JACKSON -- It used to be that when a goat was chased into the auction ring at a local sale barn, the farmers would snicker and wait for the real livestock -- sheep, cattle and pigs, to be brought into the ring. After all, who would want to take a...
JACKSON -- It used to be that when a goat was chased into the auction ring at a local sale barn, the farmers would snicker and wait for the real livestock -- sheep, cattle and pigs, to be brought into the ring. After all, who would want to take a goat home only to see it jump over the fence, ruin the wife's garden and pull the clothes off the line?
But, oh, how times have changed.
While goats still jump over fences, continue to enjoy garden vegetables and always try to nibble on clothes, they are growing in popularity -- not for the reasons just mentioned, but because the animals are proving profitable in the market.
At the Jackson Livestock Exchange Friday night, goat owners and buyers from the four-state area -- and Pennsylvania --converged for a 6 p.m. sale featuring more than 1,000 head of goats of all kinds, from Spanish Boer goats known for their meat production to an assortment of dairy breeds including French Alpine, Oberhasli and various crossbreeds.
A monthly goat and sheep sale was introduced in April at the Jackson Sale Barn as a way to give all producers a market for their goats, according to Trent Kolander, sale barn owner and auctioneer. In the past, goat owners had to take their stock to specialty sales in Sioux Falls, S.D., or Sioux Center, Iowa, for the best prices.
"There's a lot of goats in the country and now we don't have to run all over," said Mary Ann Hasara, a rural Lakefield goat farmer.
For the second month in a row, the auction has garnered more than 1,000 goats -- making it the largest goat sale in the state, she said.
So why is there a market for goats?
"It's the No. 1 red meat of the world," said Dave DeGroot, a Larchwood, Iowa, goat buyer who gets his stock primarily from eastern South Dakota. The goats DeGroot buys are shipped to Ohio, where they are sorted and sent to small-scale processors on the East Coast, mainly in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
As the United States becomes home to more and more Hispanics, Asians and natives of Third World countries, Kolander said demand for goat meat has steadily risen. However, people accustomed to eating goat meat in their home country can't find it at the meat counter of their local grocery store.
"When they have celebrations, they want goat meat," said DeGroot, adding that people like to choose from a selection of live goats at the locker plant, and many prefer to do their own processing of the animal. The optimal weight for processing, he said, depends on the ethnic group. Some like the 40-pound goat, while others prefer goats weighing about 120 pounds.
U.S. consumption of goat meat increased 14 percent in 2005, said DeGroot. If the same growth had occurred in the beef or pork industries during the same one-year period, it would have been phenomenal, he noted.
In addition to the demand for goat meat by certain ethnic groups, DeGroot said it is becoming increasingly popular among American consumers. Goat meat now appears on menus at fine restaurants all along the East Coast.
DeGroot said the market price for goats traditionally slumps in July and August, but picks up again by September as the holiday season approaches. The price for a 60-pound goat, he added, averages about 80 cents per pound.
Dennis Johnson of Blue Earth was hoping Friday's auction would provide a good price for the 300 Boer goats he brought. The breeding-age Boers accounted for most of his herd -- he kept five back at home. The sale was the third Johnson has attended in Jackson, and he said he was impressed at the prices paid for goats during previous sales.
Before Jackson began offering its goat sale, Johnson said he primarily sold his animals privately off the farm. Now, he likes having a goat auction within an hour's drive of home.
"It's closer -- that's the biggest reason," he said of hauling goats to the Jackson sale. "Gas is too high to drive (elsewhere)."
Johnson began raising Boer goats three years ago, and he said he enjoys having them around. He buys goats from Texas at about 30 pounds and feeds them out on his rural Blue Earth farm, selling them as 80- to 90-pound yearlings.