Goats in the feeder

How to Starve a Profit Out of Meat Goats

Starving meat goats? Does the term Wack-A-Doodle come to mind. This is my daughter’s term for “crazy” people. She would say, “That Wack-A-Doodle just ran out into the middle of the street”. I can clearly remember sitting in Dr. Taylor’s Ag Economics class at Purdue and him saying “Oh you can not starve a profit out of those animals”.   I learned so much from that class and the excitement and enthusiasm that he exhibited each class period made my freshmen year one to remember, however what if Dr. Taylor was wrong. What if, I can “starve a profit out of meat goats”?

IMG_0087The past couple of weeks, I have been reading a lot of different publications and books on raising meat goats. I believe that you never stop learning and that no one has all the answers. Some the articles/books, I would classify as “Wack-A-Doodles”, however even with their crazy ideas I see value in my operation. A couple of the better books that I have been reading on the subject (available from Amazon) are, “Raising Meat Goats In a Commercial Operation” by Greg Christiansen and “Raising Meat Goats For Profit” by Gail Bowman. Both Greg and Gail take an approach of “commercial” goats rather than the “show goat” approach. It is refreshing to see others that are trying to incorporate meat goats into a long-standing cattle operation. And more refreshing is that in both books each author explains “failures” as much as “successes”.

This morning, I was sitting in my office going over the profit/loss statements of my goat herd. Did I say profit/loss; I meant loss statements. I was analyzing the feed, veterinarian, and vaccine cost verses the average market price of a kid at the local sale barn. This is what my current statements look like. I am showing this at a single doe level, so it can be applied fo any number of does.  I am certain that some will say that I am Wack-A-Doodle and that is OK.  I am just looking for answers and documenting the results.

 Supplemental Feed Cost

We are currently feeding a combination of store bought feed and home grown corn. No matter the source of the feed, it all has a value.

Doe Feed (Corn/Supp) Cost Total
165 days/year (Winter) 1 lb. per day $16/50 lbs.

(165 lbs. x $.32/lb.)

200 days/year (Summer) ¼ lb. per day $16/50 lbs.

(50 lbs. x $.32/lb.)

Doe Supplemental feed cost is equal: $68.80


Kid Feed (Corn/Supp) Cost Total
Creep feed (45 days) ¼ lb. per day $16/50 lbs.

(11.25 lbs. x $.32/lb.)

Post Weaning

(30 days)

1 lb. per day $16/50 lbs.

(30 lbs. x $.32/lb.)

Kid Supplemental feed cost is equal: $13.20

My Boer X goats are excellent goats and I enjoy them greatly, however they are not cattle and do not convert the grain to weight in the same manner. I am hoping that with breeding and university studies we can increase our rate of gain, however for now the amount of feed consumed is a fixed cost.

Forage Cost

Alfalfa they say!! High quality forages come in many different forms. Alfalfa is known for it high crude protein level, however a quality brome grass with some timothy and clover will provide just as good if not better forage for goats.

Doe Hay Cost Total
165 days/year (Winter) 5 lb. per day $50/1000 lbs.

(825 lbs. x $.05/lb.)

Doe Hay cost is equal: $41.25


Kid Hay Cost Total
Post Weaning

(30 days)

5 lb. per day $50/1000 lbs.

(150 lbs. x $.05/lb.)

Kid Hay cost is equal: $7.50

But what about the summer forages. Our pastures have cost too. Even though we are not renting the pasture, I have plenty of local farmers that would love to have a little extra pasture. So, I am including a pasture rent cost against my does.

Doe Pasture Cost Total
7 Does/Acre $50/Acre rent $50/7 $7.14
Doe Pasture cost is equal: $7.14

Medical Cost

Sick days 🙂 Who does not love sick days, just sitting around the house in your pajamas watching Netflix. As a matter of fact, I think I getting “sick” right now. Well it might be fun for us to get a cold and have to lay around for a day or two, however when my goats get sick it is no fun for anyone. We are doing a lot better with sick goats. Through intense culling and vaccinations, we seldom have a sick animal however even the ordinary care still cost. We have the vet come out at least once a year, for no other reason than a second opinion. I learned a long time ago that I am not the smartest person I know and I need all the advice that I can get, so again the vet comes out.

Doe Medical Cost Total
Vet cost will be divided by 10, because she always checks at least 10 before she leaves. 1 visit by vet ($100/# does)

4 vaccines ($.60/dose)

3 wormings ($.60/dose)

Vet – $10.00

Vaccines – $2.40

Wormer – $1.80

Doe Medical cost is equal: $14.20


Kid Medical Cost Total
Vet cost will be divided by 50, because she always checks at least 50 before she leaves. 1 visit by vet ($100/# does)

6 vaccines ($.60/dose)

1 wormings ($.60/dose)

Vet – $2.00

Vaccines – $3.60

Wormer – $.60

Kid Medical cost is equal: $6.20

Opportunity Cost

Remembering back to Dr. Taylor’s class, he would always talk about opportunity cost. It does not matter if you love the goat business, what else could you or your property be doing to earn a living. Hence opportunity cost. I take an example of planting corn. It is easy we can plant an acre of corn in about an hour total (disk/plant/spray/harvest/etc) and it makes about $20 per acre profit. Not too bad, but then those cute little kids would not be running around.

Doe Opportunity Cost Total
What if I plowed the pastures? (7 does / acre) Planting corn on the pastures. 1 acre of corn is about $20 profit


Doe Opportunity cost is equal: $2.80


The Totals

It scares me every time I run the numbers, because the margins are just that close. It is costing me an arm and leg to have this cute little kids run around the farm.

Animal Feed (Corn/Supp) Hay Pasture Medical Opportunity Cost Total
Doe $68.80 $41.25 $7.14 $14.20 $2.80 $134.19
Kid $13.20 $7.50 N/A $6.20 N/A $26.90

Where is the Upside

If you are lucky enough to have raised a kid to market weight, you have the chance to make a little bit of money. When we first started in the goat business, it was anything but profitable. The poor little kids seemed to die faster than they were born. I tell people the difference between a live goat and a dead goat is 5 minutes.

Since we started saving our replacement does and started increasing the mineral, vaccines usage, we have had a much higher success rate. My family and our friends travel to a different university each year to see what the latest innovation in the goat industry might be and maybe see the goats in a little different light.

Let’s talk numbers. I strive to have a 208% kid crop each year. I want to wean at least 166% and sell 130% of my kids at market time. That gives me my replacement does and allows me to cull a couple my low performing herd does.  The most practical solution would be to strive as close to 200% marketable animals and with better management, I think we can get there.

At the time of this article, the local sale barn is paying $2.30/lb. for 60 lb. market kids. This will be the number of basing profit and loss. $ 2.30 * 60 lb. – ($4 handling + $1 sale fee) = $133.00


Item Doe Expense Kid Expense Kid Expense Kid Expense Kid Expense Sale Price $133 Profit/Loss

Doe +

1 kid

$134.19 $26.90 $133.00 -$28.09

Doe +

1.3 kids

$134.19 $26.90 $8.07 $172.90 $3.74

Doe +

2 kids

$134.19 $26.90 $26.90 $266.00 $78.01
Doe +

3 kids

$134.19 $26.90 $26.90 $26.90 $399.00 $184.11


Can I starve a profit out of my animals


I opened with this question and I will close with it too. Dr. Taylor is right as usual; you can not starve a profit out of the goats. As you reduce the feed provided, the kidding numbers fall and as the kids fall so goes the profit. But one last thought. What if I changed the inputs? What if I fertilized my pastures more and reduced the summer supplemental feedings to almost zero. What if I culled all my animals based on record keeping rather than my own love of certain ones.

I can reduce my input cost by becoming a better manager. Maybe my next book I need to read is my old AgEcon 200 book.

Welcome to 2015 on the Farm

Welcome to 2015 with a Scottish Proverb:

He that would eat the fruit, must climb the tree.

I love the holidays.  It is the one time of the year that I can truly take a break from my job and spend some quality time with the family.   It is also the 2 weeks of the year that I can finish up 2014 tasks and prepare for 2015 farm activities.  It has been a great year, we have finished building fence around the farm and installed automatic waters in all the pastures.  The kids “Goat Kids” just keep coming and the cows all have calves along side.  I am not sure if you could ask for much more.  Well I still am holding out hope for winning the lottery, but I think it is a requirement to actually buy a ticket.

I have not had the opportunity to actually introduce myself.  I am a Trafalgar native and graduated from Indian Creek High School and Purdue University.  After college, I moved to northern Indiana and worked as a vocational agriculture teacher at Lewis Cass High School before coming back to reside in Trafalgar.  When Amy and I were married, we came into this union with the understanding that there was a few things that would take priority in our lives.  We are active members of the Trafalgar Christian Church and spend countless hours volunteering in the community.  We decided early on in our relationship that a helpful giving heart that is full of the lord’s blessings will move more mountains than any man alone.  Sometimes our volunteer activities are hectic, however at the end of the day we are happier and less stressed because of them.  Next comes the family.  I give thanks every day for living on the farm.  To being able to share the triumphs and frustrations of agricultural life with my wife and children is worth any issues that might arise.  Finally my job, I am software architect at IBM and if you would have asked me 18 years ago I would have never thought about computer science as a career. It is hard to believe that when I was in college in the early 1990’s, the job I have today was nonexistent.

2015 unloading bales

Welcome to 2015. Unloading bales


Yesterday was New Year’s Eve and as usual we were out trying to get a couple of things completed.  My daughter, Emma  is thirteen this year and loves being outside doing the whatever we have planned.  We needed to haul 88 bales of hay from a farm about 20 miles away back home.  It started as a joke.  It was cold, very cold and I told her that I would be happy to haul the bales home, if she would unload them that way I could take a quick cat nap before going back for the next load.  I unloaded the first load in the lot and showed her how to operate the skid steer and you know that crazy little girl literally jumped out of the truck each load to unload and stack the bales.  She was so darn fast, I did not even get the opportunity to take my nap.  These bales will be used for the cows and goats as supplemental feed for the winter.
At home, Amy and Levi were caring for the latest set of triplets.  There are so many things that we need to learn about goats and everyday is a reminder that we do not have all the answers.  Poor Levi is fifteen years old and loves all living things.  His heart is so big that he could support a 100 goat kids with just one beat.  However sometimes life does not allow for even the most caring to win the battle.  We lost little “Lucy” last night.  She was a 7 lb beautiful little doe, however she just was not strong enough to make a go of it.  Levi was out in the barn and in the house loving, warming and feeding this little girl all day.   To see him tube feeding and bathing her makes you wonder if maybe he will choose a health care position in the future.

So what do we have planned for the new year.  I have been in enough planning meetings to know that brainstorming ideas and outline goals is a great way to kickoff any new project.  And yes 2015 will be a new project year.  One of the first activities for 2015 will be to finish putting electricity in the barn.  We have lights and some outlets but there is still work to be done.  Gates! You can never have to many gates and so we will continue to build them throughout the year.  This spring we will over seed all the pastures.  Grass is the cheapest most efficient form of feed we have on the farm and it we will be our job to maintain and enhance it in the coming year.  I would like to build a new barn for “kidding” this fall.  Levi will be sixteen and I bet he will be interested in driving.  He will need a place to park his car in the coming year and I need more kidding space, so it sounds like that would be a great opportunity for a double win.  We need to build a new bucket for the mini excavator, so we can effectively clean out the ditches around the property.  The calves need ear tags for identification and the goats need more hay feeders.  Actually there are so many things on the list that it quickly becomes overwhelming, however if you don’t get them down and start setting priorities it will be December 31st before you know it.

One last quote for the day.

 It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan. — Eleanor Roosevelt 

The Bucket List

I would bet that everyone has a bucket list.  Top on my bucket list is driving to Utah.  I have wanted to do this activity for 20 years.  I want to drive to the state line and touch it and come back home.  I know, it is a little weird but it top on my list.  Today, however I am going to visit about a different type of bucket list.  You see this is kidding season at Spurgeon Farms and we trying to be a little more proactive this year than in the past.

Amy, my loving wife, actually bought a bucket. Now that sounds crazy to me as we finished building the house and have approximately 100 drywall mud buckets around the farm.  But she bought a special magic bucket for the kids.  Maybe I can see the reason for such a purchase.  This magic bucket came with no prior ingredients and a fancy lid.  We actually washed the bucket a couple times prior to installing the contents to make sure things were as sterile as possible.  In a nutshell it is just a 5 gallon plastic bucket to put all the essential kidding prep tools into for our trips to the barn.

The “Magic Bucket”  

IMG_0609 (1)  So what is in the magic bucket, that is going to save the lives of countless kids and bring record keeping to new levels for us.  The first thing in the magic bucket is latex gloves.  I am a proud member of the Trafalgar Volunteer Fireman and we would never check out a patient without gloves on our hands.  The same thing is true with the goats.  We have worked hard to reduce/eliminate disease from the farm and one of the best methods for disease and parasite control is a clean environment.  We are probably a little obsessed with the use of our gloves, but better safe than for us to infect a doe or kid with some germ the children brought home on the school bus.

Unscented wet wipes, “the unique cushion texture and mild cleaning solution leaves your baby extra clean and refreshed”.  What???  Wet wipes are an important part of the magic bucket.  There is nothing better for wiping the face of the newborn kid then a wet wipe.  It will pull the mucus and foreign material away from the kids mouth and nose, giving the kid that extra kick it needs to start being a goat.  Now if all is well and the little guy/girl is starting to make a little noise, we can head back into the house for an hour or so to let mother and kid(s) get to know each other.

One of my favorite tools in the magic bucket is the Iodine squirt bottle.  You can make a white goat red with this stuff not to mention clothes too.  We use the Iodine on all the kids navel cords.  We will clip the cord and cover it with Iodine.  Basically, Iodine is a disinfect for superficial wounds or cuts.  If the kid is a buckling and is going to be a 4H animal, we will castrate him.  Any of the kids that we sell for meat or to the local auction are left intact, however 4H kids must be castrated and doing it at birth is the least stressful time.  Within the magic bucket, we have a box of disposable scalpels.  TSC has a sterile box of 5 scalpels for less than $10.  To perform this task, we will cut the bottom of the scrotum off and pull each testicle out, tearing the cord to prevent excessive bleeding.  The bottom of the scrotum should remain open to allow for drainage after castration.  As you except, we cover the wound with Iodine.

All the things in the magic bucket are in some special way used for the health and well-being of the animal(s), however this next item is really for me.  We are expecting 20 – 30 kids between December 15 – December 30th.  I love all my kids, however sometimes it is difficult to identify them quickly and/or correctly.  Everyone has seen this fancy NSEP ID tags from the USDA on goats at livestock shows or while visiting local farms, but how do you obtain them and more important what is the cost to the producer.  In 2001 the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) initiated an accelerated program to eradicate scrapie from the nation’s sheep flocks and goat herds.  The National Scrapie Eradication Program (NSEP) coordinated by the USDA is a joint effort that includes participation by state governments and industry, particularly producers to provide FREE of charge ID tags and ID tagging tools to all producers.  All you need to do is call the scrapie toll free number 866-USDA-TAG (866-873-2824 Select option 7 for Epidemiologist officer) to request official ear tags at no cost.

So far we have talked about the good things in the magic bucket.  Oh yes, I forgot about the weight scale monitor.  While we are doing all the other things to the kid(s), we take a birth weight on each kid.  But what happens when things do not go a planned.  Anyone that says they have not lost a kid is lying.  I cry every time wondering if there was something I could have done to make the outcome different.  That is really the reason for the magic bucket.  With any luck and good management skills, we will never have to use the next items however for now they are still in the magic bucket.

One thing I enjoy is a good Diet Mt. Dew.  I joke with the children and say that the only thing better than a Diet Mt. Dew is a cold Diet Mt. Dew and yes we have Diet Mt. Dew in the magic bucket.  Well maybe not actual Diet Mt. Dew, but a Diet Mt Dew 20 oz bottle.  It makes a perfect kid bottle.  We purchased a screw on nipple that attaches to a plastic bottle for providing colostrum and milk to the kids.  A drench gun can also be used to provide colostrum when the kid is too weak to nurse from the bottle.  We try everything we can before moving to the bottle, however the kid(s) needs to have colostrum within the first 4 – 6 hours of life.  Even when we provide the colostrum, we still make an attempt to have the kid and doe nurse.

We do carry a couple of medications in the magic bucket, LA-200, selenium, penicillin (refrigerated), CDT (refrigerated).  In general we do not give any shots to the kids or mother at birth.  The CDT and selenium are given at approximately 30 days old.  One thing that we do provide to all the does at kidding is a dewormer.  We follow the Famacha chart for deworming throughout the year, however at birthing everyone gets a deworming dose.  There is no more important time for the kids and does than that first couple days.  This is also the most stressful time for the animals and the time when parasites like to make their presence known.   You can have a “Optimal” color chart goat on day one and a “Dangerous” color chart goat on day 10.  And with that, we give all does a dose of Cydectin at kidding.  I found a nice chart for dosages of different dewormers @ http://www.acsrpc.org/Resources/PDF/2013goatdewormerchart.pdf.

I understand that I can not save them all, however if the magic bucket saves just one kid on my farm I am glad that we took the time to put it together.  This has been a learning experience for all my family.  I studied Animal Science in college, however at the time I was much more interested in cattle.  The goats are wonderful animals and provide a completely different level of care.  Everyone in the family has enjoyed the learning curve and look forward to an exciting “kidding season 2015”.

OH NO Cube Steaks!!

I personally love cube steaks, however I think I am in the minority. It seems that my family only sees the cube steak as a last resort. So, What is it really? Quoting from Wikipedia “A Cube steak is a cut of beef, usually top round or top sirloin, tenderized by fierce pounding with a meat tenderizer, or use of an electric tenderizer. The name refers to the shape of the indentations left by that process (called “cubing”).[1] This is the most common cut of meat used for the American dish chicken fried steak.”

As the definition states, a cube steak is tough, however with enough cooking time the cube steak can be wonderful. Another prime example is the brisket. No one in there right mind would look at a brisket and say “that looks tasty”, however if you barbecue it for 12 hours there is no better piece of meat. I think the same thing can be said for a cube steak. Which brings me to the topic of the day! My dear wife went back to work at the church as a part-time secretary. She works on Monday’s and Friday’s, so I have been trying to pick up the dinner routine on those days. Yes, there are some nights we do give in and eat at a local restaurant but in general I am able to find my way around the kitchen pretty well.

This recipe is a family favorite. I personally love it, because it is super easy. All you need is 15 minutes and a crock pot. Since I have two teenagers, I double this recipe and just hope there is enough leftover for lunch the next day.

Ultimate Swiss Steak
4 Spurgeon Farms cube steaks
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1 tablespoon Stouts Melody Acres
1/2 cup grated process American cheese

Dredge the cube steaks in flour mixed with salt; place in crock pot. Add chopped vegetables and Worcestershire sauce. Layer the molasses over the vegetables and pour the tomato sauce over the entire mixture. Cover and cook on Low for 8 – 10 hours or on High for 4 – 5 hours. Just before serving, sprinkle with the grated cheese (serves 4).

Where is buy local?



A Thankful Thanksgiving


1 Thessalonians 5:18

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Now that is a hard one.  Give thanks in all circumstances!!!

One of my favorite times of the day is dinner time.  OK, yes I like to eat and like to eat alot, however the reason it is my favorite time is it is the one time everyday that I can guarantee everyone will be around the table.  It might sound a little old fashion, however I find it extremely important for my family.  You see the kids are busy with school, practices, church, and youth meetings, while my wife and I are dealing with work, farm, church and our many other volunteer activities.  If it was not the 45 minutes at the table, we might not see each other for days and to which makes the food it the least important thing on our table.  During this time, we laugh and joke with each other and spend time catching up on the what’s happening at school.  Being a parent of 2 teen age children, there is alot happening at school.  We tell stories of when my wife and I were dating (we still are dating) or stories of friends and loved ones that have passed way to soon.  It is truly a special time of the day and we all are very thankful for the time to share.

That was easy “dinner time”  what is there not to be thankful for that one.  But what about that list of tasks that just can not seem to get done.  Well, I actually just as thankful for those tasks too.

Building fence has been a task on that list for many years.  When my wife and I bought the farm in 2006, we started out by removing all the fences on the property.  The fences were weak when my brother and I would keep animals here 20 years ago and they have only gotten worse as time went on.  The only problem with taking out the fences is you have to put them back up.  We have spent years pounding post and stretching high tensile wire.  It appears if all goes well,  we will finally be done with building fence on Saturday.  But why am thankful for building fence.  There are a number of reasons for being thankful, but probably the top 2 are that I have not had to chase any of the animals and it has given me a chance to spend one-on-one time with each of my children.  It’s funny how building fence can bring a father and daughter or son closer together.

Water, Did you know that there are more than 780 million people without access to clean water.  I am so thankful for the little pond on the farm that supplies clean fresh water to all my animals.  We installed a gravel filter system from the pond and pipe the water down to the watering stations between the pond and the barn.  While we were installing the water system, we were able to invite the local FFA chapter to come and do soil judging practice.  We also have had many friends and neighbors on the farm to look at and provide advice about the system.  This single task has had an impact on countless members of the our community and for that alone I am thankful.

Feeding time, which it is getting pretty close to that time now.  I am thankful for this task too.  Dad and I spend many days each summer baling hay and preparing for winter.  Dad is probably one of the most interesting people I know.  He has endless knowledge of everything and enjoys sharing his wisdom with all.  I am thankful that even on the coldest days, dad and I can spend a few minutes visiting while we are feeding the animals.  The animals are interesting too.  There is not a day that goes by that they are not excited to see us coming and they always crowd around the machinery to get the first bites.  The animals on the farm are all blessing and we give thanks for them each day.

There are hundreds more things on the my list of task from putting lights in the barn, to landscaping the yard, and of course hauling manure, however for now trust me when I say am thankful for everything on the list.  In this crazy world it is easy to see the “bad” in everything, however the if all the you see is the “bad” what kind of life are you leading.  Positive breeds positive and thankfulness breeds thankfulness.  Take a moment today and everyday to find that joy and gratitude in everything you do.

Winter Days

Winter Days:


“It’s cold outside” or at least that is what the weatherman would like you to think.  This morning, I took the kids out to the school bus with about an inch of snow on the ground and the most beautiful sun shining through the clouds.  Normally I am not a Norman Rockefeller kind of person, however this morning I could not help but take a minute and marvel at God’s creation.

The cattle are in the east pasture and they were seemed to be playing a game of freeze tag.  The calves were attempting to join into the game, but finally gave up for their own game of hide and seek. We moved the Scottish Highland bull (Duff) into the pasture over the weekend.  He and his mother (Maggie, 23 years old) are purebred Scottish Highlanders and have been a joy to have on the farm.  We were told that the Scottish Highland breed would produce smaller animals, however so far the calves are ranking in the top 15% of our market animals.  The calves are born without any assistance, to which is perfect for first calf heifers, and turn on with excellent rate of gains.  We could not be more excited about our cattle operation.

The goats are in the west pasture along with Max our Great Pyrenees.  I think they might of been watching the weatherman, because they were snuggled in the barn waiting for their breakfast.  We are excepting kids (goat babies) starting mid-December.  Right now they all look like they are carrying a large basketball around with them.  Last year we kidded in late-January and boy was it cold.  We decided that we try for a little bit earlier this year.  Not sure if it is going to work out better or not, but we are going to give a try.

We are truly blessed to be able raise such amazing animals and to do it as a family.  Hopefully we can help provide everyone with a little taste of what the FFA creed statement on the home page means to us.  From the National FFA Website http://www.ffa.org “I believe that to live and work on a good farm, or to be engaged in other agricultural pursuits, is pleasant as well as challenging; for I know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life and hold an inborn fondness for those associations which, even in hours of discouragement, I cannot deny.”