Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pen-fed Goats Outperform Pasture Goats

This was the third year in which the health, performance,and carcass characteristics of pen-fed vs. pasture-raised goats was compared. Pen-fed goats (n=15) were fed a diet of hay (free choice) and whole barley (limit-fed). Pasture (n=14) goats grazed alongside the bucks in the 2013 Western Maryland Pasture-Based Meat Goat Performance Test.

The pen-fed goats performed well.

Similar to the goats in the test, the study goats were handled bi-weekly to determine body weights, FAMACHA©, body condition, coat condition, dag, and fecal consistency scores. Individual fecal samples were collected bi-weekly.

This year, pen feeding proved to be more profitable, as the pen goats grew faster, were healthier, and produced superior carcasses. Using assigned USDA grades, New Holland (PA) slaughter kids prices, and final weights, it was estimated that the pen-fed goats were worth $66 more at the end of the study than the pen goats.

The profitability of pen feeding (vs. pasture rearing) will vary by farm and year. This year's significant worm challenge and strong market definitely favored pen feeding.

 USDA grade
Price per cwt
Avg. weight
Value per head

Pending funding, the pen vs. pasture study will be repeated in 2014. A uniform set of bucklings, weighing between 40 and 50 lbs. (at the beginning of June) will be needed for next year's study.

The pen vs. pasture studies in 2012 and 2013 were funded by the Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board.