“Goat meat hasn’t yet caught on in the United States to the extent that it has in other parts of the world, but that’s why experts believe the domestic market has tremendous potential for growth,” said T.J. Davidson, chairman of NCTC’s Agriculture Department.

The department is co-sponsor of the first annual North Texas Goat Conference along with Texas Cooperative Extension and the International Boer Goat Association (IGBA).

The day-long conference, billed as the largest and most comprehensive such program ever to focus on the meat goat industry for this region, is open to all breeders, potential breeders and all other persons interested in learning more from some of the top authorities in the field.

There is a cost of attending the conference, to be held at NCTC’s First State Bank Center for the Performing Arts. A special rate is offered to families and groups of four or more, and those who pre-register. Additional family members may attend for a smaller fee.

Conference fees cover the program, and conference materials as well as lunch and refreshments. On-site registration will begin at 7:30 a.m., and the program should get underway at 8:30 a.m., lasting until about 4 p.m.

“The growth potential in the meat goat industry, particularly the Boer goat breed, could mean very significant profits for producers and greater access to this desirable meat option for consumers,” Davidson said.

He observed that most people in this region of the U.S., especially here in Texas, tend to think almost exclusively in terms of beef cattle and swine when it comes to meat animals. From a global perspective, however, goats are the most popular domesticated animals in the world, and goat meat and milk are the most widely consumed animal products.

“Goats are popular because of their efficient conversion of feed into edible, high quality meat, milk and hide,” Davidson said. “And yet, they eat vegetation that other grazing animals like cattle either won’t eat or can’t get to because it may be high up on the side of a rocky hill or in other rugged or inaccesible terrain.”

He explained that goats are very active foragers, able to cover a wide area in search of scarce plant materials, some of which often have thorns and small leaves tucked among woody stems. Goats have been observed to stand on their hind legs and stretch up to browse tree leaves or throw their bodies against saplings to bring the tops within reach.

“There are many factors that could influence the goat meat industry’s development in northern Texas,” Davidson said. “Among these are suitable climate, a growingly diverse population, current goat meat import figures and the size and number of small farms in the region.”

According to the IGBA, goat meat is most popular in the United States with certain ethnic minorities, including Chinese, Middle Eastern, Latino, African and Caribbean. In Texas, Latinos represent at least a third of the state’s population, a huge built-in market for goat meat.

Davidson pointed out that the increasing demand among all U.S. citizens for “healthier” food is another boon to goat meat producers. Goat meat is leaner, higher in iron and lower in cholesterol than beef, pork and even skinless poultry.

Research has indicated that goat meat has a balanced proportion of saturated to unsaturated fatty acids and it is a rich source of conjugated linoleic acid, a fatty acid that, over the past two decades, has been associated with a reduction in cancer, heart disease, onset of diabetes and accumulation of body fat.

Current goat meat import figures demonstrate an established market for the product in the U.S. In 2003, the U.S. imported more than 18 million tons of goat meat. With an average carcass weight of 35 to 40 pounds, an estimated 500,000 goat carcasses were imported.

Among the speakers scheduled to address the conference are Don Smith of Talpa, TX, known as one of the founders of the Boer goat industry; Jackie Nix, animal nutritionist for Sweetix; Wynema Adams, IBGA representative and editor of the publication Boer Breeder; Al Paul, breeder and senior judge for IBGA; Dr. Frank Craddock, Extension sheep and goat specialist; Dr. Steve Hart, goat specialist from Langston University; and Steve Doty, formulation and technical service manager for Manna Pro Corporation.

For a registration form or more information about the first annual North Texas Goat Conference, contact the NCTC Agriculture Department at 668-4217 or email: ebeck@nctc.edu.

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