Economically Viable Method of Raising Surplus Saanen Dairy Goat Billies as Meat Goats by Using Them as Brush Goats

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2023: $9,979.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2025
Grant Recipient: Cedar Meadow Farms, LLC
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
Chad Montgomery
Cedar Meadow Farms, LLC


  • Animals: goats


  • Animal Production: free-range
  • Farm Business Management: feasibility study

    Proposal summary:

    Goat meat is currently in high demand in the United States, with about 45% of demand being met through importation.  As demand for goat meat is greater than domestic production, a market for increased production exists. 

    There are approximately 350,000 dairy goats on commercial dairies nationally.  Annual breeding of  nannies to stimulate milk production is necessary.  Nannies are raised to replace aging stock or grow herd size, while billies are sold as cabrito or dispatched.  Potential meat production  from raising dairy goat billies to size for slaughter is considerable (~150 -175k surplus billies).  Young dairy billies, often seen as a byproduct of commercial goat dairies, could serve as a source for goat meat in the open market.

    Dairy goats have not been selected for growth or meat production, so it takes considerably longer and more feed to raise a dairy goat to hanging weight for slaughter. However, surplus dairy billies are available at lower cost than meat goats, and are available annually,  eliminating need for a breeding herd.  Additionally, the generalist diet can reduce reliance on grain.  Natural forage would have lower nutritional value, lengthening time to hanging weight, but would be considerably less expensive.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    To assess the economic viability of raising surplus dairy goats to slaughter weight on natural forage, I will acquire surplus Saanen billies from a local goat dairy and raise them to ~70 lb hanging weight. I will conduct the trials over the course of two years, with 20 goats per year.

    Goat Care:

    We will acquire surplus male Saanen kids from a local goat dairy at 2 weeks old.  We will raise them in pens (8’X10’/5 goats) in a pole barn with 1 pint of milk replacer (22% CP and 24% fat) given 2X per day for 8 weeks.  We will introduce 16% CP concentrate pellets and natural forage at 15 days.  At 8 weeks We will reduce milk replacer to 1X/day for 1 more week and then eliminate.

    Goats will be penned up at night for the first 10 weeks, but allowed to graze during the day as weather permits (i.e. forage accessible, above 32oF, no precipitation).  After 10 weeks goats will no longer be penned at night, except during severe weather events.

    Goats will be grazed on 1 acre plots of mixed hardwood forest and pasture. They will be maintained with a 5 wire temporary electric perimeter fence that will be moved for rotational grazing as one plot is used.  Water will be ad libitum through 2, 25 gallon automatic waterers per plot.  Each plot will have 2 portable 10 X 10 shelters for protection during inclement weather. Concentrate pellets will be provided as necessary based on nutritional content of natural forage.

    During outreach events and demonstration days goats will be maintained by electric netting on ½ acre plots.  Goats will be provided water ad libitum through automatic waterers and provided access to portable shelters. Concentrate pellets will be provided as necessary based on nutritional content of natural forage.

    Data Collection:

    Once per week, we will measure goat height at wither and weigh goats using a hanging scale and sling.  We will use height and weight data to calculate growth rate and assess body condition.

    We will determine brush clearing rate in plots based on measurements every two weeks.  For outreach and demonstration we will collect data before and after the event.  We will calculate average plant density and average plant height in 25 1yd2 quadrats/acre.  In addition, we will use the checkerboard method at 3 different foliage heights (0’, 2’, 4’), where a checkerboard is positioned at the distance from the observer at which ½ of the checkerboard is obscured by foliage.  Checkerboard data can be used to calculate foliage density.  Based on foliage data we will calculate rate of foliage removal/per goat.

    We will determine the economic viability of raising surplus dairy goats for meat by determining the net income from sale of hanging weight animals at market value ($/goat and $/lb of meat).  We will determine expenses by summing costs directly associated with raising the goats (excluding outreach and demonstration event costs), including feed, medical care, and labor (hours of husbandry @ $15/hr).


    Determine growth rate of Saanen billies on natural brush forage.

    Determine rate of brush clearing by Saanen billies.

    Determine economic viability of raising surplus Saanen billies on natural forage.

    Demonstrate environmentally friendly brush clearing by Saanen billies through outreach/demo days

    Share findings and increase awareness of surplus billies as a viable alternative to meat goats through social media, outreach events, and local farm/ag shows

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.