If you're interested in raising meat goats for profit, you might be wondering if they're more profitable than dairy goats. In this quick guide we look at the pros and cons of both, along with some markets for meat goats and dairy goats.
Increasing globalization has led to the recent popularity of goat food products. Traditionally, goat meat has been included in Caribbean, Middle Eastern, Latin American and Asian cuisine.
As people get more experimental with their food, they become more exposed to the benefits of goat meat. Goat milk has been popular for some time, as the earliest breeds were used to create milk or cheese.
Unlike goat meat, goat milk and goat milk products have been popular for some time. The earliest usage in America was in the 16th century when the Spanish goat began to be used for milk, cheese, and meat by family farmers. Production expanded when dairy goats were used as a valuable part of Victory Gardens during WWII.
Goat milk has recently emerged as an alternative to cow’s milk that may be easier to digest because it is similar to breast milk. This has increased the demand for goat’s milk especially among people who cannot tolerate cow’s milk.
Specific Uses of Meat Goats and Dairy Goats
Even though all goats can be used to produce meat and dairy, some have been bred specifically for one use over the other.
For example, though the Boer can be used for milk and was adapted from traditional “dairy” breeds, it has been bred to enhance the characteristics that make it an excellent meat goat, such as a superior carcass and rapid growth rate.
A dairy goat is the most valuable when she can produce abundant milk and healthy kids. She will need to have a sound body and a well-attached udder. Certain breeds have been selectively bred to enhance those desirable qualities, as well.
Even the build of dairy goats differs from meat goats. Meat goats generally have short legs, deep chests, and tight udders, designed to avoid catching on rough terrain or thorny vegetation. Dairy goats are tall, long, and lack excess body fat. Their udders are well-attached and the dairy goat is tall and long enough to successfully support the weight of the udder.
What are the Pros and Cons of Raising Meat Goats versus Dairy Goats?
Though dairy goats are friendly and fun to keep, it takes more time to milk them than it would take to feed a meat goat. Farmers need to milk the goats regularly to ensure that the milk does not simply go to the kids.
The equipment necessary to operate a successful dairy is expensive and milking the does is time consuming. This is not a “low effort” undertaking. The dairy must also be licensed and regulated.
Meat goats can be let out on their own. Breeding must be regulated as with dairy goats, but beyond that all the farmer needs to be concerned with is typical goat care and equipment maintenance. A meat goat farmer does not even need to slaughter his or her own stock.
The success of both the dairy and the meat goat farmer depends on the doe reproducing predictably and reliably. If a doe is treated well and not over-bred, she can be a solid asset for the farmer for eight years or more, depending on the breed. Does that have trouble kidding, are disease-prone, wormy, or poor mothers will be a burden to the farmer and likely should be sold.
Which is More Profitable: Meats Goats or Dairy Goats?
Both meat and dairy goats can be profitable. The most critical element is establishing a market for the product, whether it be milk or meat.
Meat farmers can have success selling live goats to be used in restaurants, or they can become licensed and process the meat themselves. Another option is to sell the goats to butchers or processing plants.
Dairy goat farmers can pasteurize the milk themselves and sell it independently. In Wisconsin, especially, dairy farmers are selling the milk to cheese factories. Some companies and individuals are now using goat milk in beauty products, so that has now become a market for the milk, as well.
To increase profit, both dairy and meat goat farmers must cull their herds. Male kids on a dairy farm that are not going to be used for breeding will likely be sold for meat. If a meat goat doe has become unproductive, she will also be sold for meat or brought to auction.
Any goat that is disease-prone, injury-prone, or otherwise unprofitable will be sold unless the farmer has decided to keep it as a pet.
To learn our system for raising Boer goats profitably, please check out our Boer Goat Profits Guide.