Monday, January 23, 2012

Butchering Dairy Goats for Meat


 We are entering our fifth year raising dairy goats. Initially we did not intend to ever eat our goats. Our plan was to raise does for milk (make cheese), keep two bucks for breeding and sell all the wethered males as pets, pack or companion animals.  At first we wanted to find good homes for the boys and didn't want to sell them for meat except as a last resort. From where I stand now, the flaw in this plan is that there is a low demand for wethered (neutered) male goats, and lack of people who will actually take good care of a non-producing goat. Our experiences have been that people don't take good care of male goats. Potential buyers come out to visit the herd, they talk about their barn, how they'll buy good hay and feed them grain, etc. On one occasion I got a call mid winter that one of the wethers died overnight. They had no idea why. After further investigation, it looks like they didn't have warm enough shelter, and were underfed, so a combination of death by starvation/freezing. After a couple of negative selling experiences we decided that it would be better to sell the wethers to someone who is going to butcher them responsibly as opposed to selling them to owners who are not going to care for them properly.

In the last five years we have gone from eating a mostly vegetarian diet to eating lots of locally and self raised meat, chickens, ducks, turkey and then game given to us, moose and caribou making up our red meat. So, it only made sense that we take the next logical approach and try our own goat meat. This summer we butchered our first goat for meat. She was a three year old doe who had never had a noticeable heat cycle. She was our first goat that we did not breed the first year and we fed her grain when she was younger. I suspect that she got too fat, and it affected her ability to go into heat. 

I'm not going to give a step by step of how to kill and butcher a goat. And you don't have to keep reading if you don't want to go here. However I will go over the basics. My brother does my dirty work. We separate the goat from the herd, offer them tasties, weeds or grain, then he shoots them in the back of the head with a twenty-two pistol, and slits their throat. The next step is hanging them up, skinning and gutting them, which I help with. Our first doe went from alive to wrapped and packaged into the freezer in about four hours. This fall, we let the wether carcases sit in a cool area overnight before cutting them up. In the future, I think that we will butcher goats according to the outdoor temperature, so that we can age the meat for two to three days or more before cutting and packaging.

Our plan from now on is to keep a handful of wethers. Leave them on their dams for the first ten weeks. Separate them into their own pen and feed them hay and garden trimmings until late October/early November. This next year we are not going to neuter them, as they should grow faster and bigger. We'll just have to experiment and see if the young bucks are more flavorful than the the neutered males. 

I should have written this post while the details of cutting up meat was still fresh in my mind. My brother played around with different ways of cutting the ribs. Usually a bone saw is used to cut the ribs and get goat chops (lamb chops) My brother used a hand saw with a blade for cutting wood. This worked pretty well.






 When it was all said and done we had 65 pounds of bone in meat from two seven month old wethers. I am guessing we got close to the same amount of meat off the three year old doe - maybe fifty pounds of bone in meat. As far as taste goes, we have been surprised and honestly, thrilled at how tasty the meat is (never having eaten goat before).

Some key details to keep in mind when thinking about butchering and eating goat meat, is that the goats are small compared to cows and moose etc. So most of the cuts have bones in them, lots of bone surrounded by a little meat. Most of the cuts are better slow cooked in stews, braised roasts, curries or ground up. All of our slow cooked goat meals start the same way, well salted and peppered goat roast seared in oil, on medium high heat all around. Then add garlic, onions and liquid, chicken stock, beer or wine. My favorite flavorings are a little molasses, fresh rosemary and thyme, dijon, whiskey and chicken broth. Other favorites are BBQ pulled goat meat, and red wine and fresh thyme braise with vegetables. When I'm not in the mood to deal with bones at the dinner table, I follow the same steps, but pull the meat out and after it cools, cut all the meat off the bone and return chunks of meat to the pan and reheat before serving. We have done a couple dry leg roasts in the oven that have turned out good. The key to keeping it tender seems to be to cook it to medium rare. I might even try a salt brine the next time we do a dry roast, to increase juiciness and flavor.

We have eaten some cuts; ribs, tenderloin, backstrap, goat chops, cooked fast and hot on the grill or pan seared and finished in the oven. These cuts, seasoned well and cooked fast, are our favorites and come closest to being steak like in texture and flavor - only we are usually gnawing around a bone at the end.

A note on goatiness/ game taste. The meat usually doesn't taste very goaty to us. The exception to this is when I reheat leftovers and there is an excess of fat. To remedy this, I cut most the excess fat off before cooking, and then after a braised dish cools down, I skim the fat off before reheating. Some of the fat on the better cuts tastes milder and is good enough that I often find myself tasting bits of fat to check if they are goaty or not before discarding. Some of our friends and family appreciate the goaty/ gamey taste. My brother has hunted Dall sheep over the last few years. When I taste the fat on the Dall sheep, it tastes very buck like to me. I don't care for it. I did render down a batch of lard from our first doe who had armloads of fat inside. I have yet to use it. I am planing on making soap with it and trying it in pie crust for meat pies.

Final thoughts. Local goat meat is selling for around five to six dollars a pound at Home Grown Market. When local goat owners sell live goats for meat, I believe the hoof on price is $1.75 a pound. Given that we are working towards a self sufficient lifestyle and that we are meat eaters, it only makes sense that we eat our culled animals. The most difficult part about eating goat, is actually killing the animals. They are intelligent and friendly animals. They can easily become pets and close friends. They are also expensive to feed and house. They are time consuming to care for. The more pets, animals, livestock, goats you have, the less attention each animal gets. As a herd owner, I think that butchering and eating your extra wethers is doable, worthwhile, practical, and while not the easiest decisions to make, it sure is nice to have a stockpile of your own red meat in the freezer.

22 comments:

JeffJustJeff said...

Wonderful post. I have friends who do this. This spring will be our first kidding season.I have eaten goat and enjoyed it. I'm just not sure if I can do it. Time will tell. I do butcher my own poultry, but it just doesn't seem the same.

Denise said...

I think you have the right idea about butchering the wethers after having bad experiences with them dying due to others' neglect. In the end, you're able to get a good amount of meat from these animals, and that's food on the table!
Thank you for such an educational post because this is REAL life stuff, and I had no issues reading from start to finish. I come from a hunting family and to me this is normal!

5'10" Irish said...

I know it can be hard to go from the "looking you in the eye" to skinning, but if you eat meat it just makes so much good sense.

Have you tried making goat pho? I bet it would be just wonderful.

Aimee said...

Great post. We do about the same thing: I have four dairy mamas, and each year I will make an attempt to sell the kids at about eight weeks, while they are still small and cute, to responsible owners. However, the market around here is not strong and I won't sell them super cheap: I think it encourages people to think of them as worthless animals and not spend the needed money on feed and care. Plus, they are worth more to me as meat.

If I can't sell babies, I will keep them on the dams (I separate at night, milk in the morning, and then let the babies nurse all day) all summer, until the fields die back in late fall. Then it's butchering time.

Luckily, we have a large network of friends who come from goat-eating cultures, so there is no lack of buyers.

I agree that goat meat is best cooked low and slow. I like a several hours long braise with beer, wine, or juice as the liquid. There are many great recipes from Indian, Mexican, and Caribbean cultures for goat.

Aimee said...

PS I forgot to ask, what breed are your dairy goats? Ours are Nubians, which are sometimes called a "dual purpose" breed. They are known for giving a good carcass.

Emily said...

Out goats are Lamanchas. I wouldn't say they have a meaty carcass but I haven't butchered any other goats. Haven't made Goat pho yet, but sounds great. emily

Denise said...

Thanks for this post! I'm going to have to chat with you next time I'm in FBX and have some time. We are considering this as well, and since we have the boer-nubian crosses, it makes good sense to me. IF we can avoid feeding them all winter! :/

Jewel said...

Great post, thank you for sharing your experience. We're still in our first year with goats, but already are thinking about what will happen if the wethers don't sell.

I came to learn about Lamancha's through your site and finally this last summer we got goats on our farm. Of course I wanted a Lamancha, and got a one year old doe in milk, along with a yearling Nubian Doe and 3 Nigerians(2 does and a wether) the Nigerian buck came in December.

The Lamancha has given us our family of 5 all the milk we drink, we haven't had to buy any. Plus she's our favorite, and is such a character and sweetheart, although we adore them all.

Love reading and hearing what you're doing way up there. I learned a lot just from this last post, thanks.

Kevin Kossowan said...

I find the journey from largely vegetarian to meat-eating farmers an interesting one. Seems that level of connection with your food changes the equation of why most people object to meat in the first place.

Great post.

Sustainable Eats said...

Emily thanks for posting this. I have five bred mini Nubians right now and my plan is similar to yours. You can get $100 per wether IF you can sell. If not we will eat them. I like the taste of goat meat, I just need to learn the best way to slaughter and break the carcass down. Thanks for posting this!

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Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for all the information, and thank you for being a stay at home mom. I like all your ideas for the goats. We hope to butcher in the next 2 weeks. Some of our meat we will make into sausage. We'll mix the goat with pork roast and seasonings. Garlic is a must. There is a couple close by that make summer sausage. We'll try that. We've had goat meat before and liked it. Our goats have been well fed and we expect their meat to be very good. The hard part will be that the largest wether is a pet. I started in with goats and chickens again because I wanted our great granddaughter who is 5 to experience farm life. We've had fun. We have Nigerian Dwarfs.

Christine Viernes said...

How was the meat of the 3 year old doe? We have two Boer goat does that are almost 2 years old and are considering butchering one of them.
Thanks!
Christine

Emily said...

Christine, the meat from our three year old was good. She was very fatty and I found that it is the fat that tends to taste goaty, so I like to trim it off. I did render down enough to make a large batch of goat lard/milk soap. I have never had Boar goat meat, but I have heard that not only do they grow faster and are meatier, but the meat may taste better as well - I'm very curious about the taste of meat goats. best wishes, Emily

Anonymous said...

Aimee when you leave the babies on all summer and milk in the morning are the babies only doelings ? And if buckling you make him a wether ?

Unknown said...

Hi there- I am interested in what you found when allowing the goats to mature with testicles intact before slaughter. We noticed they did grow bigger, but are worried about the "goaty" taste/smell. Did your bucklings end up turning out well? We have one who is almost a year, who is intact, and we're deciding if we should try neutering him then slaughtering a little later. Any advice welcome!

Emily said...

Considering that I only had one intact buckling and one neutered whether this year, I'm not sure I can go by their weight growth. By buckling actually grew smaller but that is because I had to take him off his dam whereas the whether got to stay with his mom an extra few months and nurse and as a result he was significantly larger. We had friends butcher one of our four year old bucks this past month and they are very happy with the meat. The main thing we've noticed is not to let the outside coat come into contact with the meat, clean of all hairs, and trim off the fat, all of those things tend to make the meat goatier. I would just wait till your buckling is out of rut, about now? or the next month or two? before butchering and skip the hassle of whethering.

Emily said...

Considering that I only had one intact buckling and one neutered whether this year, I'm not sure I can go by their weight growth. By buckling actually grew smaller but that is because I had to take him off his dam whereas the whether got to stay with his mom an extra few months and nurse and as a result he was significantly larger. We had friends butcher one of our four year old bucks this past month and they are very happy with the meat. The main thing we've noticed is not to let the outside coat come into contact with the meat, clean of all hairs, and trim off the fat, all of those things tend to make the meat goatier. I would just wait till your buckling is out of rut, about now? or the next month or two? before butchering and skip the hassle of whethering.

Emily said...

Considering that I only had one intact buckling and one neutered whether this year, I'm not sure I can go by their weight growth. By buckling actually grew smaller but that is because I had to take him off his dam whereas the whether got to stay with his mom an extra few months and nurse and as a result he was significantly larger. We had friends butcher one of our four year old bucks this past month and they are very happy with the meat. The main thing we've noticed is not to let the outside coat come into contact with the meat, clean of all hairs, and trim off the fat, all of those things tend to make the meat goatier. I would just wait till your buckling is out of rut, about now? or the next month or two? before butchering and skip the hassle of whethering.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the article. Just trying to look up different cuts of goat to make at home and stumbled upon this. I butchered 5 six month old bucks last year. I prepared and packaged them myself. The meat was great. Once in awhile my wife says she got a little bit of a "goaty" taste to the meat (very rare). I wouldn't let bucks go much longer than six months of age before slaughtering though. Wethers would probably be ok for a bit longer. You may get a higher meat yield with an older goat, but was it worth substituting feed over time? Keep costs in check.

Cecelia W said...

If you can age the carcass for 1-2 weeks before butchering the meat will be much more tender, and the carcass much easier to disjoint. Long slow cooking is best. The meat may look like lamb, but tastes rather like a cross between beef and pork; very flavorful and succulent. I am guilty of overfeeding too, but since my gardens thrive on their waste nothing is really lost, and the milk and cheese are superb.

Anonymous said...

Very nice post. Just found it. Very informative, clear. Thank you.