Jackson Show Goats caters to clients seeking high-quality show animals

Small ruminant production is growing in popularity in the Ozarks as smaller farms crop up, making them the perfect livestock operation for those just starting in agriculture.

“There’s more money in sheep and goats than there is cattle,” Larry Jackson, who also runs about 200 head of momma cows, said. “You can run 10 head on an acre where you can only run one cow. You also don’t have to have a lot of equipment like you do for cows.”

At one time, the Jackson family had up to 400 head of commercial does roaming the family farm. Andrew, Larry’s son, bought out his sister Kendra’s stock when she went to college, and when Andrew went to college all goats were sold, but Andrew and Larry are now back in business, specializing in high-quality show goats at Jackson Show Goats.

“We’ve been in the show goat business for about four years now. When we started showing goats when I was a kid, we didn’t know anything about it. I want to take my knowledge now and help kids learn more and help them succeed. I enjoy goats,” Andrew said. “We try to make money at it, but that’s not what it’s all about. It’s something I can do with my wife, my kids and my dad.”

The primary marketing outlet for Jackson Show goats are online sales, which Andrew said helps them reach further than strictly on-the-farm sales.

“In our last sale, we sold nine head that went to six states,” he said. “The farthest away we’ve sold has been Georgia and Florida. We do sell to local kids, but the show industry is targeted toward Oklahoma, Texas, Georgia, California and Kansas.”

Females are kidded out at Larry’s farm in nearby Reeds, Mo., then taken to Andrew’s farm in Wentworth, Mo.

The Jacksons begin working with their show prospects within days of birth, which Andrew said will acclimate the goats to being handled and learning how to brace for the show ring.

“A lot of people, especially younger kids, want something they can go out there and work with, and parents don’t want their kids to get hurt,” Andrew said.

Proper nutrition in goats, as with all livestock, is the key to making a quality, productive animal.

“We only feed a straight pellet because goats are terrible about picking through feed,” Andrew said, adding that the same pellet, which runs 16 percent protein with 4 percent fat, 16 or 17 percent fiber, and is medicated with Decox to prevent coccidiosis and ammonium chloride to prevent urinary calculi, is offered to kids through creep feeding. “The cheapest and the most expensive thing we do is feed. I’m not afraid to feed them to get them where they need to be.”

Free-choice minerals are also offered at all times.

“On the kids, I use several different products in their feed that are probiotics to help stimulate their rumen to get them eating,” Andrew said.

While nutrition is essential, an animal must be structurally correct.

“I can feed fat into one, but not structure,” Andrew said. “They are kind of like hogs; you have to build them from the ground up. If they aren’t right, then they never will be.”

A lack of structure is a culling factor, as is a poor or failing udder, a lack of milk production, producing non-sellable kids or failure to breed or rebreed twice.

Kids are weaned about 90 days after birth and then sold about 30 days later.

The Jackson’s breeding program includes synchronizing females, breeding between July 1 and the end of August. They hand breed by pulling CIDRs, then putting females with a buck for 24 to 36 hours. This year they will breed 50 females.

They are looking at doing some later breeding to provide show prospects for larger shows held in the fall. Females are bred at a year old, which Andrew said, allows for further maturity.

They did AI some females last year, which did not go as well as they hoped, but Larry blamed the hot, dry weather for the low conception rates.

“It was a wreck for everyone getting things bred last year,” Andrew said. “I like AI because you can get everything bred at a certain time and you have a uniform group to market, but we’ve positioned ourselves better this year.”

While the father and son duo like what an AI program can bring to their herd’s genetic pool, they said semen is typically expensive and there is no guarantee of conception.

“With the bucks we have now, I feel we have a good mix of genetics,” Andrew said. “We’re starting to see the genetic potential and get our genetics built up.”

Over the last four years, they have retained most of their does to help grow their herd, but they plan to begin opening up sales for their females. Bucks and wethers are typically sold, but they have retained one buck from the most recent kid crop.

Health protocols include trimming feet two to three times a year and two rounds of CDT vaccinations for kids.

“We’re cautious about what we give to the kids,” Larry said. “We don’t give, or feed, any antibiotics, but if something needs an antibiotic, we will treat it.”

Goats are wormed a couple of times a year, or as needed.

“We watch their eyelids to make sure they are OK,” Larry said. Andrew added that overpopulation can increase parasites in goats.

“Back when we had 400 head, we had to worm every 30 days or we were going to have problems,” Andrew said.

As for the future, Andrew and Larry hope to continue to develop their breeding herd.

“I would like to get up to about 100, 150 head of good-quality does,” Andrew said. “My lifelong plan is to farm; I want to be in the cattle business, but this is part of that. If you do it right, a guy can make a living on the farm. You have to work at it, and it’s not just going out and throwing about a bucket of feed. I want to eventually build a kidding barn here and get my kids more involved in that aspect like I was.”


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