YOU ARE HERE: HeraldMail HomeCollectionsMilk

Ag column: Everything you ever wanted to know about goats

September 09, 2008|By JEFF SEMLER

In my last column, I gave you a snapshot of corn and its production and uses. This week I will continue along that same vein by spotlighting an animal this time, the goat. The goat is an often overlooked or misrepresented animal, yet in many parts of the world it is the leading milk and meat source.

Goats make excellent choices for small land holdings as well as vehicles for weed and brush control. Wikipedia defines goats this way, "the domestic goat (Capra aegagrus hircus) is a subspecies of goat domesticated from the wild goat of southwest Asia and Eastern Europe. The goat is a member of the Bovidae family and is closely related to the sheep, both being in the goat antelope subfamily Caprinae. There are more than 300 distinct breeds of goats."

Goats, along with sheep, were among the earliest domesticated animals. Goat remains have been found at archaeological sites in western Asia, such as Jericho, Choga, Mami, Djeitun and Cayonu, which allows domestication of goats to be dated at between 6000 and 7000 B.C.


However, unlike sheep, their ancestry is fairly clear. The major contributor of modern goats is the Bezoar goat which is distributed from the mountains of Asia Minor across the Middle East to Sind (present day Pakistan).

Unlike the Western World, there are a great number of cultures where your wealth is gauged by the number of livestock you own. Many ancient texts including the Bible refer to flocks and herds equaling great wealth. In Genesis it is said of Isaac, "He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him."

While many people in our country look down on agriculture, many cultures still esteem this vocation. Shepherds and herders are quite common and even today in the 21st century in Africa, Asia and the Middle East Bedouins move with their flocks of goats and sheep.

Still today many places in the world rely on goats to provide meat, milk, fiber and skins. Yes fiber, there are two goats that provide fiber, Angora and Cashmere. Goat skins are also widely used as containers.

So what do we get from goats; because of our Northern European heritage, mostly fiber and milk products. You can still find cashmere and mohair or angora clothing. While not widely available, goat's milk can be found if you are diligent. More commonly, cheese, soaps and lotions made from goat's milk are more readily obtainable.

Again, African, Asian, Caribbean and Mediterranean cuisine feature goat meat and cheese. If you would happen to be a guest at say a Jamaican barbeque, you might have jerk goat.

I have said all that to say this: if you are looking to add livestock to your land, large or small, you should consider goats. And are you in luck; in the near future you will have two opportunities to learn more about goats.

First, on Thursday, Future Harvest CASA and University of Maryland Cooperative Extension are sponsoring a meat goat twilight meeting at Many Rocks Farm on Mt. Briar Road in Keedysville beginning at 6 p.m. Jeanne Dietz-Band raises Kiko meat goats as well as a few dairy goats. She makes and markets goat sausage as well as goat milk products such as soap. Come out and hear from a producer the challenges and rewards of goat production and marketing. Registration is encouraged.

Secondly on Saturday, Oct, 4, University of Maryland Cooperative Extension in cooperation with the MPWV Meat Goat Producers Association will be hosting the Western Maryland Performance Meat Goat Educational Field Day and Sale.

Additional details on both events are available by contacting the Extension Office. Whether you are a breeder or a looker, I hope you will take this opportunity to attend.

Jeff Semler is an Extension educator, specializing in agriculture and natural resources, for the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension. He is based in Washington County. He can be reached weekdays by telephone at 301-791-1404, ext. 25, or by e-mail at

The Herald-Mail Articles