recent weekly sale at Producers Livestock Auctions in San Angelo, Texas, 2,500 goat kids designated for processing were sold. Sales in Fredericksburg, Texas; Goldthwaite, Texas and Hamilton, Texas – the three next largest small ruminant auctions in the state – combined for 8,000 meat goats.

However, USDA does report the number of animals processed in larger federally-inspected facilities and for goats, Thorne said this number is consistently around 10,000 to 12,000 animals per week.

“This shows there is a significant percentage of goats which aren’t being accounted for in the USDA report,” he said. “Texas accounts for 33 percent of the nation’s meat goat inventory, and those four auctions make up the bulk of Texas sales so it gives us a rough idea about total nationwide.”

The median herd size is around 20 animals, according to the 2019 USDA goat industry study, which Thorne said is the most comprehensive study of the national goat industry available. And, whereas the number of meat goats has decreased some over the last several years, prices continue to rise, which is good news for producers.

Rising prices and

seasonal demand

The price of meat goats has been steadily on the rise for the last decade, according to Thorne. As the U.S. population continues to grow and more people immigrate to the U.S. from countries where goat meat consumption is the norm, Thorne expects demand and prices to remain strong.

“Going back about 10 years, we can see average prices have increased from about two dollars per pound to an average price of about $3.50 per pound,” he said.

Thorne said those numbers can go up during times of higher demand, which tend to peak before religious and/or cultural holidays where goat is traditionally consumed. The middle of summer, usually after the Fourth of July, is typically the low point for the goat market. Prices can fall as much as one dollar per pound.

Thorne said prices for producers can be based on the ebb and flow of supplies at sale barns as much or more than seasonal demand.

Goat prices trend higher in the late winter and early spring and then fall in the middle of summer and early fall. Goats are typically sold for processing between three to five months of age and at weights between 50 to 70 pounds.

And, while Thorne said there are clear indicators consumption increases on seasonal trends, he is not convinced producers should target marketing their animals to meet increased demand because a significant number of animals are marketed at these times.

“The premiums which typically come with an increase in demand don’t always come to reality because of the sudden spike in supply,” he said.  

Lower prices in the summer are related to the glut of three- to four-month-old goats born in the spring, coupled with lower seasonal demand. On the other hand, producers who can raise fall-born goats can capitalize on higher prices driven by fewer animals and increased demand in January, February and March.

Impact of COVID-19

Despite the strong market, goat prices and herd numbers have slipped compared to pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, goat numbers for Texas were about 842,000 compared to less than 790,000 now.

The pandemic impacted livestock markets in various ways during market and logistical disruptions in the following years, according to Thorne. Producers experienced astronomical prices above four dollars per pound in 2021-22.

As goat inventories decreased and prices increased over recent years, Thorne said more producers began raising goats.

He also noted increasing land costs and fragmentation have made goats an attractive and feasible option for producers with less acreage. Goats can fit a production system of five to 50 acres. 

Other sources of revenue from goats

About 90 percent of the U.S. goat inventory is raised for meat, but they are also raised for their milk, hair and other ancillary demands like livestock shows, pets and for targeted grazing.  

Commercial market kid goat hair – the finest hair for textiles – usually brings $13 to $17 per pound and even lower-quality hair from mature goats can still bring six to eight dollars per pound. Each animal can be sheared twice a year, resulting in a total of six to 10 pounds of Mohair per goat.

Goats are also increasingly being used for brush control with cities, companies and even government agencies hiring producers. This service is also utilized for wildfire prevention.

As targeted grazing becomes more popular, the number of producers providing this service are growing, as well as their herd size. 

“They’re an excellent biological tool to graze land that might be overgrown or has the potential for wildfire,” Thorne said. “I don’t foresee the demand for goat meat, goat products or goat services doing anything but growing in the next decade.”

Susan Himes is a writer and media relations specialist for Texas A&M AgriLife. This article was originally published in the Texas A&M AgriLife E-Newsletter on April 30.

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