It is safe to say that goat production has never been a major enterprise in the United States or Canada. Goats can be generally classified based largely on their function, including fiber types (Angora and Cashmere), dairy types (Alpine breeds plus Nubian), those kept primarily for meat production (Spanish or brush goats, and more recently the Boer), and those kept as laboratory animals or pets (Dwarf or Pygmy).
In the United States the goat population reached its high point around 1965, when Angoras numbered approximately six million. The termination of an incentive program, coupled with a declining demand for Mohair, has decimated the industry in recent years, with numbers in 1998 at less than one million. There has, however, been an increase in the number of goats kept for meat production. This increase has been fueled by a need to replace the Angora for use in grazing management and the identification of a growing ethnic market for goat meat. Recent immigrants from goat-consuming regions (such as the Middle East) to the Prairie Provinces, for example, have stimulated the goat meat industry there. About one-third of Canada's goat population is now in the Prairie Provinces. In the United States it is expected that the major concentration of goats on the Plains will continue to be in the Edwards Plateau and adjacent regions of Texas, where they are an important component of the grazing system and make a significant contribution to ranching income.
The goat, along with certain game species, represents the best ecological fit in the semiarid regions of the Great Plains, and the potential for their exploitation in this region is great. However, this potential is not likely to be realized unless some serious problems can be solved. These include fencing, predation, and grazing policy on federal lands. Finally, if these regions were used to their potential to produce meat or fiber from goats, the supplies would far exceed present known market outlets or demands.
The use of goats in the larger Great Plains region will likely be restricted to smaller private landholdings or to strategic uses for vegetative management. There is a great potential for use of the goat (and to a lesser extent sheep) for reducing fire hazards in forest areas by removing a part of the fuel base, reducing vegetative competition in reforestation efforts (especially conifer forests), and controlling certain noxious plant species, such as leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula L.).
Maurice Shelton Texas Agricultural Experiment Station San Angelo, Texas
Shelton, Maurice. "Goat Production." In Encyclopedia of Agricultural Science, edited by Charles J. Arntzen. San Diego: Academic Press, 1994.
Walker, John W., S. L. Kronberg, S. L. Al-Rowaily, and N. E. West. "Comparison of Sheep and Goat Preferences for Leafy Spurge." Journal of Range Management 47 (1994): 429–34.