Meat Goat Production from Traditional and Non-Traditional Forage Species Mixtures

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2002: $10,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
David Barker
Ohio State University

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Animals: goats


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, pasture renovation, grazing - rotational
  • Education and Training: display, extension, focus group, on-farm/ranch research
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
  • Production Systems: integrated crop and livestock systems


    An indoor and outdoor study, which included the same three spatial scales, were performed to determine the forage species preferred by goats. The indoor and outdoor studies consisted of four and nine forage species, respectively. Traditional species used in both studies included orchardgrass and red clover. Non-traditional species used in both studies included chicory and birdsfoot trefoil. Results showed goats preferred chicory, red clover and orchardgrass, and on average the medium spatial scale was preferred. Throughout, forage preferences and spatial scale effects varied between herds and slightly between animals, but goats preferred to choose from a variety of forages.


    The fastest growing animal industry in the United States is the goat industry (Sahlu, 2000). With the influx of more than two million immigrants into the United States each year (U.S. Census, 2000), total ethnic food sales (including goat products) are growing rapidly (Luginbuhl, 2000c; Epstein, 2001). This increase in demand for goat exceeds the existing supply (Smith, 1992; Glimp, 1995). Recent surveys have identified approximately 53 million people in the United States as potential goat meat consumers. If the annual per capita goat meat consumption were 1 kg, there would potentially be a $450 million industry in the United States (Sahlu, 2000). In order to help meet this growing demand for goat products, producers need to increase productivity by improving management and nutrition strategies (Huston, 1978; Glimp, 1995) while utilizing current resources.

    Compared to cattle and sheep, there is a general lack of knowledge of management and nutrition practices for goats (Sahlu, 2000). This is true even among current goat producers. Poor management and grazing strategies cause economic losses each year for producers (Sahlu, 2000). Increased knowledge of the production options is one way to combat some of the economic losses. One method of increasing productivity would be to maximize the amount and quality of the forages fed to goats. Tilman (2000) found that mixtures of diverse forage species in a pasture tend to have greater productivity and nutrient retention than those of low species diversity.

    Another strategy to increase animal intake would be to feed forages with high palatability, although there is uncertainty concerning goats’ preferred forage species. Goats are more efficient at harvesting certain non-traditional forage species than are other livestock (Glimp, 1995). Even with goats foraging non-traditional species, diet choice and feeding behavior of livestock, including goats, may be influenced by previous experiences (Provenza and Balph, 1987; Edwards et al., 1994; Parsons et al., 1994; Baumont et al., 2000). One objective of this study was to determine some of the preferred forage species for goats in Ohio, including forage species that the animals may have not previously experienced.

    Livestock grazing may also be constrained by the spatial distribution of individual species (Edwards et al., 1994; Parsons et al., 1994). Bailey et al. (1996) believed that livestock react to spatial patterns in forage distribution and use this information to improve foraging efficiency. It is hypothesized that the spatial scale, or degree of species mixing, and the number of species offered will affect intake by goats. In order to test the hypothesis and to achieve the aforementioned objectives, two studies were conducted. One study took place in the field, while the other was conducted in barns, in more controlled environments.

    Project objectives:

    Participate in production workshops/field days

    Meetings with current tobacco producers (to diversify family farm income)

    Complete proposed research to determine the potential for meat goat production from Ohio pasture

    Contribute to a Factsheet to be released by OSU extension

    Present at the annual American Forage and Grassland Council’s annual conference

    Participate in extension meetings with OSU and producers

    Inform producers of the markets through workshops and extension bulletins

    Interview/survey consumers in ethnic communities

    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.