This past month I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Lauren Lovejoy from Regenerative Farmers of America and got the opportunity to share more about our journey with raising meat goats.
There was a lot of ground to cover, both literally and figuratively, but our conversation centered around our grazing methods and decisions, fencing, being a direct-to-consumer farm and moving to e-commerce.
Table of contents
Our Rotational Grazing Journey
When we first purchased our property we knew that it was important to be good stewards of our finances in order to protect ourselves for future business decisions down the line. Being able to utilize the land to its maximum benefit through rotational grazing has helped us financially so we don’t have to bring in outside feed and helps improve the land for both our farming practices and the ecosystem it hosts. Ultimately though, we are still on this journey as we continue in our work to build a resilient herd, improve our rotational grazing methods and stay nimble. It’s all about learning by doing and adapting when necessary.
How to Make Fencing Work for You
You’ve probably heard the saying that if water can get through a fence, a goat can get through. Though that may be a bit of an exaggeration, good fencing is an essential element of keeping goats.
Choosing to raise goats we knew that having a good perimeter fence would be a must and luckily we were able to get a grant as part of EQIP funding in order to have high quality perimeter fencing installed for us, instead of by us. This gave us peace of mind and allowed us to budget our time on other projects. As part of this funding, the fence specs were developed by a USDA-NCRS conservationist/grazing specialist along with some consultation from a well-regarded fence installer. In the end, we went with a 47” high fence that’s made of high tensile woven wire with a strand of hot tensile wire a few inches above and a strand of barbed wire a few inches below to keep predators out and our livestock guardian dogs in, respectively.
My biggest takeaway though when it comes to fencing is that training your goats to the fence is key. We train our goats every grazing season and remind them how the fence works, but they usually get it after a couple days and don’t often challenge the fence, though we do check on them twice a day in case any horns get stuck accidentally. When considering rotational grazing, making sure they have enough to graze on in their current paddock is also key to making sure they aren’t trying to get out and look for more. To subdivide the pasture into these paddocks we like and use Gallagher’s Smart Fence for ease of set up and take down.
For more in depth information on how to train your goats to your fence, check out my free and comprehensive fence training guide.
Our Direct-to-Consumer Model
Before starting to raise meat goats, it was important for us to consider our customer base. We happen to have a diverse population in our area that consumes goats as a meat source, so we knew that we could provide value. Beyond just our immediate area, we knew that there was a hole in the market nationwide for domestically raised goat meat, as it’s most often imported from Australia. Though there was a tangible demand, it was still important for us to market ourselves and connect with our potential customers so we decided to adopt a DTC (direct to consumer) model.
Overall we’ve found there to be less risk with going this route since we’ve been able to develop a larger customer base, as compared to a select few wholesale customers that may drop in and out overtime. DTC also allows us to build relationships with our customers – through our website, social media, and email marketing we share behind the scenes looks and insights, build community, and further expand our customer base. Similarly, we decided to offer ready to use cuts of meat, rather than live goats for further harvesting and processing. We also set up an inspected freezer for on-farm sales as well as an in-house packaging center. We knew taking these steps would make us much more accessible to our customers and would free up time for us to continue to build relationships with them as opposed to being “one and done.” Being transparent and taking your customers along for the journey, rather than feeling as though you’re constantly peddling or selling something, is an important way to help them feel like they really understand your farm and your practices.
Moving to E-Commerce
Moving to an e-commerce site has been the biggest game changer for us in the digital space.
We used to have online forms customers could fill out when they wanted to place an order. I would make sure we had the cuts they were wanting, then email them back to confirm their total and arrange pick up. They’d then email me with a pick up time. And so on and so on. It was frankly a logistical nightmare and I knew that making the purchasing process easier was paramount.
Since making the switch to e-commerce (we use Shopify) as well as streamlining our order fulfillment process, we’ve noticed a significant increase in our sales both for local pickup and nationwide shipping. I really believe this is due in large part to the ease of ordering direct from a farmer that our website provides, without the unnecessary run around.
If you’re in the beginning stages, all these points probably feel a little daunting. Remember, infrastructure is great and important, but just starting small with getting your herd established so you can get a feel of their quirks and habits is a good way to begin. Then explore local markets and livestock avenues in your area to see where you could fit in before considering taking things nationwide. You might be surprised at what opportunities you find around you.
You can find the full interview below:
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