Michael Shirley, TFBF Intern
agricultural commodities have enjoyed strong market growth
in the past few years in Tennessee. One market that has continued
to expand and at the same time maintain a favorable price
is the goat industry. The goat population in Tennessee is
estimated to be around fifty thousand, second only to Texas,
based on the USDA's 1997 census of agriculture. There are
several reasons behind the boom in the Tennessee goat industry.
The higher number of small farms, increase in ethnic populations,
and the need for alternative crops for traditonal farmers
have all played key roles in the goat numbers.
more of Tennessee's rural landscape shifts from large family
farms to houses with acreage plots, the type and quantity
of livestock the land can sustain has changed as well. Goats
can thrive on all of Tennessee's different landscapes. Charles
Lawson, board member for the Tennessee Goat Producers Association,
says that you can run about six to eight goats per acre on
average depending on type of terrain and quality of forages.
Goats are an easy animal for small landowners to care for,
and they offer a chance to make a profit on a small set-up.
most popular breeds of goat in Tennessee are the meat type
breeds such as Boer, Kiko, and crosses of these varieties.
The popularity of these breeds is due in large part to demand
for goat meat continuing to rise as more ethnic populations
move to the area. But not all of the goats sold in Tennessee
are consumed in Tennessee. Many of the goats purchased at
stockbarns all around Tennessee are shipped to the New England
area where demand for goat meat is the strongest.
Baker, a livestock marketing specialist for the Tennessee
Department of Agriculture (TDA), says that several programs
have been started to help the goat industry. One of the things
that the Tennessee Department of Agriculture is doing to assist
the goat industry is by having graded sales. This is where
one of our livestock graders will attend the sale and grade
the goats. Goats are graded either choice, prime, or utility.
Goat prices at these graded sales have tended to be considerably
higher than other area sales where the goats are not graded.
Baker explains this trend, when [the goats] go through the
auction, the buyers know what type of goat they're getting.
They know whether it's going to be something to take home
and feed to fatten up for a better sale or if it's going to
be ready to go to slaughter now and what type quality they
are getting. Currently, there are two regular graded sales
in Tennessee. The Tennessee Livestock Producers have a graded
sale at Thompson Station the second and fourth Friday of every
month, and at Sommerville on the first Friday of each month.
tobacco farmers are also beginning to raise goats as an alternative
crop. Many areas where tobacco is grown make ideal locations
for goat farms. Baker suggests using existing tobacco barns
as shelters for goats. You can very easily take an old tobacco
barn and economically put some pens in it and turn it into
a goat barn.
future of the Tennessee goat industry appears bright. With
the continuing demand for goat meat from the ethnic populations
and the increasing acceptance of goat meat from other consumers,
the market should continue to expand. Wayne Barnes, manager
of the Thompson Station Sheep and Goat Sale, echoes this sentiment
and adds another thought. More people are eating goats now
and one thing I¹ve found is that in Texas, a lot of the
big ranches are being sold off and split up. That means less
goats in that area. That will open the market up for more
goats in the Southeast to be produced and a bigger, better
market. If it stays like it is, it¹s a good thing to