Rural System's

The Goats System

New :National Goat Health Survey 2009

Thinking of goats as "brush" animals or as cartoon characters eating tin cans is an affront to everyone who knows these animals or to those who realize their potential. I do not know why goats have the public image that they do. Perhaps the reasons need to be analyzed so that marketing of goat systems can proceed.

Subsystems are the pieces of a larger system for people and their lands and resources. The topic here is a goat-centered profit-maximizing system. I do not know where the appropriate limits should be drawn or the context specified. The individual or group can draw its own limits, based on available resources and interest.

There are hundreds of thousands of goats in developing countries where their history is recorded on vases 5000 years old. They were domesticated between 10,000 to 5,000 years ago. They are in most cases not reaching their potential individually or as a system because of genetically imposed potentials, poor or overused ranges, lack of a production-management system, faulty marketing, limited medical care, and limited experienced workers. There seems to be at least a little room for improvements. Even in developed countries, there exist major opportunities for improvement, even in the management and care of a few animals. The potentials in larger systems can be impressive.

Dairy goats are not just "small cows." There are many reasons for creating goat systems as well as cattle systems. Some people just like goats! That is reason enough, for the rationale is like that of some people preferring certain models of automobiles, etc. Goats are more efficient than cows in forage energy use for milk production, survive bad range or forage years better than cows (thus reducing entrepreneurial risks and boom-or-bust situations), can improve the range, and have more stable benefits than cows. They do require more manual labor than cows, but this is appropriate in some areas where there is surplus labor and/or where an active life outdoor life is viewed as one having high quality.

foggy day in Craig County, September 2002Profits are a well-known concept. Intensive management of herds and their lands is essential or profits will not be made. Whether the emphasis is on the land, the goats, or the money, in the final analysis there must be the well-known profit. The objective of such a system must be seen not as producing goats or milk, but as being a vital part of a profitable natural resource system. There may be other objectives such as :

Profits need to be defined precisely as present-discounted net returns. Present discounting is discussed elsewhere but relates to adjusting investments based on equivalent returns that might be made if an alternative investment was made. A fundamental question is simply: what is the difference between this investment in a good subsystem and putting the same money in the bank? If I do not get the same or greater return, perhaps bank savings would be a more rational action.

Profits are net values, discounted gains minus present-discounted losses. Gains are not just products but price per unit of product and the total production. The products that a goat system manager might envision, and the associated gains will be the sum of the product items times their price times their expected sale. The potential products include all of these listed in Table 1. Each has its own price, expected production, expected sales, and limitations.

Table 1. Potential products or sale units from a dairy goat-centered system. The system brings high technology and sophisticated management to ancient pastoral animal care. Retaining deep concern for and humane care of the animals, the new industry skillfully produces needed and healthful products for the people of a region. Together, skillfully mixed, the products form a diverse, stable, source of income for people, and, through sensitively controlled grazing, contribute to improved land management.
1. Goat sales
2. Nursery service for doe kids (3-4 weeks to 7 months)
3. Milk
4. Cow-goat milk mixtures
5. Infant aids (cholostrum)
6. Milk for specialized raising of dogs and horses
7. Butter
8. Cheeses
9. Yogurt
10. Ice cream
11. Goat milk fudge candies
12. Milk and milk product analyses
13. Hides and pelts and specialized leather products
14. Glue
15. Salves and medicinal mixes
16. Soaps and rinses
17. Garden fertilizers
  • urine base
  • feces
  • hair
  • bone-meal and blood
18. Garden soils, e.g., mixes
19. Erosion control products
20. Grazing-area management systems
21. Land rehabilitation service component
22. Meat
23. Meat products and composites (stews, meals)
24. Herd sire selection service (germplasm) *
25. Artificial insemination service
26. Photography, art, journalism and associated supplies
27. Facilities (including construction) and equipment
28. Accounting and budgeting services
29. Records and registration services
30. Publications
31. Education services (breeders, etc.)
32. Insurance services
33. Boarding services
34. Show and judging services
35. Marketing and advertising services
36. Advanced goat and deer research 37. Computer management aids, e.g., feed mix optimization service
38. Optimum feed mixes
39. Novosports games e.g., Cappy
40. Computer-aided health services
41. Marketing services

*Preserving a genetic line, while not a "product unit," may result in future benefits.

The objective for the goat system can be formulated as:

K = aiBi/ diCi

where the performance, K, is expressed as the total expected benefits (B) to the system owners or stockholders per unit of expected total costs. This is a modified benefit-to-cost expression that the wise manager seeks to maximize (subject to a set of constraints). The coefficients, a and d, are expressions of the probabilities of success of each ith benefit or cost over a planning period (say until owner's life expectancy or 50 years). Similar quantification of objectives occurs throughout the system.

The benefits are to be (might be) gained from sales and activities associated with the items in Table 1 above. The needs are for many activities and products (diversification) to stabilize the enterprise through periods in which styles, preferences, and buying patterns - - as well as production - - change and where opportunities for adding value can be seized.

Characteristics of goat meat (3 oz. , roasted)
and to other meats
from "What on Earth," December, 2004)
Meat Type
Calories Total
Goat 122 2.58 0.79 23
Beef 245 16.00 6.80 23
Pork 310 24.00 8.70 21
Lamb 235 16.00 7.30 22
Chicken 120 3.50 1.10 21
An advanced objective becomes one of maximizing the sum of the expected, net, present-discounted product sale value over the period of the owner's life expectancy plus the expected estate liquidation value. Producing milk profitably is a real challenge. Our plan is to develop a linear program for optimum herd size (as we have done for cattle within the Virginia coalfields). We estimate the herd to have 700 animals in about 30 herd-units throughout the region. A goat milk co-op is forming near Hiwassee, Virginia, and we shall attempt linkages there at first. Educating herdspeople, developing facilities, and recruiting a veterinarian for the nutritional and health needs of such a large herd will be challenging. Protecting the animals from increasing coyote and bear populations will require special studies. The megachallenge, however, now approachable because we are armed with a computer, is the above objective that deals with all of the commodities in Table 1 as well as the complex locally-specific details of corporate planning and offering estate planning to those whose pastures we develop and use within The Goats System.

Developing a system for sustained, healthful production of the above goats and goat related items and services requires expertise, built in a lasting system for:

Contracts for pasture use and management are developed with owners. We supply stock and facilities. Owner supplies personnel or hires from us. Profits are shared with the owner and others as specified under "financial incentives strategy."

The March 2008 County Extension announcement:


There is currently a strong and increasing demand for goat meat in the United States. This demand is thought to be triggered by the influx of immigrants (ethnic groups) into the United States in recent years. These ethnic groups, mainly Hispanics, Muslims, Asians, Jews, Africans, and Caribbean Islanders prefer goat meat in their diets and are likely to buy the meat whenever they can find it. The current ethnic demand for goat meat is expected to continue due to an anticipated increase in the population of immigrants and the improvement in their purchasing power.

Additionally, there is a potential group of goat product consumers. This group is the health conscious segment of the mainstream population who is looking for alternative meats for health reasons. Goat meat provides this alternative because, compared to chicken and other red meats, it is relatively low in total and saturated fat and high in protein.

Because of the high and increasing demand in goat meat consumption, the meat goat enterprise has become one of the fastest growing agricultural production systems in the United States today. This growth has created opportunities for small-scale farmers looking for a viable and profitable alternative enterprise to integrate into their farm production businesses. With the uncertainty of the future of the tobacco industry, farmers in the traditional tobacco production areas like the Southside and the Southwest regions of the Commonwealth of Virginia should take advantage of this viable farm business initiative.

To avoid costly mistakes, prospective and inexperienced meat goat producers need basic information in all areas of the meat goat enterprise. Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) offers a program to address this need. This program is tagged MEAT GOAT 101.

The contents of the course are discussed at basic levels for the understanding of the prospective and inexperienced meat goat producers. It is a six hour program that includes lectures and demonstrations.


1. General Overview and Marketing
2. Starting a Meat Goat Enterprise (Facilities and Equipment; Meat Goat Breeds and Selection)
3. Basic Animal Care and Management
4. Herd Health and Nutrition
5. Business Plan and Budget
6. Hands-on Demonstration ( Meat Goat breeds and Selection; medication techniques; computer based farm business record keeping)

Venue: Randolph Farm, Virginia State University, Date: May 3,, 2008, Time: 8.15 A.M - 4.00 P.M.


Fidelis Okpebholo Small Ruminant Dev. Agent Virginia Cooperative Extension , Virginia State University 804-524-5662
Joe Tritschler, Ph.D. Extension Specialist, Small Ruminants Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia State University 804-524-5957
P.O Box 9081 ,Petersburg, VA 23803 ,804-524-5960

Sustainable animal production The challenges and potential developments for professional farming 2009 ? 496 pages ? ?? hardback ? ISBN-13: 978-90-8686-099-9 ? ? 70 ? US$ 104 edited by: A. Aland, F. Madec For table of contents:

See techniques for goats in land management.

Perhaps you will share ideas with me about some of the topic(s) above .

Rural System
Robert H. Giles, Jr.
July 3, 2005