KINZERS, Pa. — Seeing a strong demand for goat meat, a Pennsylvania livestock hauler is offering production contracts for farmers.
“There’s an opportunity to grow high quality, No. 1 kids for this market,” said Abe Fisher, field rep for Berks County-based Kingdom Livestock Transport.
Fisher spoke at a meeting for prospective contract farmers on Tuesday, June 25, at the Kinzer fire hall.
While Americans as a whole don’t eat much goat, the meat is popular among people from certain ethnic groups, and is a staple of their holiday traditions.
Many of these goat-hungry consumers live in New York and New Jersey, which is Kingdom’s prime market for goats.
Currently, a big chunk of the Northeast’s goats are auctioned at New Holland Sales Stables, one of the busiest sheep and goat markets in the country.
But contracting can offer benefits for both parties.
Buyers get a steady supply of quality animals. Farmers get definite plans and a guaranteed income.
Contracts typically offer a midrange price, insulating farmers from market lows but also preventing them from capitalizing on the peaks, said Melanie Barkley, a Penn State Extension educator specializing in small ruminants.
On the goat auction market, hitting the highs can be tricky anyway.
Retail customers often want live animals, so instead of purchasing extra goats and stockpiling the meat, wholesale buyers leave when they get the number they need.
That dynamic can hurt prices later in the sale, Fisher said.
Under Kingdom’s contracts, farmers own the goats while raising them and are responsible for housing, feed and medical care.
The company prefers goats that are half Savannah (a breed developed in South Africa), one-quarter Boer and one-quarter Spanish.
Kingdom is bringing in young female goats with this pedigree from a big goat ranch in Texas.
“We want heavily muscled kids to eat. I mean, we’re looking for muscle,” Fisher said.
The company expects the goats to grow to 50 or 60 pounds by 12 weeks old.
To do that, the goats will need high quality feed. “They can’t survive on tin cans and Styrofoam cups,” Fisher said.
The goats can be raised on pasture, but raising them in barns cuts out problems with worms and foot rot.
To maintain “milk bloom,” the kids generally should not be weaned before marketing. And because this is a live market, the goats must be kept clean.
Kingdom has contract farmers as far away as Clinton and Franklin counties, but all goat producers must deliver the animals to the company’s facility in Mohnton, Berks County.
The company pays per pound. Prices for the 2020 production year range from $2.25-$2.90 per pound, depending on the time of year and the market.
When considering whether to sign a production contract, farmers should know if the agreed-upon price fits with their cost of production, and they should seek legal advice if they don’t understand the contract terms, Barkley said.