Alabama may be known for broilers and cattle, but the Yellowhammer State has a healthy goat industry as well. In fact, the state ranks No. 10 in the nation for meat goats.
Drexel Johnson, a goat farmer from Coffee County, says he’s been farming goats pretty much his whole life, and now works as a goat broker.
“I buy, sell and produce goats, Johnson says. “One day I may have 200 goats, then only one or two the next day from livestock auctions and such. My operation is more diversified than the run-of-the-mill goat producer.”
Johnson says that Alabama’s goat industry is five times as big as it was 15 years ago, especially in terms of population and structure.
“There are a lot of farmers exporting internationally, and everyone sells from state to state,” he says.
In 2011, the state had an inventory of 56,500 head of meat goats, compared to 53,000 in 2007. Goat markets within the state are in Florence, Russellville, Cullman, Moulton, Ashville, Uniontown, New Brockton, Opp and Brewton. And in 2013, cash receipts from January through July totaled $6,263.
Despite growing demand for Alabama’s meat goats, Johnson says the supply is down, due to a decrease in labor. “There are less people willing to work,” he says.
Nathan Jaeger, of the Alabama Farmers Federation Meat and Goat Sheep Producers Division, agrees. He says the goat business has been on a steady downward trend from its initial popularity, which peaked about eight years ago.
“Despite the decline, farmers are starting to see demand for their product stabilize and a potential increase in overall goat numbers could be in store over the next few years,” he says. “The maturation of ethnic markets in southeastern metropolitan areas is the main reason for optimism.”