Meat goats are a growing livestock trend in Illinois. No kidding.
A strong ethnic market for goat meat has many rural residents tossing around the idea of getting into goats. A University of Illinois Extension sheep specialist wants to get newcomers off on the right foot with a set of guidelines on modern production techniques.
"Because the interest in meat goat production is new, there are few experienced goat producers in the state to help newcomers in their desire to learn as much as possible," says Dick Cobb, a U of I sheep specialist.
The report "Are You thinking of Raising Meat Goats?" is available on the U of I Extension's Illini SheepNet and Meat GoatNet Web site.
"Interest in meat goats has increased dramatically in Illinois in the last few years," says Cobb. "An increasing demand for goat meat, spurred by a growing ethnic population in Chicago and throughout the state, has demonstrated a need for increased commercial meat production.
"In addition, importation of new breeds has stimulated a breeding industry which needs herds to produce purebred breeding stock as well as animals for exhibition."
The report covers a range of topics - from goat feeding and health guidelines to breed traits to marketing - that can help you decide whether to launch a meat goat enterprise.
"The first step in meat goat production is to do an honest evaluation of the resources you have to devote to the project," Cobb says. That includes personal attitudes, land, buildings, machinery, equipment, labor and capital.
Marketing is a big consideration. "You should not raise goats as a business if you do not have a profitable outlet for them," says Cobb, whose report identifies potential market outlets. "The commercial goat industry is almost entirely ethnic - Muslim and Hispanic," he explains. "It is affected by the dates of various religious holidays." Dates for these holidays are provided in the guide.
The guide was written by Cobb, along with U of I Extension animal systems educator Dean Oswald, and veterinarian Jennifer Miller.
It's available online at www.livestocktrail.uiuc.edu/sheepnet/paperDisplay.cfm?ContentID=9808.