Farm Horizons, Feb. 2005

Raising goats for meat is industry being fueled by metro minorities

By Dennis Sherman
Correspondent

Immigrant populations in Minnesota are fueling an interesting trend – meat goat production.

Bob Hassett of the Hassett’s Berry Farm in Big Lake is capitalizing on this increased demand, among other producers such as Steve Anderson of Lester Prairie.

The growing Somali population is one that Hassett is working to supply with quality meats grown in Minnesota.

Currently, much of the goat meat eaten in this country is imported frozen from Australia.

However, Hassett is working on changing this. A key market that Hassett is tapping into is that of the Somali community, as well as Latino and seasonal Hmong markets.

He is able to deliver 25 goats a week by working with other contract growers.

The goats are hearty animals, but do fall prey to coyotes, fox, and domestic dogs that are allowed to run free.

A big challenge is keeping them contained. Hassett likes to call them “Houdinis” because they can escape just about any kind of fence you put up. As many as five goats can be raised on a single acre.

A valued human resource for meat goat producers is Brenda Postels of the University of Minnesota Extension, Wright County.

Postels’ enthusiasm for meat goat production is amazing. Her interest began while working at the Wright County Fair and learning from long-time producer, Don Clapp. Postels is also involved with SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program).

Part of Postels’ enthusiasm stems from the way these animals can be raised along side cattle without competing for food sources, or in areas that would not support cattle or other animals.

The goats prefer a diet of brambles, saplings, thistles, wild raspberries, and broad leaves. In fact, Postels considers them to be one of the best ways to clean up overgrown wood lots, and even knows a farmer that rents his herd out for this purpose.

Aside from fencing issues, the only other critical needs the goats have are adequate shelter to get out of the wind and rain, and to have a fresh supply of water.

What does goat meat taste like?

Postels describes it as very lean and somewhat similar in taste to venison.

Interested in raising meat goats?

Hassett is looking for additional contract farmers to supply local markets, and Postels offers her educational services free of charge through the U of M Extension, Wright County.

Postels can be reached at (763) 682-7381 or www.extension.umn.edu

Hassett has an informative web site at www.hassettsberyfarm.com.

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