Goat farming in Thailand | Supply not meeting Demand
Updated: Feb 11, 2020
Goat farming in Thailand accounts for less than 1% of the country's livestock population. The raising of cattle, pigs, chickens and ducks far outnumber that of goats. Yet goat is one of the most popular and healthiest meats eaten in the world today. So are farmers in Thailand missing a trick?
Global consumption of goat meat
Conflicting reports state which meat is eaten the most in the world. Pork, chicken, beef and goat all stake a claim to be the world's favourite meat, depending on which report you read.
A whopping 63% of the world's population now eats goat meat. Goat consumption has been steadily on the increase for several years.
Whoever's numbers you take, a few things about the current state of the world's livestock are worth noting.
African swine fever (A viral disease with a 100% fatality rate)
This virus has and will continue to impact the global production of pork.
It has already killed one-quarter of the world's swine population (300 million in China alone.)
Bird Flu H5N1 (Avian Flu) still exists
A deadly virus to most birds, humans and other mammals. Since the first human case back in 1997, H5N1 has killed nearly 60% of infected people.
Goat meat is the healthiest red meat you can eat
Eating goat meat is a healthier option and is almost always free-range.
Considered to be red meat, according to the USDA, it contains 72% of the saturated fat in chicken and only 16% of the saturated fat in beef.
It can be halal and kosher. It comes with a clean bill of health in comparison to the worries surrounding animals raised in feedlot systems (hormones are not approved for promoting growth in goats.)
The following chart from the American Goat Federation breaks down goat meat's nutritional values compared with other meats.
Farming goats in Thailand
Goat meat consumption in Thailand
Thailand's domestic annual consumption is estimated at around 377,000 goats per year.
Last year Thailand had to import a further 39,231 goats from Myanmar to satisfy the domestic market.
There was also an additional export to Malaysia and Laos of 140,000 animals.
A growing market for goat production in Thailand
Thailand's goat market has been growing exponentially with an increase in demand for export and domestic consumption.
Back in 2007, Thailand had as few as 38,653 households raising a total of 444,774 goats.
Fast forward to 2019, the number of households increased to 65,850, raising a total of 832,533 goats.
Mr Sorawit Thanito, director-general of the Livestock Development Department said: "With the effective promotion, goats can be the new economic livestock, as they are resilient to drought and require a small amount of water to raise."
Sorawit further mentioned that at present, 64 provinces in Thailand has goat recognised farmer associations, all consisting of over 500 groups of local farmers.
They receive financial support from the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives and the Livestock Development Department as well as from their local administration offices.
Mr Sorawit Thanito also added that his department is fully committed to promoting goat raising in Thailand by facilitating expert knowledge and technology transfer between existing farmers and new ones. This is achieved through training courses provided by the department.
He added, "Moreover, we have organised the annual National Goat Fair where goat farmers can share their know-how and experiences, as well as sell their products to the public and participate in goat breed contests."
The last National Goat Fair was held on January 17-19 at the Sufficiency Economy Centre of Muak Lek district in Saraburi.
Goat meat prices in Thailand
Thai farmers selling live goats to the meat industry can expect to receive between 120-150 Thai baht per kilogram.
Prices usually increase by 5-10 baht per kilogram for goats weighing less than 20 kilograms.
Because Thailand's current demand for goat meat outstrips supply, there is no issue of farmers selling their livestock at a fair price.
It's also worth noting that it's a price that steadily increases each year.
Pure breed meat goats in Thailand
Most goat farmers in Thailand raise mixed herds. They usually keep a large pure breed buck like a Boer as a sire.
The females are more often than not a mixed breed. This makes for a fast-growing herd that is more parasite resistant than solely pure breeds.
Boers are a large fast-growing goat originating from South Africa.
Expect to pay from 7,000 Thai baht upwards for a 100% Boer buck.
The Kalahari Red is another large fast-growing goat originating from South Africa. Their name is derived from the Kalahari Desert and their red coat.
Prices can be higher for Kalahari Red goats due to them being less common in Thailand than Boers.
Selling goats to other farmers in Thailand
We have looked at selling goats to the meat industry, and although it pays well, it provides the smallest return to a goat farmer.
Most goat farmers sell their young bucks to the meat industry once they approach the 20-kilogram mark.
Old nanny goats that have become too old or falling short in production also get sold on with the young bucks.
As the market in Thailand continues to expand, a more substantial profit is to be made by selling to other farmers.
Thai farmers who may have given up on raising Water Buffalo, or can't afford to set up farming cattle, are now looking to raise goats.
Trying to source young, healthy female goats at a reasonable price in Thailand is not easy.
Many farmers don't sell any young females at all. They are looking to increase their herd year upon year.
Those willing to sell have the luxury of naming their price to interested parties.
What to expect to pay for female goats in Thailand
Expect to pay anywhere from 3,000 to 7,000 Thai baht. Remember that this is for a mixed breed goat, not even a pure breed!
About 3,000 baht gets you a very young female, usually around two months old just after finishing her mother's milk.
4,000 baht may get you a one-year-old that's already pregnant.
5,000 baht may get you a two-year-old that's already pregnant for the second time.
6,000 - 7,000 baht should get you a healthy stunning nanny with a well-proven track record of being a productive goat.
Buying a mixed breed two-month-old buck expect to pay between 1,000 and 2,000 baht.
Startup costs of farming goats in Thailand
The startup costs for farming goats anywhere in the world is considerably less than for cattle, sheep or pigs.
Having said that there are several costs that you will incur when you begin.
Suitable goat housing
Because Thailand is classed sub-tropical, your goats need to be off the floor so they can keep their hooves dry. A cheap and straightforward raised wooden house with enough room for them to get out of the rain is ample.
Separate areas or expectant nannies and kids should be incorporated into the design.
Mosquitos are an issue in Thailand, so netting and other precautions need consideration.
Regular cleaning out is a must to reduce the risk of parasites and infections.
Although goats don't drink a considerable amount, they should always have fresh water available in the house at all times.
Goat proof fencing
Temporary or permanent you need it! Goats are browsers and love to explore everywhere. If your herd wander off and eat a neighbours crop in Thailand, you will potentially be facing a massive bill for damages.
Goat fencing isn't just to keep your herd in. There are many stray and wild dogs in Thailand. Even those who have an owner in a village will roam for miles looking for an easy meal.
Whether it's animals, large reptiles or thieves, protection for your goats is an important issue for farmers.
Livestock theft in Thailand is quite commonplace if they are left unattended.
Livestock guardian dogs (LGD) are a type of pastoral dog bred to protect livestock from predators.
A livestock guardian dog stays with the group of goats they protect as a full-time member of the herd.
Also, consider the location of where you intend to build your goat house.
Will you be able to hear a kid being born or attacked. Will you be able to hear your dog barking at someone snooping around at 3 am?
Goat vaccinations and parasite treatments
Although goats are incredibly hardy animals, they are prone to internal parasites and need deworming and vaccinating regularly.
Many local agricultural departments in Thailand will come and give your goats their vaccination shots free of charge.
One drawback is that you may have to wait a while, potentially leaving young goats at risk.
Learning how to give your goats the necessary shots is recommended.
Low feed costs keeping goats
Feed costs are where farming goats comes into its own.
Goats are browsers. They prefer to roam picking and choosing what to eat before moving on.
They do eat grass, but their favourite is tough woody saplings wiry climbing weeds, basically nearly everything a cow wouldn't bother grazing on.
This means that goats don't require lush meadows of pristine pasture grass like cattle require.
Goats thrive rooting around in overgrown undergrowth and are great at clearing inaccessible places on your land.
Depending on the amount of land you have available for keeping goats, and the size of your herd, they may not require any supplement feed.
If the size of land available is insufficient to sustain your herd, goats can be 'taken out' for the day.
There are often willing farmers who would happily let your goats eat their weeds and manure their farm for free.
A couple of things to be cautious of if you contemplate doing this are:
The use of harmful chemicals is commonplace in Thailand. Many Thai farmers spray large amounts on their crops.
Portable temporary fencing is likely to be required to prevent the herd causing potential damage to other farms. Damage caused by your goats would likely result in a hefty fine.
Many goat farmers in Thailand keep their goats on a small lot of land and bring food to them.
Usually cut and transported back twice a day. Ka-Tin is the preferred vegetation collected. Goats love the leaves, seedpods, seeds, and their favourite, the bark. Only the stripped woody stems are left.
The timber is then usually used to make charcoal or to create a small smouldering fire under the house at night to deter mosquitos (CAUTION - the release of Carbon Monoxide gas is toxic to animals.)
Cut grasses are available for purchase in Thailand, but these are intended and better suited to feeding cattle, not goats.
Goats shouldn't eat just grass. And remember about the widespread use of chemicals in Thailand's agricultural sector.
Dried hay and barley straw are an option, but again, this shouldn't be a goat's only food source and could be contaminated.
Feeding goats on pellets
Goat pellet feed is available in Thailand and can be purchased at around 300 Thai baht for a 30-kilogram bag.
However, goats shouldn't be fed solely on pellets.
On our farm, we only feed our goats pellets as a 'top-up' for expecting nannies, and after they give birth to their kids. Other items that we give them are:
These are great treats for a goat that needs a bit of a boost.
By far and away, the best way to feed a goat is to let them forage on a wide range of vegetation. You will soon get a picture of what they prefer to browse on.
Be prepared for goat kidding season
For us, this is the best part of keeping goats. It's a fantastic experience that we will never become boring.
Nanny goats are great mothers, but like most animals, some can struggle at times. Being on hand during the birth and ready and able to assist is paramount.
That's not to say a nanny goat can't do it all herself, and often they do.
Our first two nannies to give birth popped their kids out after a few pushes while eating pasture. There was barely a moan or groan out of either of them.
Problem goat births
When a nanny is struggling giving birth, there sometimes comes the point where you need to step in to help her. This happened to us when our third nanny went into labour.
Geraldine had a set of twins; the first tried to come out head and all four feet first! We are reasonably sure that if we hadn't been there to help her, she wouldn't have been able to do it alone.
Unfortunately, nanny and kid deaths at birth are quite common in Thailand.
Vets are available in some parts of Thailand to assist in birthing kids. Timing would be an issue for us, and of course, there's a fee to be paid.
Do your research, have those gloves and towels ready and be willing to step up to the plate when needed.
Caring for baby kid goats
A fun time indeed.
Baby goats are incredible with things that can walk and talk with an hour of being born.
Make sure your newborns are well away from dogs and large reptiles like pythons and Water Monitor lizards (there are ever-increasing numbers here in Thailand.)
Make sure you have suitable milk available for them if their mother isn't producing enough, or she isn't letting them feed properly.
Keep mother and newborn kids away from other members of the herd until they are big and strong enough to hold thier own.
Baby kids should be vaccinated at 5 - 6 weeks of age, then given a booster 3 - 4 weeks later.
Vaccination of kids from properly vaccinated does before 5 weeks of age may result in kids that are not protected, meaning annual boosters may be ineffective.
Castrating young billy goats (whether)
Castrating a buckling is carried out for a couple of reasons:
It makes them less aggressive and more docile
It eliminates the pungent "billy goat" odour that results from intact males urinating on themselves
Many people say that castrating male goats helps to improve the taste and texture of the meat.
However, in Thailand, the companies purchasing goats set no requirement for them to be castrated.
If you choose to castrate your bucks there are three recognised ways to do it:
Banding that places a rubber ring around the scrotum
A clamp that crushes the spermatic cord
A knife used to cut the scrotum and remove the testicles
Additional things to consider when starting out farming goats in Thailand
How to age a goat
Familiarise yourself with how to age a goat correctly. If someone is selling you a nanny goat for upwards of 5,000 Thai baht, you want to make sure that it's not six years old!
It's quite straightforward and reasonably accurate.
How long do goats live
Every livestock farmer has to be able to recognise when its time to let their animals go. Goats don't live forever, but your average farmed goat has a life expectancy of about 15 - 18 years.
That doesn't mean you should keep a goat this long. It comes down to the overall health of the particular animal, and its productivity.
A simple way to look at it is - if your goat is losing teeth, then they can't browse efficiently. If you want to keep them for longer, then you'll have to look into buying pellet food. At 300 Thai baht ($10) a bag that will soon begin to eat into your profit.
Keep your herd as strong and as healthy as possible. Take out the weakest and underperforming does. A doe that only ever births one kid at a time, or keeps having stillbirths, needs to go.
Goat line-breeding and Inbreeding
Most farmers in Thailand keep a mature buck and sire them for 2-4 years.
Line-breeding is the breeding of closely related animals. This has the potential to quickly improve a herd because the good qualities of the goats get accentuated.
Inbreeding is the mating of first-degree relatives (offspring, parents, or siblings). Inbreeding brings out both undesirable and desirable traits in offsprings.
However, the most undesirable traits are poor survival of the young, low growth rate, small body size, reduced immunity and poor fertility in both females and males.
The potential of raising a profitable herd of goats
It's worth remembering that your herd has the potential to more than double in size year upon year.
Here are our basic thoughts on the figures:
Let's say you have one billy and ten mature does.
Each doe should give you between 1 and 4 kids per year (a doe's first pregnancy usually produces only one kid.)
Take two kids per mature doe per year as an average.
So ten does give you about twenty kids.
Split the gender down the middle, ten male and ten female kids.
You then sell on all ten young bucks and keep the ten females.
The herd is now totalling twenty does (ten mature and ten youngsters) and your prize billy.
This has the potential to continue year by year.
Yes, a doe should be around a year before letting her kid for the first time. Yes, some females will have to be moved on and the odd billy replaced. But if your herd remains fit and healthy, you will at some point reach full capacity.
Some rough figures
Let us say you can only realistically keep 100 mature and fully productive goats (you've kept your very best does.)
Now you will have around 200 goats to sell per year. But they won't all be young bucks selling at 120-150 Thai baht per kilogram. About half of them will be more profitable females.
Take 130 baht per kilogram for your 100 bucks being sold at just 20 kilograms (if you have the room, you can grow them much larger.)
20kg x 130tbh/kg x 100bucklings = 260,000 baht.
Now you sell the 100 does of your choosing. Prices will vary from 3,000 - 7,000 baht per female goat, not kilogram (these aren't sold to the meat industry.)
Take 4,000 baht for per female goat as an average.
100does x 4,000tbh per doe = 400,000baht
400,000 baht (does) + 260,000 baht (bucklings) = 660,000 baht annual turnover.
Maximising your goats' earning potential
Although fast-growing, it's worth remembering that even mixed breed goats can grow big given time. 50 -100 kilograms is realistically attainable (get a good billy.)
Switching bucklings to a pellet feed for a few weeks before being sold can rapidly pack on additional weight before being scaled.
The online potential to sell a good quality goat meat product in Thailand is out there.
Master culling and butchering goat correctly and selling a quality product online with proper marketing should fetch a much better price per kilogram.
Raising pure breeds like Boers and Kalahari Reds will unlock the full potential of producing vast amounts of goat meat quickly.
The animals are quite expensive in Thailand, but once you have them, you'll be well set.
Farming goats in Thailand certainly looks viable, doesn't it?
Low startup costs
Meagre feed costs
Available pasture can be of a medium to low quality
Goats are hardier animals than cattle and sheep
Current supply can't meet demand
A continued increase in the price of goat meat
So why aren't more farmers choosing goats as their preferred livestock?
Here's just a small sample of the reasons we have heard:
No one eats goat in Thailand (annual consumption is around 377,000 and rising)
Goat meat stinks when you cook it (many people are confused about the difference between goats and lamb)
Goats eat everything (a common misconception)
Goats will escape and destroy a neighbours farm (good fencing is available in Thailand)
Choose what's right for you
At the end of the day, we all have to choose our path. For some, it's cows, for others, it's pigs or poultry. But for some of us, it's goats.
If you like the idea of keeping goats but not the thought of them being slaughtered, then the goat dairy sector is also a rapidly expanding market. Mind you; there will still be the issue of surplus bucklings if you let them breed.
We wish you the very best of luck and success whichever livestock venture/adventure you choose to follow. Please consider sharing this post with your friends who may also enjoy it.
Toon & Leigh
Porpeang farm Thailand
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