The number of meat goats in Marion County has seen a steady increase during the past few years.
According to Myron and Stephanie Regier of Goessel, like many others, their family acquired meat goats when they needed 4-H projects for their two children, Olivia, 17, and Matthew, 10.
Since then, their herd has grown to 60 producing does.
Just a few years ago, fairs and livestock shows included only a few goats, Myron said. This year, he expects 45-50 goats from Marion County will be shown, and more will advance to state and national levels.
Quite a few families in the Goessel area raise goats. At least 14 members of Goessel Go-Getters 4-H Club exhibit goats.
“Kids can handle them,” Regier said. “It’s something that’s here to stay.”
The demand for goat meat grows as more ethnic groups such as Muslims and Mexicans move to this country.
It is especially in demand during ethnic holidays. Regier said U.S. producers do not produce enough to meet the demand.
The kids (baby goats) are born in January, March, and October. It takes about four months to raise them to optimal market weight of 65-80 pounds. They grow on pellets, brome hay, and alfalfa.
The Regiers auction their goats at Sylvan Grove, Hutchinson, Clay Center, and Yates Center. Prices range from 80 cents per pound in summer to $1.65 currently.
They lease a pasture for their goats. Regier said sometimes people mingle goats with cattle to keep grass free of weeds and invasive plants.
“Goats and cattle eat different things,” he said.
The Regiers run a trained guard dog with their herd to keep predators away. An electric-fence boundary keeps coyotes at bay.
Gary and Marilyn Jones keep four meat-goat does at their farm on the southern outskirts of Peabody. The kids are born in February and sold in August. Some females are kept as replacements when older does are sold.
The Joneses usually “borrow” a buck from other goat owners for a two-month breeding season.
“They’re glad to have us keep the buck for them,” Marilyn said.
The goats receive tetanus and enterotoxemia vaccinations. The latter prevent them from over-eating.
A buyer at Newton purchases the Joneses’ fat goats and transports them to Iowa. Occasionally, customers come from Wichita to buy a goat and process it on site.
“They use every part of the goat,” Marilyn said. “They do a good job of cleaning up before they leave.”
James and Beth Riffel of Tampa have raised goats for 11 years. Currently, they have 50 does, and 27 had kids in January after a five-month gestation period.
The kids are for sale as 4-H projects. Any remaining after April 1 will be sold at area auctions during the peak pre-Easter marketing period.
The Riffels’ sons, Karl, 12, and Kyle, 11, show various animals in 4-H. They care for and train them, but when it comes time to processing the animals — handling, docking tails, worming, and vaccinations — everyone in the family takes part, including six-year-old Kara.
According to Beth Riffel, the goat industry is credited for the increase in female farm operators.
Goats are popular with women because they are relatively easy to handle, she said. She noted goats are hardy animals and do not need a lot of medical attention.
Beth said goats are interesting animals, always interacting with the people around them.
“I’ve been around all kinds of farm animals all of my life,” she said, “but goats have personalities like none others.”