Pasture-Based Meat Goat

The meat goat industry in North Carolina is expanding at a very fast pace. With the increasing demand for goat products, producers and entrepreneurs are looking at alternative production systems and niche marketing to satisfy consumers’ preferences and increase their bottom line.

Goat farming seems to be independent of scale. Small, part-time farmers with only a few acres can raise enough animals to provide an income supplement. Conversely, very large farms can efficiently integrate a meat goat enterprise to aid in diversification of the farm.

boer-goatsIn addition, the role of goats as biological agents to control invasive weeds and shrubs is also becoming increasingly important due to environmental concerns and elevated costs of other control methods such as mechanical cutting and herbicide application. Previous research conducted at the NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services Mountain Research Station in Waynesville has demonstrated that goats have significant economic value in biological control of weeds and brush-invading pasturelands. Therefore, the foraging habits of goats have important environmental implications by ultimately increasing the sustainability of production systems.

Goats also play an important role in organic and sustainable farming systems from the standpoints of nutrient cycling, soil improvement, income generation and conversion of fibrous resources into value-added products. In light of that, meat goats have been integrated into the Center for Environmental Farming Systems research farm in Goldsboro, NC.

Herd and Land

goat-kidsThe herd was initially composed of purebred Boer females, a breed whose origin stems from South Africa. To expand the size of the herd, the original Boer does have been bred by Boer and Kiko bucks. The Kiko was selected intensively from feral stock in New Zealand and is thought to be a vigorous, hardy, large-frame and early-maturing breed.

The meat goat unit is being developed on 4 to 5 acres located west of the old dairy unit. The pasture system will be a mixture of cool- and warm-season forages under controlled grazing management. Does will be bred in the fall for late winter kidding.

Projects and Activities

  • To examine browsing strategies for controlling woody and invasive vegetation along drainage ditches.
  • To evaluate the use of goats for controlling broadleaf weeds in dairy pastures as an environmentally-friendly alternative to mowing or the use of herbicides.
  • To examine browsing strategies for managing fodder trees in summer silvo-pastoral systems for goats.
  • To teach the principles of controlled grazing, goat husbandry, goat grazing/browsing behavior, health practices and fencing systems during workshops and the CEFS summer sustainable agriculture internship program.