The goat industry in Alberta continues to grow as demands for their meat increases.
The first annual goat convention and production sale was hosted by the Alberta Goat Breeders Association (AGBA), funded by ALMA and many other sponsors and held at the Ponoka Ag Event Centre during the weekend.
Those who attended learned the ins and outs of the goat industry. “It’s basically an information session … goats, the industry, stakeholders, networking opportunities for producers,” said Laurie Fries, vice-president of AGBA.
“Because Canada has had a huge increase in the ethnic population—one of their main staples is goat meat and products,” said Fries.
However, Fries says that isn’t the only reason the goat industry is doing well. There’s also a high demand for other fresh, local products such as cheese, milk and fiber for clothing.
Fries is finding people are returning to their rural roots but don’t have the money or the space for herds of larger livestock, such as cattle. Instead they raise goats. “It’s an opportunity to have a valued production on smaller, less fertile land.”
Goats have also become an important part of a grazing technique called multispecies grazing. Fries said goats eat what other livestock won’t. Instead of using pesticides, livestock producers will use goats to eat down weed and brush. Then cattle or horses will eat the grass.
Fries said the growing popularity of green initiatives and decrease in pesticide usage is an advantage to breeders.
Goat products are also becoming more popular because their milk doesn’t contain lactose. “It’s the same with the cheese products,” said Fries.
The convention also included veterinary topics and emergency preparedness. If there was a large fire in Ponoka County would livestock producers know what to do with their animals; lock them up or let them flee, explained Fries.
“We also have a bit of a different twist,” she said. “How do we, as livestock people, fit into agriculture?”
The included production sale featured a variety of goat breeds used for different products.
“We’re offering top quality breeding stock for interested producers,” said Fries, who explained the stock could be used to start or expand herds, or change genetics.
A basic female goat costs around $450, and a male $500. Fries says prices increase with the quality of the goat.