Linda Benedict | 10/12/2016 6:37:12 PM
Louisiana is not known as a major goat-producing state. But for those interested in the industry, there is a market for their animals, according to LSU AgCenter animal scientist Ken McMillin.
“Goat producers in Louisiana numbered about 600, with a total inventory of 19,000 head of meat goats as of January of this year,” McMillin said, adding that these figures are from the 2014 LSU AgCenter Ag Summary.
One reason Louisiana is not a major goat producer can be attributed to the weather conditions in the state.
“Goats tend to do better in dry, arid conditions, which is the reason that over 38 percent of the meat goat production is in the hill country of Texas,” he said.
The size of the industry was even smaller before Hurricane Katrina caused an influx of Hispanic and Muslim residents to New Orleans.
Consumption of goat meat is more of a cultural or ethnic commodity, McMillin said. “About 50 percent of the meat consumed here is imported from Australia – the world’s largest exporter.”
The one major goat processor in the state, Rouchers, in Plaquemine, is now slaughtering about 500 head per week, even though the Muslim holy month of Ramadan ended July 18, he said. That’s about 50 percent higher than their weekly average throughout the year.
Ramadan is a time of fasting from dawn to sundown, when food and drink can be consumed moderately, but there are larger meals on the weekends and feasts at the end of the religious holiday.
“Rouchers now has four Muslim buyers who come in and slaughter goats and take the carcasses primarily to New Orleans,” he said.
The small size of the goat industry in Louisiana has proven to be a disadvantage because it is less organized than other meat industries.
Another disadvantage to the goat meat industry is that for most meat animals, the processors are located close to the areas of production, but not goats.
New Jersey is the largest slaughter state for goats, McMillin said. “As far as rankings go, Texas is No. 1 in meat goat production, followed by Tennessee and Oklahoma. Louisiana comes in at 26.”
When looking at preferences, there are quite a few. Louisiana consumers prefer fresh goat meat but will purchase frozen meat imported from Australia.
On the West Coast, Asian consumers prefer skin-on goat meat, much like pork is traditionally processed, McMillin said.
McMillin said most of the extension publications on goat production have been developed at 1890 land-grant institutions, including Langston University in Langston, Oklahoma; Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama; and Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, Alabama.
Sebhatu Gebrelul, an animal scientist, and Dr. Renita Marshall, a veterinarian, both at Southern University in Baton Rouge, have ongoing goat projects at their university, which is also an 1890 institution.
“One of the highlights of our program is a new grant from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry that will provide for a Master Small Ruminant certification similar to the Master Cattleman and Master Farmer programs,” Gebrelul said.
The grant also will provide funds for a mobile unit that will allow scientists to take their expertise to the parishes instead of producers having to come to Baton Rouge for conferences.
The three-year grant will consist of three levels that will require 20 hours of training in business development, nutrition, marketing and record-keeping.
Johnny Morgan is a communications specialist with LSU AgCenter Communications.