It's feeding time at the Winding Brook Farm in Morrisville. Along with lamb, pork, chickens and turkeys, Art Meade sells about 400 goats a year, primarily for ethnic customers in the Burlington area.
"What I do is I buy the older dairy goats, once they've ended their life cycle as far as productivity for dairy farmers, and I sell those to my Somalian and refugee customers," Mead said.
Goat is the most widely consumed red meat in the world, a staple in places like Africa, Asia and South/Central America. It's catching on in the U.S., and in Vermont, there is an untapped supply looking for a market.
With the explosive growth in recent years of goat cheese and other dairy products, there's the question of what producers can do to make the most value out of the male kids. Vermont goat dairies have an annual surplus of nearly 7,000 of them, or about 80 percent of the total annual crop of kids that end up being auctioned out-of-state or even discarded. How to get more added value for those animals was the focus at the No Kid Left Behind symposium in Montpelier Wednesday. The meeting brought together members of the food industry, and state and federal ag officials with dairy goat and meat goat farmers.
"Our goal at Vermont Chevon is to raise them to that market weight and then work with processors and distributors and marketers to get them into the market both here in Vermont and outside," said Shirley Richardson of Vermont Chevon.
One of the goals is getting goat dairies onboard. Producers like Rene De Leeuw, who is in the midst of ramping up to an 800 goat dairy operation in Randolph.
"The alternative for the meat market is there and we actually have a viable industry to move them into versus in the past get rid of them as best you can," said De Leeuw of Ayers Brook Farm.
Back at Winding Brook Farm, Mead says the challenges of merging the dairy and meat markets are many, from breeding the kind of goat that is both desirable for milk as it is for meat, to the lack of an economy of scale that it takes to bring a young goat to market.
"It just takes so darn long to raise dairy goats up and they don't have the muscle tone that you get out of the true meat goats," Mead said. "If they can somehow get the cost of raising them into line."
Finding an appetite for goat meat in the Green Mountains.
"It's a nice tasting meat, but it's nothing I get too excited about," Mead said. "I like my beef."