By MJ Fisher
Pueblo County Extension director
As you may already know, many holidays are celebrated with a traditional holiday feast. However, it is important to realize that a lot of cultures like to celebrate their holidays with lamb or goat meat as part of the feast.
If you are a lamb or goat producer, you may be able to market your product at a premium if you know when these holidays occur and what is desired for the various ethnic holiday feasts. Here is a sampling of some of the 2021 holidays and what consumers may be looking for. (It is important to realize that the date of some of the holidays change on a yearly basis, so in future years, you would need to look up the new date.)
Passover: In the Jewish religion, Passover (also known as Pesach) observes the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt. The holiday continues for eight days from the 14th of Nisan. A 30- to 55-pound lamb that has been milk fed and is fat is the preferred product for this holiday. In 2021, Passover will be recognized from sunset on March 27 to nightfall on April 4.
Easter: This is a Christian holiday memorializing the resurrection of Jesus following his crucifixion. Easter is calculated differently by various cultures, so you may hear it referred to as Western Easter, Roman Easter, Greek Easter or Orthodox Easter. In many years, the various calculations may cause the numerous Easter celebrations to fall on different dates. In 2021, Western Easter and Roman Easter are calculated to be on April 4. The Western/Roman Easter is celebrated with a 30- to 45-pound, fat, milk fed lamb. It can also be celebrated with a goat weighing between 20 and 50 pounds, 30 pounds being optimal. The goat should be fleshy and under 3 months of age. The consumer wants them to have been milk fed and they should have been gaining at least 1/2 pound per day. May 2 is when the Greek and Orthodox Easter celebrations will occur this year. The Greek/Orthodox culture likes similar lambs and goat kids, except slightly heavier. The lamb should be 40 to 55 pounds and goat kids are optimal at 35 pounds.
Ramadan: This is the Islamic month of fasting and is meant to teach the Muslim people patience, modesty and spirituality. During this period, participants are expected to fast from sunrise to sunset. They may only eat during the night hours. In 2021, the start of Ramadan will be April 13 and continue through May 11. Weaned market lambs from 60 to 80 pounds and goats less than 12 months of age (still possessing their milk teeth), weighing between 45 and 120 pounds (60 pounds is optimal), are preferred during this period.
Eid al Fitr: Eid al Fitr is the breaking of Ramadan and the fasting period. It is celebrated with a feast of lamb or goat similar to those preferred during Ramadan. In 2021, the Eid al Fitr celebration is from sundown on May 13 to sundown on May 15 due to the Islamic calendar being a lunar calendar and its days beginning at sunset. The date is based on the first day following the new moon.
Eid al Adha: This is the Islamic festival of sacrifice. It commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son. This three-day celebration is celebrated in 2021 from sunset on July 19 to sunset on July 23. Lambs and goats marketed for this holiday should not be castrated and the tails of lambs should not be docked. A lamb of 60 to 80 pounds is preferred but heavier lambs may also be utilized. Yearling goats with one set of adult teeth are preferred on the caprine side but 60- to 100-pound kids may also be marketable.
Rosh Hashanah: This holiday marks the Jewish New Year and will begin with sunset on Sept. 6 and run through nightfall on Sept. 8. The forequarters from a weaned lamb, 60 to 110 pounds in size, are preferred for Rosh Hashanah.
Navadurgara (also known as Navratra, Navratri, Dashara and Dassai): This is a 10-day/nine-night-long Hindu holiday that honors the goddess Durga. The final four days of the celebration include elaborate family feasts for which goats are slaughtered. The demand is for weaned, market kids and yearling wethers. It is unacceptable to use a female goat for this holiday feast. In 2021, it will occur Oct. 6 through Oct. 14.
Mawlid al-Nabi: The prophet Muhammad was the founder of the Islam faith and this holiday celebrates his birthday. It will occur on Oct. 18. The holiday begins on sunset of the previous day due to the Islamic calendar being a lunar calendar and its days beginning at sunset. Goat and mutton are consumed during this time.
Christmas: This Christian holiday, celebrating the birth of Jesus, annually falls on Dec. 25. It can be difficult to market for this holiday because the preference is for young milk fed kids and lambs. This requires October births, May breedings, to hit this out-of-season market.
There are several other special markets for goat that do not have the religious ties of the previously mentioned holidays. Much of the Hispanic culture enjoys goat meat for barbecues. Two popular items are 15- to 30-pound suckling kids for cabrito and large weaned market kids for seco de chivo. This is especially popular at Cinco de Mayo celebrations (May 5).
The Chinese culture can be a strong market for 60- to 80-pound market goats. This is especially true in the colder months.
The Fourth of July is another good opportunity to market goats. Once again, the smaller-weight kids for small celebrations, while yearling bucks, wethers and does are good for large barbecues.
The month of August is filled with a variety of Caribbean holidays for which goat meat is desired. Some of these include Carnival, Carifest and the Jamaican Independence Day. The optimal goats for this group of consumers are young, 60- to 80-pound bucks in their prime. However, economics may drive some consumers to purchase older goats of either sex.
I hope that this helps you better understand some of the niche marketing opportunities that exist for lamb and goat producers. And please remember that many of the holidays discussed here have moving dates from year to year. Therefore, it is important that you check each year to see when those holidays are if you plan to market to those cultural groups.
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