A Pastoral Pursuit: Raising Goats and Sheep for Profit
The bleating of goats and sheep has been the soundtrack of agricultural life for centuries. And today, raising these versatile livestock animals presents a rewarding lifestyle and profitable business opportunity for 21st century farmers. We visited Jim and Mary Wilson, third generation owners of Green Meadows Farm, to give our readers an inside look at breeding goats and sheep for meat and dairy. 

<h2>A Day in the Life</h2>

The sunrise marks the start of a busy day for the Wilsons and their 350-head flock of meat and dairy goats plus 220 breeding ewes and rams. "We're up before dawn to begin the morning feeding and milking," says Mary. "Happy, healthy animals are the foundation of profitable production."  

While Mary fires up the milking parlor, Jim tends to the other livestock. Goats and sheep graze on pasture when weather permits and are fed hay grown on the farm plus grain rations. Preventive health measures like hoof trimming, shearing, and vaccinations are ongoing tasks. And there is always fence mending on the 100-acre farm.  

When the milking does wrap late morning, much of the goat milk travels to a local cheesemaker. Some is processed on the farm into artisanal cheese sold at farmers markets and restaurants. Lamb and mutton are also menu mainstays from Green Meadows stock exclaimed area chef, Alice Waters.  

<h2>Profit Drivers</h2>

Goat milk, meat, and hides along with wool, lamb, and mutton offer multiple income streams. Top quality breeding stock sales can significantly boost the bottom line too. "Our Alpine dairy goats average annual production of 3,500 pounds per doe which yields $35,000 milk sales," says Jim. Meat goats kid twice per year with survivability rates exceeding 200%. Wool and lamb sales remain solid.

"We gross over $150,000 annually before expenses, but profit hinges on controlling costs," he adds. Feed, facilities, livestock purchases, veterinary care, and labor are major expenditures that have to be diligently managed. Customers paying premium prices for health-conscious meat, milk, and cheese offset expenses when properly marketed through organic certification, product testing, and product niche. Value-added dairy like cheese ultimately drives profit.

<h2>Why Goats and Sheep?</h2>

Versatility and economy are why small ruminants fit the American farm today. Goats efficiently convert scrub vegetation and grains into milk, meat, and hides on less acreage than cattle. Sheep are adept grazers with marketable wool and ample lamb production. Both species are relatively small allowing easy handling. Initial purchase costs are far below that of cows while generating similar revenues over time with multiple breeding cycles and dairy production capability. 

On overgrazed or brush-prone land, goats thrive controlling weeds. Caprine digestive systems uniquely extract nutrients from plant sources cattle cannot utilize. Plus, goats are less susceptible to diseases plaguing other livestock. Sheep fill a niche as docile grazers coexisting amicably with cattle in a rotational system benefiting pasture yields for both species.

<h2>Facilities and Care</h2>

Modest enclosures and milking facilities suit small ruminants well. Daily observation catches health issues early reducing losses, vet bills, and medication costs. Endearing breed characteristics also enable sharing the workload with children who readily connect with darling doelings and lambs.

Barn space for winter shelter and a sturdy perimeter fence are basic necessities along with feed bunks and a water source. Though more intensive housing like a loafing shed may better accommodate herd expansions. "We began with just a handful of animals in pens inside our pole barn," Jim recalls. "Simple facilities help new breeders control expenses until profit flows allow investments to upgrade and expand."

Used equipment keeps startup costs in check while caprine and ovine sizes manage easily. Beginners should start on the small side and grow revenues through robust breeding beforeacquisition costs soar. Modern electric fencing technology now makes rotational grazing a possibility without breaking the bank too.

<h2>Secret to Success</h2>

When queried about tips for prosperity in this business, Jim emphasized leverage and efficiency. "Buy low, sell high of course. But carefully build your brand and customer base with premium products to earn more net profit from every pound you produce."  Data analysis helps the numbers-focused Wisconsin natives track production variables against market benchmarks to maximize margins.

The Wilson's leverage technology to improve breeding, kid and lamb survival rates, pasture yields, and workforce productivity. Social media bolsters direct and wholesale revenue channels. Lean processes, clear metrics, and continuous analysis optimizes output from their land and livestock pushing net farm income over $100,000.

Herd share partnerships allow multiple owners to share outputs, expenses, labor, and profits. Creative direct marketing via regional online sales and agritourism diversifies cash flows while connecting consumers to their food's origins. "Be as efficient as possible to get your cost per output pound down, then ensure the quality is spectacular to command higher prices," Jim emphasizes.   "Do that well and this is a solid business."

<h2>Money Isn't Everything</h2>

Intangible benefits also drive the rising popularity of these pastoral enterprises. Owners relish the rural way of life, connections with animals, and opportunity to perpetuate an agrarian legacy. Customers value transparent origins and sustainable practices. Plus, small farm enterprises build community.

"We love to teach the next generation, keeping alive this agricultural heritage," Mary says after chatting with a 4H group.  "Our kids are proud to raise and show championship goats and sheep." For the Wilson family, profits are only one - albeit important - output measure. Perpetuating a purposeful pastoral lifestyle matters too.

Consumer interest in farmstead food and agritourism make sheep and goats attractive urban fringe livestock. Part-time shepherds swell membership rolls in breed associations as backyard hobby scales to profitable side venture. When executed efficiently, direct marketing outlets for specialty cheeses, delicate yarns, and lean flavorful meat cuts offer chances for full-time profit. 

Prospective owners should carefully consider costs, feed inputs, stock selection, infrastructure scale, marketing channels plus labor commitments and lifestyle preferences when evaluating a caprine or ovine enterprise. It's not just idyllic pasture scenes. Economic realities require homework and perspiration to extract profits. But the low-cost start and loyal market niche makes goats and sheep desirable opportunities for both full-time and part-time farmers.