Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to interview Suzanne Gasparotto, owner of Onion Creek Ranch in Texas and developer of Tennessee Meat Goats and TexMasters™. While researching for this blog, I went through Suzanne’s articles on MeatGoatMania. Trying to find a subject she hasn’t covered was difficult since her knowledge spans an extensive variety of goat-related topics. I used this interview to compile essential information that people need to know before buying and raising goats. Suzanne has graciously allowed Jeffers in the past to reprint articles from her website www.tennesseemeatgoats.com and her online magazine MeatGoatMania, but this time I got to interview her on the basics of successful goat raising.
Prior to purchasing goats, double check all local and state laws that might affect your ability to house goats on the property you’ve selected. Additionally, check out the availability of any agricultural exemptions for local property taxes, which vary on a state-by-state basis.
First and foremost, Suzanne encourages anyone whose perception of goats is that “they mostly raise themselves” to just walk away. While, yes, that at first does seem harsh, she’s adamant that the species be fully understood and adequately cared for. “Most people’s perception of goats is 180 degrees out of sync with reality,” Suzanne says. To educate both future and current goat owners, she hosts GoatCamp™ annually at her Texas ranch. Begun in 2001, GoatCamp™ is a four-day seminar that covers the basics of successfully raising meat goats. Students come away from GoatCamp™ with a broad and expanded level of knowledge on topics like proper nutrition, parasites (including FAMACHA training), adequate housing (no over-crowding), and diseases and illnesses affecting goats.
5 Keys to Successfully Raising Goats
Suzanne’s article The Dont’s of Raising Goats touches upon five keys to goat-raising success: proper climate, lots of land, good nutrition, excellent management, and quality genetics. Don’t buy breeding stock from auctions; you are buying other people’s problems. “Registered” doesn’t mean quality animals. There is much more to quality breeding stock than papers. Without quality genetics, you will be fighting an uphill battle. Quality genetics comes from long-time breeders with well-established reputations. Suzanne says, “I can teach you how to raise healthy animals of any breed, but if you want MEAT, you need my Tennessee Meat Goats™ and TexMasters™ because they are the only two breeds that put MEAT on your does’ offspring.”
Foremost to keeping goats healthy is proper nutrition. Suzanne states, “Goats prefer weeds and leaves; they are not grazers and need to eat ‘from the top down’ to avoid stomach worms at ground level.” People usually either overfeed their goats or starve them. The hardest thing to get right is a proper level of nutrition. Goats layer fat like humans and over-feeding goes to produce excess fat. Free-choice top-quality grass hay is essential, even if forage/browse is available. Feed pelleted, not textured (horse & mule) feed to goats.
According to Suzanne, all breeds of goats are dry-land animals. Avoid wet, marshy climates as they are a breeding ground for diseases such as worms and hoof rot. Raising goats in a dry environment means healthier goats. Almost all problems with goats trace back to improper management. Improper management includes incorrect feeding, over-crowding, and too-wet conditions. With goats, it’s almost always the simplest thing that goes wrong with them, and that usually starts with stomach worms.
Suzanne says, “Goats are not populated based on a number of goats per acre. There is no valid formula for raising ‘x’ number of goats per acre. Availability of plant materials does NOT determine animal load. The determining factor for raising meats goats is how well you can control the worm load. Once you start having worms, you are already over-populated.” She says, “if you must have a goats-per-acre ratio, I would tell you that any more than two goats per acre is too much, and might still be too crowded.”
Three main points Suzanne wants readers to come away with are goats need a dry climate, a lot of acreage (never over-crowd — never “feed lot”), and proper nutrition. You cannot starve the profit out of goats.
To learn more about goats and proper goat husbandry, subscribe to MeatGoatMania on Yahoogroups and read Suzanne’s articles on www.tennesseemeatgoats.com. Learn to Think Like a Goat, and your job and your goats’ lives will vastly improve. For further information regarding raising meat goats, see Suzanne’s article Everything You Wanted to Know About Raising Meat Goats but Didn’t Know Who to Ask.
Suzanne W. Gasparotto is the owner of Onion Creek Ranch in Texas. She also owns ChevonTalk on Yahoogroups and is co-owner with Pat Cotten of Bending Tree Ranch in Arkansas of MeatGoatMania on Yahoogroups. She created Tennessee Meat Goats™ by selectively breeding full-blood Myotonic goats to produce the only meat goat without any dairy influence whatsoever. Suzanne also developed the TexMaster™ breed as the ultimate commercial meat breed. For more information or questions, contact her at 325-344-5775 (phone) or firstname.lastname@example.org (email). Onion Creek Ranch is located in McCulloch County, Texas, but will soon be moving to Burnet County, Texas 50 miles northwest of Austin, Texas.