Forage systems for the sustainable production of uniform goat carcasses

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2005: $200,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Southern
State: Tennessee
Principal Investigator:
Richard Joost
University of Tennessee at Martin

Annual Reports


  • Animals: goats


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing - continuous, grazing - rotational
  • Crop Production: nutrient cycling, tissue analysis
  • Education and Training: extension, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, feasibility study, market study
  • Pest Management: biological control, botanical pesticides, prevention
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Sustainable Communities: infrastructure analysis, new business opportunities, employment opportunities, sustainability measures


    A survey of Tennessee area goat producers defined the average meat goat producer as 55-65 years old with less than ten years experience raising goats. Most lacked a marketing plan and typically relied on live auctions to market their animals. Evaluation of six legume pastures for summer goat production determined that rotationally grazed sericea lespedeza was the best choice for Tennessee, since annual lespedeza required annual seeding. One of the major outcomes of this project was the development of the Tennessee Master Goat Producer Program that provides producers with training in best management practices for meat goat production systems.

    Project objectives:

    1. To determine the characteristics of the structure of the goat production industry in the Mid-South.
    One of the issues that needs to be addressed in order for a sustainable goat production system to be developed in the Mid-South is to develop a uniform supply of slaughter animals to support processing facilities. The goal of this objective is to poll current goat producers and potential goat producers to determine the optimal quantity of slaughter goats they can or plan to produce, the season of production of slaughter goats and the size goats that they typically produce. This will allow us to determine the regional supply of slaughter goats so we can analyze whether it is possible to support a dedicated goat slaughter facility. One of the factors limiting the further development of the goat production industry in the Mid-South is a lack of market outlets, while the factor limiting the development of processing facilities is a sporadic supply. Determination of the current production of slaughter goats in the region coupled with a prediction of the potential production will allow us to evaluate the potential development of the industry.

    2. To establish the requirements of slaughter goat quantity, seasonal distribution and carcass characteristics to support a dedicated slaughter processing facility.
    Economic viability of meat slaughter/processing facilities depends on a continuous supply of uniform live animals and a viable market for the processed meat. The growth of ethnic segments of the population with a desire for goat meat in their diet has resulted in a large demand for domestically grown goat meat. A sporadic supply of non-uniform slaughter goats has made it difficult to sustain dedicated goat processing facilities, even though a market exists for the finished meat product. To establish a baseline level of slaughter goat supply necessary to sustain a processing plant, an economic analysis of the optimal processing efficiency is needed. The goal of this objective is to determine through survey and economic analysis the number and characteristics of slaughter goats that are required to sustain a dedicated slaughter facility at its optimum efficiency. This analysis will include logistical analysis of the maximum distance that slaughter goats can be shipped economically for slaughter.
    3. To develop forage systems that provide for the rapid production of finished meat goats.
    Our goal is to develop pasture systems that will sustain constant growth rates of 0.25 lbs/day to grow 45 lbs weaned kids to a 75 lbs slaughter weight every 120 days. A constant growth rate is known to produce uniform muscling and finish compared to production systems that provide nutritional peaks and valleys. Another goal of this objective is to evaluate new forage species for adaptation to the Mid-South and for use in goat pastures. Since goats typically browse we are focusing on leafy, taller growing species. In particular we are interested in evaluating forbs that can be incorporated into existing grass pastures since most producers already have established grass pastures. The major production constraint facing goat producers is the impact of intestinal parasites on goats. With this in mind we will monitor parasite loads on goats grown on each pasture system to determine the impact of forage type on parasite control.
    4. To evaluate goat carcass development in response to forage system in order to produce
    uniform goat carcasses to support dedicated slaughter/processing facilities.

    Our goal is to monitor goat carcass development through ultrasound analysis throughout the grazing period. This will allow us to determine the impact of the pasture nutritional plane and animal health on animal performance. Since we will be monitoring carcass development throughout the grazing period we will be able to ascertain critical periods during kid development and the ability of specific grazing systems to meet the nutritional needs of these critical periods. The data collected during the grazing period with ultrasound will be correlated with data collected from processed carcasses to evaluate the accuracy of the ultrasound monitoring.

    5. To provide goat producers with information regarding forage systems for efficient goat
    production, optimal characteristics of desired goat carcasses, and marketing techniques to take advantage of available demand for goat meat.

    Ultimately the success of this project will result in providing producers with methods to benefit from the development of a new agricultural enterprise. This will require the identification of goat requirements to support dedicated processing facilities and methods for attaining these requirements. Showing producers how to be more competitive and take better advantage of their available resources will be the primary focus of this educational objective.

    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.