Farmer trades hogs for goats
John Emmert once stood in the midst of more than 1,000 pigs. Now he walks along pastures surrounded by red Boer goats. Emmert isn’t alone in the livestock switch. He knows of three other former hog operators now raising goats. Over the years the Emmerts gained a long string of awards and titles for dedication and involvement with the swine industry. Now, his family is making a name in the meat goat industry.
• Some farms are better suited to goats than hogs.
• There’s a strong demand for show ring and meat goats.
• Online auctions help market goats to a large audience.
In 2007 John sold his hogs and moved 12 miles to Darlington. The new farm didn’t have facilities for hogs, and with woods and pasture, it was better suited for cattle and goats. John made a decision to concentrate on red Boer goats. Boers produce more muscle in less time than other breeds and have gained popularity in the U.S. Though for the show ring some judges still prefer the traditional white and brownish-red Boer goats, John’s opinion is that the red coloring on a supreme goat just makes it more appealing.
Instant goat herd!
Not wanting to slowly work his way into a solid herd, John bought three high-quality does and a “worth the money” buck. “We moved in late fall and had goat kids due in January, so we had to get the barns and stalls ready quick,” he says.
That first year, John and his wife, Vicki, questioned whether they had made a mistake, as the winter and early spring were miserably wet, resulting in the loss of several goats due to scours. As things dried out and they could set up better conditions, the herd rapidly improved and so did the Emmerts’ reputation.
The Emmerts have long been involved in livestock auctions and were already known for supreme animals. During their years in the hog business, auctions were vital enough to their business that they had a barn with bleachers built to accommodate yearly sales. John learned the importance of merchandising and networking. He also discovered his family could pull together to become an effective, efficient team.
Sales and marketing
The first few goat sales were private-treaty auctions. Now, however, the Emmerts have moved to an online sale. Weeks before the early April auction, they trim goats, take pictures, post descriptions of each animal and distribute flyers. Their daughter, Janell, takes care of most of the graphic design for auction publications while Vicki, a talented photographer, gets natural shots of goats.
They utilize Breeder’s World, a website service that sets up and runs the auction for a percentage of sales. Potential buyers have an opportunity to preview any animal at the farm the weekend before the auction. Most buyers, however, place bids based on information and photos of each animal. Once the auction comes, the Emmerts hunker down for 48 hours in front of the computer and watch bids come in.
Bids come from all over the country. Logistics can be a factor in getting the animal to the buyer. But with people traveling to other sales, plus the networking John has done, goats seem to get to their new owner no matter the distance.
The 2011 auction had more than 1,500 hits from potential bidders. Many 4-H’ers wanted wethers, although more and more buyers are those who want to increase the quality of their herd.
The Emmerts breed for reds and paints, and offer full-blood Boers, wethers and bucks, concentrating on high-quality show goats. They also have bucks available for service. John is passionate about genetics, constantly striving to improve the herd.
The Emmerts don’t regret their decision to switch to goats. They enjoy the goats’ personalities and also believe the turn-around, economically, makes sense. “If I have a cow or six goats on an acre of ground, and each animal is bred at the same time, in the time it takes for the calf to be born, I could have 12 goat kids sold for $1,200,” John observes. “By the time the calf hits the ground, you’re already on your second round with goats.”
With over a million pounds of goat meat imported into the U.S. each year, and with the increase in 4-H goat clubs, the popularity of goats isn’t likely to decrease. That’s just what John Emmert banks on.
McClain writes from Greenwood.
This article published in the October, 2011 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.