Marketing the Whole Goat
When Chuck and Lacey Donaldson moved from South Carolina to their farm in Laclede County, Mo., in December of 2000, it was “a life-change," said Lacey. She said that she grew up as a city girl, but spent summers on her aunt’s farm near Poplar Bluff, Mo. Chuck, a native of Wisconsin, spent several years on his grandparents’ farm whenhis mother contracted tuberculosis while he was a young boy. Due to his experience with severe winter weather, Missouri was as far north as he cared to move.
The move was also a “culture shock” to daughter Dana, who graduated from Plato High School in a class of 33. “She would have been lucky to have any classroom that small back in South Carolina,” Lacey said. After living in New York State for a while, Dana is back on the farm and contemplating studying veterinary medicine. She helps Lacey with most of the farm chores.
Chuck and Lacey made the decision to raise goats because in the event something catastrophic happened to Chuck, a goat operation would be manageable for Lacey to handle by herself. Although no catastrophe has befallen him, Chuck has taken a job asan over-the-road truck driver, so Lacey has found herself doing most of the farming. “It’s been a good choice,” she said. According to Lacey, they are still pleased with their choice because “goats have meat, milk and fiber," all of which can be marketed, and “they also make good pets.”
Lacey discovered the benefits of using goat milk in soap when Chuck had skin problems from commercial soaps and laundry detergents. “I was doing some research on the Internet and found out about using goat milk in laundry detergent,” she said. Chuck no longer experiences the skin problems, so Lacey now uses only goat soap for laundry and personal purposes. She developed a market for the soap when “I started giving away soap for gifts and people wanted to buy it,” she said.
Their proximity to Fort Leonard Wood has given the Donaldsons an expanded market for goat meat. “One of my neighbors works at the Fort. She knows a lot of people who are looking for goats,” explained Lacey. She said some people from the Fort have also driven the countryside and stopped when they saw their goats. “We have folks from the Fort who come out to purchase meat goats. They can butcher here and take it home.” At times, Chuck and Lacey may also share a goat barbecue with customers.
Lacey’s greatest challenge in raising goats is the uncertainty of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). She feels that implementation of NAIS would increase her paperwork to the point it would threaten the operation. “Even if I get down to where it’s just for my own use, we will still be required to have a number.”
Another challenge is buying hay for the goats. “We had been growing our own hay, which was a big plus,” she said, “but now it’s hard to find someone to do it. Last winter I was buying hay wherever I could find it. This year we bought it ahead from one local farmer. It’s in square bales, so I can handle it.”
Lacey learned much about raising goats from the Internet and from other goat producers. She advised that, although goats require less intensive maintenance than some other livestock, it would be difficult to start raising goats and marketing the product without these resources.
Lacey said that her greatest rewards in raising goats have come from helping people. Older people and infants are often helped by the palatability and easy digestion of goat milk. Goat milk has been found to be especially good for those who are lactose intolerant or have allergies.
Lacey said she has also been rewarded by “the great people” she has met from the Fort.