By Andrew Campbell
If we were to ask an average Canadian what livestock farms were around the country, cattle would likely top that list. Some would mention pig farms. You might even get some poultry and sheep farms mentioned. But goat farms usually are a type of farm that few people think of in Canada. Which is too bad, because in reality there are almost a thousand goat farms in the country. Some of those are producing milk, but in this tour, we check in on a goat farm working specifically to fill a demand for goat meat. After all, goat meat is the most popular red meat in the world, thanks to so much consumption in places like India and the Middle East. And while it doesn’t get a lot of attention here in Canada, the diversity of urban centres has families like Anna’s working to fill a growing appetite for goat.
This is Springvalley Boer Goats and we have Anna touring us around.
This is pretty neat. I don’t know if I’ve ever actually been in a goat barn before, but you’ve got this lovely bright barn here full of goats, including this big fella here. What are you producing here on your farm?
We have a herd of purebred boer goats. The boer goat is a meat goat. So, these are not producing milk for cheese or goat milk. These are a breed of goat raised specifically for meat.
As a goat farmer, what do you do in a day?
As a goat farmer, it varies a little bit depending on the time of year. When I don’t have kidding going on (that’s the time when new goats, called kids, are born), my chores take about an hour in the morning and hour at night on a daily basis. I’m coming out, I’m feeding, I’m checking over all the goats, filling the water buckets. During kidding time, that ramps up quite a bit.
Kidding is the term for when goats are having their young. A female goat is called a doe. A male goat is called a buck and the young are called kids.
The females are pregnant for about five months and goats tend to have multiples. It’s rare to have a single. Usually they have at least twins. Triplets are very common and I’ve had two sets of quadruplets already this year. Because of the higher number of kid goats they’re having, there are a lot more complications that can happen. So, it is really important to be around when they are kidding in order to help if they need assistance.
The kids weigh about eight pounds at birth, and are quite small. When it’s cold out, it’s really important that they get up, dry off and start nursing. A good doe should do all of that on her own, but we like to make sure we’re around to confirm that happens. We don’t want to have any losses because the doe isn’t nursing.
Let’s tour through the barn. You’ve got some fairly little ones here.
This group is my replacement doe group. These are all females that are just under a year. They vary a little bit, there’s a couple that are a bit younger. These will be my females for breeding. They will join the herd. The buck will be going in with them here shortly.
This group has all mature does and as you can see, many of them have kids on them. So about half of these does have kidded and half of them are still due to kid. The kids that are on the ground were born middle of November to early December.
How big are they when you start to market them?
We’re finishing them up to 80 pounds, minimum. In this pen these guys here are about the size that we like to ship them out. They’re about 90 to a hundred pounds and 10 months old. That’s a nice market animal here.
You’ve got a pretty peaceful spot here. There’s not a lot of running around. They’re pretty quiet. Is this normal to have them this quiet?
It is, and this is actually our goal. We don’t want our animals to be stressed and running around. Goat by nature is an animal that is preyed upon by every other animal.
They are very prone to being stressed out, so this is actually a really nice environment for them. You can see they are chewing their cuds.
Why is that important?
Because a stressed out animal is an animal that gets sick. We want an animal that’s healthy and productive. We want to give them as comfortable and as stress-free of an environment as possible. That is our goal in this barn here.
Goat meat is not the most popular meat in Canada. But you mentioned earlier that goat meat is actually the most popular red meat in the world and it’s growing in popularity here in Canada. I’ve had it at a few restaurants, but I wouldn’t know the first thing about cooking it.
What would you say to somebody who wants to try goat meat? They want to take it home. What’s that foolproof recipe that they’re going to love that they can actually do?
Goat meat is fantastic because it can be substituted into recipes you already have. Any favourite recipe that you already have with beef or pork or lamb, you can substitute goat meat.
You can get all the same cuts. It is available as ground meat and we make goat sausage. I always recommend roast beef dinner, so there’s a really nice rolled goat roast. Use your meat thermometer.
The only thing with the goat meat is that there’s very little fat in it. It’s actually a very healthy meat because it has so little fat and very little cholesterol. You don’t want to cook it to well-done, just a nice medium, because you don’t want to overdo it. It does very well in the slow cooker. A lot of people are intimidated, like you say, because they aren’t familiar with it. Goat meat is actually very easy to prepare.
Cool. Well thanks very much for the tour today.
Thank you for stopping by.
Watch the full video by Andrew Campbell, the Fresh Air Farmer