Meat goat production is an emerging class of livestock that offers farmers in the United States a new option for on-farm revenue. It’s also an attractive option for landowners with limited resources. The demand for goat meat (chevon) is growing in the US because of the growing ethnic diversity. However, the nutritional value of chevon is often underappreciated by the general public when compared to other widely consumed meats, even though studies have shown that goat meat is more nutritious than beef, pork, or poultry.
Problems in Goat Production
Goat producers in the Southeast continue to struggle from conventional production systems and face viability problems. As a result, they often seek ways to increase sustainability and profitability.
Unfortunately, gastrointestinal worms, especially the Haemonchus contortus or barber worm, account for the majority of the reduced profits experienced in meat goat operations. Luckily for producers, browsing is a management alternative that can help prevent worm infections in goats.
Browsing is when producers allow animals to feed on tender shoots, twigs, and leaves of trees and shrubs, often in an overgrown area. For goat producers, this is a low-cost feed management system when compared to traditional feed supplements, which account for the higher production costs associated with meat goat operations. Goats are better able to handle harsh environments than other small ruminant livestock.
They consume a high-quality diet from diverse forages, demonstrating a lowered metabolism and more efficient use of nutrients. Because of their grazing behavior and their ability to adapt to different nutrition and climatic conditions, goats are prime candidates for use in browsing management system. However, use of browsing must be managed closely if the producer desires plant regrowth in that area. If this is not the case, browsing can be heavily used in areas where regrowth of brush and trees is undesirable.
Many invasive shrubs such as Chinese privet, bush honeysuckle, and Japanese honeysuckle, have taken over the forest understory in much of the Southeast. This suggests that better management techniques are needed. Browsing seems to be an eco-friendly management technique for controlling the understory of forestlands and is capable of creating breaks in fuel and wildfire risks.
Learn how professionals are implementing browsing methods through The Using Forestland for Meat Goat Production: An Extension Demonstration Project.