Goats raised in Kentucky for meat, show
Wrapping up a two-part series on Kentucky’s goat industry by focusing on producers who raise goats for the plate and show ring
By Chris Aldridge
Kentucky Ag News
If you’ve never tried goat meat, Donna Slack says you don’t know what you’re missing.
“I want more people to try it,” said Slack, who raises meat goats on Creative Farms near Harrodsburg. “I guarantee people will love it.”
Slack said goat meat doesn’t have a distinct flavor, such as mutton made from lamb.
“Goat is very mild,” she said. “Anything you use hamburger for, you can use ground goat for.”
Slack found a new customer when she talked her friend into substituting the ground beef in her chili with ground goat.
“She said, ‘You ruined me! I’ve gotta have goat meat in my chili from now on,’” Slack said.
Slack said goat is “a much healthier” alternative to the two most popular meats in the American diet – beef and chicken.
Slack said a 3-ounce serving of goat meat contains 2.6 grams of fat, compared to 7.9 for beef and 6.3 for chicken.
“It’s an incredibly lean animal,” she said, “and it’s red meat.”
Slack raises 100 goats on 56 acres. Her goal is to grow her herd by 50 percent.
“We raise Boer and Savanna goats because of their growth rate,” Slack said. “Both breeds grow very fast.
“My animals are pasture raised, but they do get grain. I add some minerals, but I don’t give them a lot of extra additives.”
Newborn goats weigh around 8 pounds and grow from a quarter to a half a pound a day. At four months old, they are weaned from their mothers at 60-70 pounds, and are ready for harvest. Slack said some of her Savannas are weighing 60 pounds at three months.
“Market demand is for 60- to 70-pound cabritos,” Slack said of the Spanish word meaning young goat. “Their meat is very tender. That’s what they (customers) want. That’s the market I cater to.”
Slack has her cabritos butchered and packaged in a facility inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She sells the processed product frozen as ground meat, stew meat, roasts, and “the best summer sausage you’ve ever eaten,” she boasted, mostly to ethnic groups online through Creative Farm’s Facebook page.
“I try to find ethnic people because most of them enjoy a good quality goat,” she said. “There’s a lot of demand for goat meat among Haitians, Philipinos, and Latinos. Prices are driven the highest during ethnic holidays like Ramadan (which ran from April 1 to May 1 this year). They don’t get goat meat here like they did in their original countries.”
Goats are a prized protein around the globe – except here in the U.S.
“Goat is the No. 1 consumed meat in the world, but here in the United States, it’s only 2 percent (of total meat consumption),” Slack said. “We import 75 percent of our goat meat, mostly from Australia and New Zealand.”
Slack, president of local Fort Harrod Goat Producers, has two theories for why Americans don’t eat goats.
“The kids are so cute, people think of them as pets rather than livestock,” she said. “Also, goats are such small animals, they can’t feed the masses like cattle.”
Slack was raised on goat milk because she was allergic to cow’s milk.
Dr. Beth Johnson, a field veterinarian in the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, grew up raising dairy goats in Texas in the early 1970s.
“We still have dairy goats, primarily for our own consumption,” said Johnson, who lives on a cattle farm near Danville. “Each dairy goat gives us a gallon a day when at peak lactation, which is perfect for a family of four.
“People interested in sustainable agriculture are causing the dairy goat industry to make a strong comeback. Goat milk is naturally homogenized, which means the fat doesn’t separate, so it’s pretty high in fat, it’s rich, and it’s great for cooking and making cheese.”
Dr. Johnson’s main focus is producing 60-65 market goats per year to show as projects by 4-H and FFA members.
“We raise primarily Boer goats because their genetics are such that they produce an animal that’s flashy in show ring, yet has a wide top, excellent loin eye area, and good hind leg muscle – those are the most important cuts on a market goat,” she explained.
Much of the goat milk is frozen and used to bottle feed some of the young goats.
“Some of these Boer goats are not the best mommas, so there’s quite a few kids we have to bottle raise,” Dr. Johnson said. “Those kids don’t produce the best market goats, but they’re perfect for novice show animals because they’re super gentle.”