Making the Goat Herd Profitable
Can Goats pay their own bills, or even better bring in some additional income or help supplement in other areas of expense reduction?
With my husband having a Business degree, helps keep me in check with these questions and reminders from time to time.
We are a Dairy and Meat Goat Breeder and our Goats here at Tailspin Farms have been what we call working pets. 😊 We enjoy our goats and the relationship we have with them. Goats would be simply too much work for anyone to keep up with if they did not really enjoy them, so the real question then is how to get them (and our brains) working to get them to pay for themselves. There are two things to consider, 1: Is how to create or increase goat income. 2: Is how to reduce expenses without short-cutting quality care.
First is the investment of the Goats, and keep in mind for the most part with goats the old saying “you get what you pay for” is true. Reduce the headache and expense of bringing home goats that are not productive or not healthy. Understand that a goat that has been bred by someone who understands proper conformation is going to cost several hundred dollars more than say an Auction Goat. The purchase price of a goat is more than just money it includes the Breeder’s experience of managing their bloodlines, and production quality animals. On more note: if you are purchasing Registered Goats make sure you get the Papers at the time of payment, once money has changed hands you could on your own.
We often say the buck is “half of the herd”, so investing in a quality buck from a quality Dam will usually give a positive result in quality of milk and meat production of its offspring. Important to know that some Bucks and Does will cross well and some don’t, so do not be afraid to get rid of a buck that is not working with your Does. Spending money feeding and maintaining a Buck or a Doe that is not putting quality Kids on the ground is not going to be profitable in the long run. The primary goal of any goat breeder looking to make money is to produce quality kids every year, so that the sale of Kids can keep profits up over and above feed prices.
Feed prices always have a way of creeping upwards every year. There are some things to do that can help in keeping up with increasing Feed prices.
1: Do your research on proper feeds (there are many great articles on proper feeds for Goats), purchase quality feeds with at least a 14% protein and check that it contains a balance of vitamins and minerals.
2: Is to develop feeding methods that will help decrease waste of feed, especially hay. During spring if possible plant hay or grazing pastures to aid in supplementing hay purchases. When purchasing or baling your own hay make sure to store hay properly to prevent loss from weather damage, this will help reduce costs from waste and health problems. Animals that are exposed to mold in hay are susceptible to problems. If there is not enough space to properly store hay, consider investing in heavy duty tarping and it is Very important make sure hay is dry before tarping it. Also it is best to keep hay off the ground, otherwise it will just mold under the tarp. Another way to reduce hay costs is in the spring (if at all possible) try to buy a years’ worth of hay before winter to avoid rising prices and decreasing availability during the winter months. Top quality hay will have least amount of health problems and the most productivity. Spending money on good quality hay and feed will result in faster growing kids and better producing does.
Sometimes a goat owner needs to consider cutting back their herd. Consider letting go of a couple that don’t work for your growing herd. We did this many times early in our goat ranching. We would sell two or three does and reinvest in one a nicer Doe. It was a much faster and a lot less expensive way of upgrading our herd than trying to breed up to get where we wanted to be with our herd. That is a lot of feed money and time.
It’s easier said than done but try not to keep pets around if possible. I know this is a hard one, and we have had some pet goats on our farm. It gets costly to keep pets with the cost of feeding them, trimming feet, supplements and all the up keep. Remember the goal is to have goats that pay the bills.
To budget you first need to figure out what it costs per month, and then per year on average to keep goats where you live. Don’t forget to factor in feed, vet supplies, supplements, facilities maintenance and repairs, and equipment costs. It can be a real surprise to see how much our hairy friends are “milking us dry”.
How about barn costs? Goats do not require fancy setup, but they do require shelter from the weather. Having animals that get sick because of inadequate facilities can drain the budget and add unneeded stress. Shelters must be able to allow relief from wind, rain, and extreme sun beating down on them. They should have good air flow to help keep down urine fumes that have evaporated from their stall or shed. The floor should stay dry and are able. Search the internet for barns and stall ideas.
I’ve seen really nice and creative goat stalls and pens built from recycled materials such as pallets and materials left over from other projects.
Fencing should be able to keep goats in where you want them and everything else out. A no climb fence wire is the best but can this type wire can get expensive. We also use cattle panels to make some of our pens. Electric fencing with a GOOD quality charger can also be an option.
Keeping goats healthy will drastically reduce expenses. Medical supplies, Vet fees, and your time can add up quickly when dealing with health problems. Educate yourself on what a healthy goat looks like before buying goats. Also talk to Vets and others who own and raise goats on parasites and how to control parasites. Learning about these issues can help reduce herd losses, loss of productivity, and increased feed and care costs.
You can save money in other way around your farm by helping pastures and gardens be more productive. When we clean out the manure from stalls and pens we move it to our compost pile where it sits and composts and turns into “black gold.” This helps plants and pastures grow with a noticeable difference. You can also make a little extra cash by selling it. Using it as fertilizer will go a long way towards improving a pasture or garden as the microbes in the soil help break nutrients down for better water absorption. Our garden produces better and that saves money at the grocery store.
Think about advertising, there is several ways to advertise. We prefer the inexpensive and free types like on Facebook, Craigslist, and word-of-mouth. Some of our best customers have come from Friends, Family and other customer referrals.
When people come out to look and buy they will almost always try to talk you down on your prices, so decide in advance on a firm price and stick with it. We try to avoid the price negotiation process by posting a price in the ad and state that “This a firm price” and generally people hoping to haggle a deal won’t bother to contact us, but people look for a nice goat are willing to pay for it will.
On the same note as purchasing when selling registered animals, even if you have a written contract with remainder of payment terms spelled out in detail NEVER EVER give the registration papers until payment is made in full.
On non-registered animals, unless a negotiated contract is made ahead of time with a partial payment made in cash, DO NOT let animals leave your property until they are paid for in full at time of pickup. Let’s just say this is experience talking.
Probably the most important thing to me when it comes to considering how to make money with goats is to raise happy, healthy quality goats without taking shortcuts on care and feed. It is also important to take care of your customers so that you get repeat buyers, and new buyer referrals. It is much easier to retain good customers than to have to try to find new ones all the time.
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Margarita & Stace
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