Standardized yield, improved finish on kids and greater traceability. Those are some of the key ways goat producers could increase returns on their meat goats, according to Ontario’s meat goat processors.
Ontario Goat Industry Development Manager Kendra Keels conducted a survey of Ontario processing plants last year and presented her findings at the recent Ontario Goat annual meeting.
Of the 103 Ontario plants licensed to process goats, only 16 per cent purchase goats for slaughter and of those, 50 per cent buy direct from producers. Twenty-seven per cent of plants custom kill only, 37 per cent do not process goats and Keels was unsuccessful in contacting the remaining 20 per cent. According to provincial statistics tracked by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, just over 40,000 goats were slaughtered in Ontario last year.
An average of 62 goats/kids are purchased weekly but Christmas and Easter numbers are highest for all plants, rising up to 300 per week. Approximately 50 per cent of plants that process goats have plans to increase their production, but currently, only a few plants buy goats for slaughter weekly.
“Processors would like to see the quality of kids improve. They want to see a heavier carcass with more fat and flesh on the animals,” said Keels, adding that the market for cull bucks and does is much larger than originally thought. “In terms of who’s buying what, we found that Greeks and Italians like to buy kids for Christmas and Easter and people from Jamaica, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and African countries like the cull animals.”
Processors indicated a preference for light pink kid meat for their Christmas and Easter trade, but anything goes during the rest of the year when the majority of goat meat buyers are cubing and stewing the meat, Keels reported.
She added that none of the plants are currently grading and there are no plans to introduce a grading system as there is no perceived value for this from the perspective of the consumers who are buying the goat meat. As well, many of the plants do not have sophisticated technology in place and still manually record slaughter information using pen and paper.
“The definition of finish is muscling over the loin, hip and flesh over the ribs,” she said. “Kids have to have more finish. For does, they want lean, but no bones sticking out and no fat except a covering over the kidneys. This is especially important for the Halal market, which doesn’t want fat.”
When it comes to carcass dress weight, every packer wants something different, says Keels. For kids the range was found to be from 18 to 30 pounds, 40 to 75 pounds for does and 75 to 120 pounds for bucks. The ranges were equally wide for dressing percentages, spanning 40 – 60 per cent for kids with a majority at 47 per cent, 43 to 65 per cent for does with the majority at 50 per cent and 45 to 55 per cent for bucks.
“This shows us we need a lot more work in these areas so we can bring in some kind of standardization in the industry,” stated Keels.
Approximately 60 per cent of respondents reported selling goat meat as a whole carcass, with 30 per cent selling both whole carcasses and cubes and 10 per cent selling cuts as well as whole carcasses.
There is one federally inspected processing plant for goats in Ontario. Kitchener and Cookstown are the biggest goat markets; a sale barn survey will be carried out in 2013.
“If you’re selling direct to packer, communicate with them. Go to a sale, sit and watch and talk to buyers to find out what they’re looking for,” advised Keels. “They’re all willing to talk, this is their business.”
“There are opportunities for year-round supply of goat meat, and for people who are asking for different cuts of goat meat, so our industry can build towards this,” she added.
According to the 2011 census, there are 225,461 goats in Canada of which 116,260 or just over 50 per cent are in Ontario. Of Canada’s 5,949 goat farms, 2,152 or 36 per cent are in Ontario. Compared to 2006, the number of goats has risen by 52.75% but the number of farms has decreased slightly.
For more information on the meat goat processing survey, please contact Kendra Keels at email@example.com or 519-824-2942.
This article was prepared by Lilian Schaer based on a presentation at the 2013 Ontario Goat annual general meeting, held March 22, 2013.