To the 2 to 4 year goat-ranching-veterans who are feeling a bit discouraged:
Maybe your first year didn't go like you planned - but you shrugged it off because you just "needed to get the hang of things." Then you were waylaid by another discouraging season (of course, due to the poor conditions, none of your neighbors did very well either). But last year's lack-luster performance really doused your spirits and you're sick and tired of losing goats for no apparent reason. Well take heart! Maybe it's time to look at your operation through the eyes of someone with a little more experience.
Greg Christiansen, bachelor in Animal Science, has raised goats for over 12 years and he's picked up plenty of experience-based advice along the way. I just finished reading his book, Raising Meat Goats in a Commercial Operation, and, let me tell you, this book would have made life a lot easier if I'd read it a year after we started raising goats on our ranch! So if you're in the same boat I was, maybe some hands-on advice is just what you need to really turn your operation around.
In his book, Greg covers essential 'trouble shooting' tips for struggling ranchers and gives positive solutions to address the underlying causes. To hit the highlights, Raising Meat Goats in a Commercial Operation explains parasite management, kidding, mothering, fencing, predator control, cross-species grazing, nutritional requirements, and marketing. The book is an easy read and covers everything from the perspective of someone who's put in the time to learn what actually works (and doesn't). As you read the book, you realize that Mr. Christiansen makes his management decisions based on economics and logic - not what some one told him was the way he should do it.
From the onset, Greg Christiansen makes his ranching objectives clear: the animals "should be able to take care of themselves for the most part. [...] As long as they have feed and water they should be mostly trouble free." So, with that goal in mind, he explains how to effectively manage a goatherd that is too large (600 head) to babysit.
At the same time, Christiansen, as a full-time rancher, also knows the importance of helping struggling animals regain their health (if only long enough to take them to the sale). According to Mr. Christiansen, you should be active when identifying unhealthy livestock; "[y]ou must be able to spot a sick goat before he spots you." Otherwise the animal's defensive instincts for avoiding predators will spur them to feign good health - only to be dead 5 minutes later.
Despite all the information Raising Meat Goats in a Commercial Operation packs into less than 100 pages, I think my favorite most relatable section was Chapter 7's "Other ways to kill goats." In this section, Christiansen lists some of the ways he has lost or almost lost goats over the years. If you've been in the goat business very long, you know how creative goats can be at getting into trouble. Reading a section like this will allow you to think one step ahead of the goats as you, for instance, build a fence with holes that are big enough for a goat to get their head stuck.
Greg Christiansen's book is chock-full of useful information that would be a lot of help to someone whose operation is struggling. As I'm sure Mr. Christiansen would agree, none of the information in the book is designed to be highly technical or scientific - but you will save a lot of time and money if you listen to his advice.