Breeder: Meat goats make 'excellent learning projects' for youth
By Frank J. Buchman
“Goats really don’t like tin cans, but they are a lot of fun.
“There’s not anything better for a young person to learn about livestock and responsibility than owning a meat goat.”
Jamie Garten of Garten Boer Goats at Abilene, Kan., is emphatic in her certainty of the many assets of meat goats.
However, in contrast to popular beliefs, “Goats are sometimes particular eaters, but they can be quite personable, so children really become attached to them,” Garten said. “A child can go out and take care of their goat by themselves, while that often isn’t possible, or safe, with a steer, or even a hog.
“It’s not really all that easy raising meat goats, yet they offer so much, they’re worth any extra effort that might be required,” Garten said.
Garten and husband, Scott, also continue to be highly successful show steer producers.
“We had children in 4-H and decided to add meat goats to their projects, because they really fit hand-in-hand with the cattle, as far as what the industry is looking for, and there are similarities in handing, despite the difference in size,” Jamie Garten said.
From early experiences with meat goats as their children’s projects, Garten appreciated the Boer breed for toughness, adaptability, maternal instincts, inherent disease resistance and flavor of the meat.
“We wanted to start with some of the best Boers of the breed and selected our foundation herd from the Will Rogers Classic Boer Goat Sale in Oklahoma,” Garten said.
That initial purchase of a few purebred Boer does has continued to expand.
“We have more than 100 does now,” she said. “About a fourth of them are crossbreds to produce higher quality wether prospects.”
Of course, bucks are essential to success of the herd.
“We have searched throughout the country to find the best bucks, and we’re especially pleased with our herd bucks in use now,” said Garten, noting again that they are not all registered purebreds, and do include commercial bucks selected specifically to sire show goats.
Admitting that fencing is sometimes a challenge for goat owners, Garten said, “A number of greyhound breeders around here have dispersed, and we’ve been able to use some of those facilities for our goats, which has worked out quite well for us.”
Dog runs permit the goats to exercise, and the brome grass provides supplement nutrition.
“But correct diet is essential to a growing and fitting a top show goat. Goats really won’t eat just anything,” said Garten, a goat feed dealer.
Grind-mix rations are purchased locally for does, with alfalfa and brome hay also as part of diets.
Boer goats are quite prolific, birthing up to four kids once a year. Twins and triplets are quite common, according to Garten.
“I don’t breed young does until they’re about 16 months old, because it seems to stunt growth and shorten their life,” she said. “Boer does will continue producing until they’re 10-years-old.”
It is a known fact that diseases can sometimes be a problem in goat production.
“One thing, the Boers are more resistant to disease than some breeds, and we keep on top of our vaccination program, so we really don’t have that much trouble,” Garten said.
However, she added, “We are very careful where we purchase goats, because it’s easy to bring diseases to our farm from other herds.
“We keep all of our new purchases in quarantine, when we get them home to help prevent disease spread in our goats.”
Production is marketed at an annual Garten Boer Goat Sale on the farm. About 50 head of wethers and does born from mid-December to mid-January were sold April 13.
Garten follows up with purchasers of her goats. “I’m more than happy to give any help I can, advising the buyers on growing and showing their projects, and I offer to trim feet and clip goats before any shows,” she explained.
“I go to a lot of seminars to keep myself educated on the industry and showing,” Garten added.
Also offered at private treaty on the farm, Garten Boer Goats have sold throughout the Midwest, collecting championships throughout the state, as well as competitions throughout the country.
A leader in the Kansas Meat Goat Association, Garten has been instrumental in helping coordinate the Kansas Junior Meat Goat Day set March 23, at Kansas State University in Manhattan.
Although goat meat is not always readily available over the grocery counter, Garten said, “Goat is a low cholesterol white meat that is very healthy, and our children often prefer it over other meats.”
Processors are limited, too, but a plant at Clay Center is used by Garten, who has some of the meat made into sausage, while goat cuts are for home use and retail sale.
“Ethnic groups are regular buyers of our goat meat for their holidays, and traditions,” she added.
“The meat goat industry has grown rapidly in recent years throughout the Midwest, and I only expect it to continue to expand,” Garten predicted.