I receive a lot of emails, messages and calls about raising goats for meat. I'm very much appreciative of fellow goat farmers who have helped me along the way (and continue to do so). To help reciprocate, I'll be including the questions and answers below. By no means am I a true expert, but I'll share my experiences, perspective and valued resources as I can. Also check out my farm blog and Facebook page to see day-to-day info about what I'm doing on the farm.
If you're interested in visiting the farm, I've hosted pasture walks with River Country Graziers, Wisconsin Farmers Union, Women Caring for the Land and Wisconsin Farm Bureau. I'll post here when an upcoming walk is scheduled.
If something isn't listed send me an email. I'll do my best to get back to you, but understand it might take a little time since I'm balancing a farm, young family and community commitments.
Thank you for your interest in raising goats and what I'm doing on my farm. I greatly appreciate it and wish you the best as you take on your own journey with raising goats, as you so choose! -- Leslie
Raising Goats for Meat - email list
Sign up (below) for my new email list: Raising Goats for Meat to get updates from the farm, resources for raising goats and when we have breeding stock for sale.
Wisconsin Meat Goat Producers Network [informal farmer group, website + active Facebook discussion group + listserv]
What kind of fencing do you use with your goats? Here's info on the fence. Our set up is connected to an energizer in our barn, but it could be set up with a solar/battery energizer system.
Attached image is goat fence specs from NRCS. We used metal fence posts along with wood posts. The only thing different, is that we put the barbed wire on the bottom closer to the ground, per the recommendation from the fence installer, so it's about 3 inches above the ground and about another 3 inches to the HT woven wire. Goats will occasionally push on it, but the woven wire is tough and retains it's shape. We had a custom fencer install for us. For how much fence we put up, we decided to have someone else put it in for the sake of our time and family life.
Portable paddock fencing: Gallagher's Smart Fence: - It looks pricey, but it's about the same price as two long electronet fence from Premier One Fencing, which is what we had been using. The Smart Fence is much easier to use.
How many acres do you use for your goats? We have ~130 goats for 20 acres of pasture, managed through rotational grazing. 10 acres for hay production. We also do some grazing/brush work outside the permanent pasture.
Where do you process/butcher your goats? We now work with Block & Cleaver Artisan Meats in Siren, Wis. They are federally inspected and have a growing custom label business with small farms.
What license do you need for selling meat off the farm? I worked with my local ag extension agent and our regional DTACP meat inspector to make sure I was getting the right licensing. I applied for the State Retail Food Store License - non-processed food. It's state license, but you work through your county health and human services department (the ones who do food licensing for restaurants) to do the inspection and get the license. We have a designated freezer with a thermometer. The price for the license was fairly reasonable. The meat needs to be processed in a state or federally inspected facility. I also have a meat distributors license from DTCAP, which I worked with our regional meat inspector, which allows me to bring the frozen processed meat back to our farm store/freezer. The Wisconsin Local Food Marketing Guide (above in resources) is a good starting point.
Do you sell skulls and/or hides? Yes. Contact me about picking them up as is (to do your own taxidermy/cleaning/tanning work). If you're interested in a ready-to-buy skull or hide I can connect you with one of our buyers.
Do you sell fence trained goats? While our herd is trained to respect the electric fence, including the portable paddock fence. It is always important to fence train your goats, even if you're bringing home goats from a farm that uses electric fence already. It's a new environment, new herd and so on. When I fence train new goats, or young stock, I will set up a small area with the portable fence and then watch to make sure all the goats touch the fence. I do this over the course of a few days. Typically the kids with does learn fast because the follow their moms. The voltage doesn't bother them, but it is a way to startle them to keep them safely inside the paddock and predators out.
While I'm still growing my herd of breeding does, I don't have any older does who know electric fence available to sell. If a goat continually breaks through a fence, the fence needs to be hotter (or grounding needs to be addressed), or the goat needs to be removed from the herd. The goat will teach others in the herd bad habits.
Do you have free goats? No. I tell this to others. The days of free goats are pretty much non-existent. Maybe you can find free dairy bucklings, but they will take lots of attention and bottle feeding. In the world of meat goats, be prepared to spend some money (of course even with that there's a price range).
What milk replacer do you use with your bottle babies? While raising bottle kids for meat I've been using Kid-O milk replacer from NRV. The rest of my meat herd nurses from their dams (mothers).
What seed do you use in your pasture? We've used a few different blends. For most of our pastures it's a mix of see from Prairie Creek Seed, using the Diversemaster, along with adding both forage feast/chicory and tonic/plantain. We've also interseeded with white clover and birdsfoot trefoil from Forage First. I'm hoping to try out turnips or radishes for a late-fall-to-early winter grazing option. Our hayfield is a mix of grasses (orchard grass) and legumes (alfalfa and red clover) from Forage First.