How to Start a Goat Farm
What do Nubian, Oberhasli, Kalahari, Alpine and Fainting all have in common? They are all goat breeds. Actually, they are some of the most common dairy or meat goats farmed in the US.
Goat farming is on the rise. Demand for goat meat, milk, and fiber continues to trend upwards and the industry is also well supported by US government programs.
Compared to other hoofed and domesticated creatures, goats are low maintenance. They eat just about every grass and weed and don’t need a lot of space to roam and be happy. Plus, they are quite the social butterflies, full of character and slightly quirky.
So if you have experience with livestock and are looking for an opportunity to run your own farm, then starting a goat farm will present many positives for you.
Goat farming in the US is defined as rearing goats for either milk or meat as well as skin and fiber production. In fact, different goat breeds will produce either dairy, meat, or fiber (wool, angora, and mohair). They rarely cross over. Some farmers also choose to focus their business on breeding goats.
A typical goat farm in the US has only about 20 animals, making goat farming viable even on small stretches of land.
As of December 2021, there were about 136,000 farms across the US. 77% of all goats were raised for their meat, 19% for their milk, and only 4% were raised for fiber (angora)
Goat farms are most prevalent in the States of Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, Wisconsin, California, and Tennessee. An expansion of goat farming to the Southwest can be attributed to the government supporting farmers to switch from failing crops such as tobacco, to goat farming.
Although formal qualifications are not essential, we highly recommend livestock farming experience or relevant vocational training to ensure your goat farming business is successful. In addition to this, you will need to check licensing requirements in your state, especially for milk or meat production.
The production of goat milk and meat is on the rise in the US. This is mostly due to government subsidies for this industry and ethnic changes in population and thus an increased demand for goat products.
Goat milk and milk products are also increasingly popular due to their nutritional and biochemical properties. Goat milk offers a great dairy alternative for people with gastrointestinal disorders and people with cow milk allergies and is cholesterol-free.
In addition to these domestic trends, the industry is working with regulators to enable the expansion of its exports into foreign markets such as the European Union, Japan, and Taiwan.
Your target market depends largely on whether you choose to raise goats for milk, meat, or fiber. A solid market analysis, including understanding the licensing requirements and regulations for your state will assist you greatly with the decision-making.
The American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) can provide useful information and resources. And to determine your target market and focus your marketing efforts on the right market segments, we also recommend membership in the American Goat Federation (AGF). It is an established network that according to its website is “representing the interests of more than 150,000 producers engaged in the sustainable production and marketing of goat milk, meat, fiber, breeding stock, pack goat, and grazing services across the United States.”
Checklist for Starting a Goat Farm Business
If you’re thinking about starting your own goat farm business, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Here is a checklist of the essentials to get started.
Step 1: Write a Business Plan
When you start any business, whether it’s a goat farm or some other type of enterprise, you need to have a business plan. This document will outline your goals and objectives for the goat farm, as well as how you intend to achieve them. It will also provide important financial information, such as your start-up costs and projected income.
Not only will a bank require you to have one if funding is needed, but multiple studies have shown that a business plan helps increase the odds of starting a successful business.
Related: How to write a business plan
Step 2: Name the Business
Finding the perfect name for a business can be challenging. Not only does the name have to resonate with your customers, but it also has to be available to use.
Step 3: Form a Business Entity
A business entity (also referred to as a business structure) refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business structures to choose from, which include the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC). Each type of entity has its own pros and cons, such as liability exposure, costs, and administrative requirements.
When deciding on which business entity is best for a goat farm business, it normally comes down to the sole proprietorship and Limited Liability Company.
A partnership opens the owners up to unnecessary personal liability because if a partner does something to get the business sued, or runs off with cash from the business, the other partners are personally liable to repay.
The corporation can be a good choice to minimize liability risk because it separates the business assets from the owner’s assets. If the corporation is sued or certain business debts can’t be paid back, the owners aren’t personally responsible to repay them. The downside to the corporation is that it is more complicated than all the other entities and requires more administration than the LLC. If you plan on raising a lot of investment though, the corporation is usually the better choice.
That leaves the sole proprietorship and LLC.
The sole proprietorship is the least expensive and easiest entity to start which is appealing. The downside is that the owner is personally liable should anything happen to the business, which is an important consideration. The LLC offers the ability to operate as a sole proprietorship with the liability protection of a corporation. Depending on the state, the cost to form an LLC runs from $40 – $500, which is pretty inexpensive for protecting the owners from business-related lawsuits and certain debts.
Related: Guide to forming your LLC
Forming an LLC sounds complicated and expensive, but using an entity formation service guides you through the process so you know it was done right.
Some popular LLC formation services include:
IncFile - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!
IncAuthority - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent the first year!
ZenBusiness - $49 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!
Step 4: Select Your Location
One of the most important decisions you’ll make when starting a goat farm is choosing the right location. There are a few things to keep in mind when making this decision.
First, you need to make sure the land you choose is suitable for goats. They need plenty of space to roam and graze, so pasture land is ideal. You’ll also need to have access to water for drinking and bathing purposes.
Another important consideration is the climate. Goats are hardy animals and can withstand cold weather, but they don’t do well in extremely hot or humid conditions. So, you’ll need to choose a location that has moderate weather conditions.
Finally, you need to think about the zoning regulations in your area. Some areas have restrictions on farming, so you’ll need to make sure the land you choose is zoned for agricultural use.
Step 5: Apply for Business Licenses and Permits
Before you can start your goat farm, you will need to obtain the proper licenses and permits from your local government. Check with your state’s department of agriculture to see what regulations apply to goat farming in your area. You may need to get a license to sell milk or meat products, for example.
Additionally, a local business license and sales tax permit may be needed as well.
Step 6: Find Financing
Coming up with a good business idea and having the skills to run it are one thing, but getting the funding to start a goat farm business is another. Fortunately, the cost to start a new goat farm business is relatively low; however, funding to start a business can be difficult. Banks are typically going to want the borrower to have good credit and be able to invest 15-25% of their money towards the total start-up costs.
Step 7: Open a Business Bank Account
Keeping your small business and personal finances in separate bank accounts is important to track the income and expenses of your business and identify trends.
Many banks offer free business checking accounts, so be sure to find a cost-effective option for your business.
Step 8: Get your Marketing Plan in Place
There are a few different ways to market a goat farm. One way is to sell the milk and cheese produced on the farm. This can be done at farmer’s markets, through online retailers, or directly to consumers.
Another way to market a goat farm is to offer tours and educational programs about goats and farming. This can be a great way to generate interest in the farm and attract customers.
Finally, you can market the farm as a venue for special events, such as birthday parties, weddings, and corporate retreats. This can be a great way to generate income and publicity for the farm.
Step 9: Get Business Insurance
Insurance is an important consideration for any business, but it’s especially important for a goat farm. This is because there are many potential risks associated with raising goats, such as injuries to the animals and damage to property.
Some of the most common types of insurance for a goat farm include general liability, property damage, and workers’ compensation. You may also need to get specific insurance for the goats themselves, such as livestock insurance.
The type of insurance you need will depend on the size and scope of your farm. To get a more accurate idea of potential insurance costs, request quotes from multiple insurance companies. Compare the policies and consider factors like deductibles and coverage limits to find the policy that’s best for a business.
Related: Types of insurance your business may need
Step 10: Hire Employees
Many goat farms operate with only the owner, but depending on the size of the farm, employees may be needed.
If you’re planning to start a goat farm, you may need to hire employees to help with the day-to-day operations. This can include tasks such as feeding and watering the goats, cleaning the pens and shelters, and milking the goats.
When hiring employees, it’s important to look for people who are passionate about goats and farming. They should also be reliable, hardworking, and able to work long hours.
In addition to budgeting for employee salaries, don’t forget other employee-related expenses like health insurance contributions, unemployment contributions, paid time off, and worker’s compensation expenses.
Step 11: Set up an Accounting System
Setting up an accounting system for your goat farm business is critical to your business’s long-term success.
Staying on top of taxes not only keeps the business out of trouble with the government, but the numbers can be used to track and monitor trends and cash flow in the business and maximize profits.
The thought of accounting can be intimidating for a lot of new entrepreneurs. There are a number of ways of handling bookkeeping, from DIY to hiring a bookkeeper. These include:
- Pen and paper - Low expense, but difficult to track.
- Spreadsheet - Low expense, but easy to make errors.
- Accounting software - Medium expense, but owner typically inputs expenses. Some great accounting software programs include Freshbooks or Wave Accounting.
- Hire a bookkeeper - Higher expense, though very affordable at $100-$200 per month in most cases. A dedicated bookkeeper will probably save money because, in addition to handling all of the bookkeeping (so you can focus on the business), they also provide personalized tax advice and ensure the business is in compliance.
Find bookkeepers in your local area or use a service like 800Accountant.
How much does it cost to start a goat farm?
Starting your own goat farming business has many variables, so it is hard to determine a fixed budget. However, here are some points to consider when developing your budget:
– Do you have a piece of land that is suitable for rearing goats? Is there enough crop to feed them and a good source of water? Is it already fenced in and does it provide warm and dry shelter for your goats?
– What are the licensing and certification requirements in your State and what do you need to do to obtain them?
– Is there good access to a veterinary service?
– What goat breeds do you intend to rear? This will in turn determine whether you need additional equipment such as a milking shed, shearing quarters, etc.
– What facilities are close by to process your produce (such as meatworks, bottling plant, wool producer)?
– Where is your target market located? How and where will you sell your products? Directly to a dairy conglomerate, the meatworks, or t the local farmers market, through specialty stores and delis, or as part of a larger chain?
– What are your transportation options? If the goats have to be transported over long distances to the buyer, adequate transportation will need to be purchased.
How much can a goat farm owner make?
According to Comparably, goat farmers in the US earn between $34,000 and $49,000 annually. Again these figures depend largely on whether goats are farmed for meat, dairy, or fiber, and whether a farmer will also reap the benefits of selling a finished product such as bottled milk or cheese to the market. American Dairymen states that in recent years “goat breeders have found financial success in many creative ways”.
Are there grants to start a goat farm business?
It’s extremely rare to find a grant to start a goat farm business. If you search for business grants, you will come across a lot of scams and misinformation. Occasionally an organization will offer grants to start a business, however, be skeptical and don’t provide any sensitive personal information or pay money to get more information.
Legitimate federal grants can be found at Grants.gov, and you can check on your state’s economic development office to see if they have any grants available.
What skills are needed to run a goat farm business?
Although you don’t need a specific qualification to start a goat farming business, a background in livestock farming coupled with a basic understanding of running a small business will help you greatly to maintain a successful operation and adhere to animal welfare requirements.
American DairymenⓇ provides an excellent overview of licensing requirements and also offers information about relevant training and certification programs. To ensure you run healthy, productive livestock and meet all legal requirements, consider attaining certified Animal Welfare Approved (AWA).
We also recommend keeping up to date with the latest industry trends and development opportunities.
What will be crucial to the success of your business, is knowledge of your target market and setting up processes and a network and infrastructure to reach it.
While it is relatively easy to farm goats, bringing their products to market will require research and linking to the right supply and production resources. You will need to work out how the meat or milk is handled and stored, or where you can take your fiber to be processed.
To sustain and grow your business, you will be responsible for taking your produce (milk, meat, or fiber) through a production process and selling the finished product. And that requires the ability to coordinate your supply chain, but also understand demand, price your products correctly, and bring them to market.
What is the NAICS code for a goat farm business?
The NAICS code for a goat farm business is 112420.
The NAICS code (North American Industry Classification System) is a federal system to classify different types of businesses for the collection and reporting of statistical data.
Related: What is a NAICS code?
Starting your own goat farming business may sound quite daunting, and the options may feel somewhat overwhelming.
But it is also a business you can start small and then develop and finetune as you go. Good networks, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a passion for farming will be your best friends.