Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What to do with the Boys? Wethered Male Goats

Mamas lounging with their kids. In this picture the kids are spread out a bit, whereas often the kids will be in piles with their sister or brothers all pressed up against mom.

The sad reality is that we don't need or want the boys as much as the girls. Does give us milk. They do need to be bred every year, or three, to keep in milk, but one buck goes a long way. It is rather ridiculous of us to be keeping three bucks with such a small herd. We most likely wouldn't keep any bucks if there were healthy and local Lamancha bucks available for buck service. 

Our goal in keeping goats is to provide all the milk and cheese that we can use. We also have the numbers that if dairy legislation became more lax we could easily have surplus milk in the next year or two. We do love not needing to rely on outside goats to breed to every year. When the time comes to walk my does up the hill for a date, I rejoice that I am not packing her into the truck and driving an hour or more to breed her to a stranger buck that regardless of what someone says, I couldn't ever know how healthy their buck is like I know the health of my own goats.

We have no need for extra males. We have brush clearers aplenty, we just need more fencing. We don't need any more pets or companion wethers. When we first got into goats I thought we would always try and sell our bucklings as pets as opposed to being raised for meat. I have changed my mind on this matter. I believe that it is better to live a short quality life with a dignified death, than live a long life of neglect. There are folks who are interested in full sized dairy goat males as pets who will take good care of them, and I am more than happy to sell to them. However, good owners can be hard to find. Rather than sell wethers to people I'm not confident about, I will sell them to responsible individuals who intend to provide them with pasture or browse for the summer, followed by a quick and respectful death come fall, winter or the following spring. 

You may be wondering why we don't just raise them and eat them ourselves. The main reason is that we don't want to. Neither D or I, want to take on killing and slaughtering one of our own goat kids. Nor do we want to load them up, drop them off at a slaughterhouse and pay forty-five cents a pound for someone else to process the meat for us. We don't have enough land fenced in. We don't have enough land period. We would have to feed hay as a majority of their diet, which adds to the end cost of the meat. 

Having said this, I feel that it is not practical or sensible to care for these goat kids, disbud them, wether them, feed them, and then at eight weeks of age give them away because we don't want to be feeding them anymore, (and they can technically breed at ten- twelve weeks or so, so they'd have to have their own stall and pen). I have never tasted goat meat, but I would like to. I know that around the world it is more common that beef. I think that learning how to properly butcher a goat would be a worthwhile thing to know. Afterall, at some point we may lose goats that would be just fine for eating, and we could bury them in a deep hole, take them to the dump (seriously people do this and it is legal), or we could butcher the animal and have our own fresh goat meat. What is more respectful? To let an animal rot in the ground, or to use all of it and not let it go to waste? I know I am on touchy ground here, but I have given this topic much thought lately. When we help butcher pigs this fall, I have a feeling that a lot of parts could easily go to waste. I am hoping to not be overwhelmed at the time, to have a plan for each part of the animal and see it through, including the head, hooves, and yes tail and ears too. 

Raising animals for meat is not easy. Giving them happy and healthy lives is our first obligation. Second is killing them as quickly as possible, without making a stressful situation for the animal. Last would be using all of the animal, not letting meat and other edible parts waste, and then I suppose saying a little thanks and acknowledging the animal when you are preparing and eating it. 

At this time we are not meeting our own standards for raising our animals as healthy as we'd like, and the main reason is space. Since first getting into goats, I've realized that they would be much healthier if they had several acres to browse year round. With the chickens we would like to have them on pasture and move them daily so they are not sitting in their own filth. The layers aren't as bad. We clean out their coop fairly regularly and they do get chances to get out depending on the time of year. I notice it the most with the Cornish, especially if it is muddy out that they just eat and poop a lot more and spend more time laying around. We have a couple small poultry tractors built. We are hoping to build two more this summer that move around easier on our hillsides and rough terrain.

Getting back to what to do with male goats. Here is my ideal scenario. I would like to work out an arrangement where I give/sell the wethered males to someone who has at least some experience raising and butchering animals for meat. This person would take at least two goats (so they'd have each-other for company). The goats would be on fenced pasture or woods with some sort of shelter that they could get out of the rain and wind. They could be killed going into winter or housed in more durable warmer housing for the winter and killed in the spring or following fall. As far as keeping costs down, it would make the most sense for someone to butcher the goats themselves as opposed to taking them to a slaughterhouse. If they had to feed the goats hay, over the course of the winter, the cost would also go up. However, the goats will probably be in the eighty pound range come fall, whereas they'll be twice that size a year later. Ideally I'd be interested in working out a deal where I get some meat in return for waiving the initial purchase cost of the animals. I will be talking to interested folks in depth, possibly even visiting the farms where the animals are going. I need to make sure that they will be well taken care of, and if they are truly on pasture or browse, well that is about as happy as a goat can be.


Spring Lake Farm said...

Since this was our first year having kids and we only had one buckling, I was lucky enough to find someone that wanted a large goat as a horse companion. We will be faced with this dilemma next year though. It is very thought provoking and you did a great job outlining the different options. Good luck and I'll stay posted for updates.


Kathleen said...

At what age do you whether your males? I've read such conflicting information, just curious what you do.

Emily said...

Kathleen, it depends on whether they are being sold for meat or pets. If they are going to live long lives they should be done later, for meat it doesn't matter as much. The main concern is the ability to pass stones if they are done to early. If I am selling them I usually try and do them by six weeks, that gives me three to five weeks to sell them and make sure they are done by then. I haven't done any yet this year,I have one, possibly two to do right now.

elizabeth said...

We are starting our herd this spring and I've been lying awake trying to think of what to do with the boys. Our "lawn mower" Firework is our first goat and we love him to pieces. Have you sold any for meat yet? How did it go? We seem to be of similar mind with the dilemma.
Thank you!

Emily said...

I've sold a couple young wethers for meat. It was easy money - but I'm not sure if the buyers knew what they were doing. I decided to keep all the boys from now on and butcher them ourselves. The meat is good and I love having our own red meat. I don't handle or bond with the young boys intentionally - otherwise we'd have a bunch of male pet goats. :)

Anonymous said...


I know I could never kill or allow someone to kill animals I've raised. So here are some resources that may help regarding the boys:


Dual purpose milk & fibre goat breeds so you get income from both milk & shearing the valuable winter coat - http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/choosing-goat-breeds-for-fiber.html

Good luck!

-Jay :)

Emily said...

Thanks Jay, I will check out the links. WE've come a long way since I've written this post. It didn't take long for us to become goat meat fans - and while it is not easy, we can't afford to feed them all nor can we find homes for them all - but there are certainly other good uses for the boys other than breeding or eating, I agree. Emily

Sybil said...

What a helpful informative post. We live in a culture that is so divorced from our food. Your goats and pigs are treated with respect and killed humanely. Whereas the meat that is sold in the big chain stores is from factory farms where the animals lived awful lives and ingested who knows what sort of crap to help them grow. This is my long-winded way of saying, "good for you".

Best wishes, Sybil in Nova Scotia

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the thoughtful post from Emily, and at the same time with all due respect I have to say that I would find it a violation of my personal ethics and values to use animals in this way when we don't have to for our own health and welfare. There are terrific vegan cheeses and milks that are as satisfying (to me, at least) as goat cheese and milk, so I just don't understand the drive to use animals like this. I don't see how one can simultaneously claim to love them and cull them, sell their babies for slaughter, etc. when there is no need to do so. I realize this perspective is probably a minority in this group here but it is also a valid part of the conversation and I appreciate those of you who read this giving my points some consideration. I am posting this anonymously to avoid haters -- and I am not a hater either, I just don't understand or agree with the decision to keep and use animals like this. Here is a recipe for a plant-based "goat cheese": http://thecrushingcancerkitchen.com/condiment/vegan-goat-cheese/