Forage systems for the sustainable production of uniform goat carcasses

2007 Annual Report for LS05-172

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

Forage systems for the sustainable production of uniform goat carcasses


In 2007 we grazed two different sets of weaned goats on four pastures each of chicory, white clover, sericea lespedeza, Illinois bundleflower and striate lespedeza. Drought conditions eliminated the Illinois bundleflower and white clover pastures. Little difference was observed in goat gain or parasite loads among the pastures. Animals that started with high parasite loads had difficulty recovering from the stress they encountered due to poor forage availability during the drought. Annual lespedeza was the best adapted legume for goat production, but goats did effectively use the chicory during flowering. An M.S. thesis project was completed that surveyed the goat industry in the Mid-south region. The survey indicated that there is little marketing effort by producers and most goats are sold at auction, but producers are interested in improving their marketing options by locating a licensed goat slaughter facility in the region. The M.S. candidate secured a position in goat extension in Kentucky as a result of the training received through his M.S. program.

Objectives/Performance Targets

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. Our focus in this project has been to develop summer pastures that allow us to meet these production objectives by evaluating summer forb and legume species.

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. Our goal is to determine whether we can develop an ultrasound model to monitor carcass development. To-date this goal has not been met.

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. This goal has primarily been met through the development and implementaiton of the Master Goat program.


We completed two grazing cycles with two different sets of weaned goats during 2007. The goats were stocked at four animals per ½ acre pasture with animals assigned to one of five pasture species. Forage species that were successfully evaluated included annual lespedeza, sericea lespedeza, and chicory. Drought conditions eliminated effective stands of Illinois bundleflower and white clover. The short duration of availability of chicory raises questions about its utility as a pasture base for goats, but it may be useful as an ingredient of pasture mixtures given the preference of the forage by goats while it is producing flower bolts.

We identified three cooperating producers who will evaluate lespedeza in their goat operations in 2008. We had planned to initiate these trials in 2007, but drought conditions would not allow establishment of the forages.

An M.S. student successfully defended his M.S. thesis based on a survey of goat producers in Tennessee and surrounding areas. The data has been analyzed and the thesis has been written. A transportation model for maximum distances of transport for goats to slaughter was completed as part of another M.S. research project.

Poor animal performance due to drougtht conditions did not allow us to get carcass data via ultrasound or slaughter in 2007. We hope to accomplish this objective in 2008.

A major accomplishment during 2007 was the continuation of the Master Goat training sessions that primarily provided training in meat goat production for extension agents. Three in-service events were conducted on 19-21 February, 24-26 April, and 16-18 October 2007. There were 56 participants from extension, industry and producer groups in these three training events. All evaluations indicated that participants were gaining information that was useful in improving the success of their operations or county training programs.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Again in 2007 annual lespedeza provided the best forage production throughout the summer grazing season. Goats on the chicory pastures readily used the available forage, particularly after flowering, but the amount and duration of forage production on these pastures was limited. Sericea lespedeza produced good forage availability, but succumbed to drought. The major finding during this drought year was that productivity of the improved forages was severely limited by the dry conditions. This resulted in the forage canopy being very short in height which caused goats to graze closer to the ground surface. Again in 2007 animals that initially had high parasite loads experienced difficulty in recovering from the associated stress, especially as drought stress reduced forage availability and forced the animals to graze lower in the canopy.

Our survey results indicated that most goat producers have less than ten years experience in raising goats and over 83% have no written marketing plan. This is evidenced by the fact that most goats are marketed through livestock auctions whenever producers have a group of goats ready to market. Using this approach the producers are not meeting the demand for ethnic holiday goat markets. Most of the producers surveyed declared an interest in having a USDA-inspected goat slaughter/processing facility located in their area.

Master Goat training programs were attended by 56 extension and industry personnel during 2007. Many of the extension participants are planning Master Goat programs in their areas during 2008 to provide information to existing and potential goat producers.


Dolores Gresham

State Representative
Tennessee State Legislature
Nashville, TN
Office Phone: 6157416890
Walter Battle
Fayette Haywood Enterprise Community
Haywood County Extension
P.O. Box 192
Brownsville, TN 38012
Office Phone: 7317722861
Babe Howard

Indepedent Goat Producers
Millington Telephone Co.
Millington, TN
Office Phone: 9018723311
An Peischel
Extension Assistant Professor
Tennessee State University
Cooperative Extension Program
3500 John A. Merritt Blvd.
Nashville, TN 37209-1561
Office Phone: 6159635539
Janet Bailey
Assistant Professor
University of Tennessee at Martin
256 Brehm Hall
Dept. of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Martin, TN 38238
Office Phone: 7318827952
James Gresham

Somerville Livestock Sales, Inc.
Office Phone: 9014659679
Richard Freudenberg

Finberg Packing Co.
Memphis, TN
Office Phone: 9014582622
Joey Mehlhorn
Associate Professor
University of Tennessee at Martin
Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources
256 Brehm Hall
Martin, TN 38238
Office Phone: 7318817257
Jerry Gresham
Professor and Chair
University of Tennessee at Martin
Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources
256 Brehm Hall
Martin, TN 38238
Office Phone: 7318817262