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Goat Farmers Could Profit From Peanuts

By Jill Lee
March 11, 1999

Southern farmers who produce forage peanuts might see their profits grow with goats, thanks to an increasingly diverse U.S. population with a taste for goat meat. The forage peanuts that readily grow in Florida and the southern parts of the Gulf States also make great goat food, according to new agricultural research.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture teamed up with Fort Valley State University at Fort Valley, Ga., to find out if goats can be raised on different kinds of forages. The project is part of Fort Valley's comprehensive program to develop profitable year-round grazing systems for goats.

Scientists with USDA's Agricultural Research Service assisted Ft. Valley in nutritional analysis, using near infra-red spectrometry. They found no significant difference in nutritional value between alfalfa, the usual goat forage, and the leafy peanut plants. Forage peanuts don't produce nuts like the kind people eat, so most of their nutritional value is in the leaves.

Scientists at Fort Valley, who conceived the goat-peanut idea, kept live herds to see how the practice worked outside the laboratory. They found the goats may prefer peanut plants over alfalfa in the fall breeding season. These results suggest setting aside some peanuts for pasture might be a profitable option. Goats are a low environmental impact livestock.

A recent study done for USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service shows goat meat will gain markets because of the United States' increasing cultural diversity. Caribbean and West African cuisines use mature goat meat for jerks and barbecues. Muslims enjoy kid goat meat as part of their festive meal, id-al-Fitr, which is the break from Ramadan fasting.

Greek, Italian and other European cultures also make goat part of their holiday fare. Latino cuisine favors Cabrito, or meat from a kid goat weighing less than 20 pounds. But it isn't just new immigrants who want goat. Restaurants featuring international cuisine are adding to the number of consumers craving goat--not only in the South, but nationwide.

Scientific contact: William Windham, ARS Richard B. Russell Agricultural Research Center, Athens, Ga., phone (706) 546-3513, fax (706) 546-3607,; Tom Terrill, Animal Science Department, Fort Valley State University, Fort Valley, Ga., phone (912) 825-6814, fax (912) 825-6376,