Raising Meat Goats
You thinking of Raising Meat Goats?
A.R. Cobb, D. Oswald, J. Miller
to Farm Direct
opportunities have led many folks
to consider raising meat goats, but many are unfamiliar with modern
production techniques. And because the interest in meat goat production
is new, there are few experienced goat producers in most areas to help
newcomers in their desire to learn as much as possible.
In addition, importation of new breeds has stimulated a breeding
industry which needs herds to produce purebred breeding stock as well
as animals for exhibition.
The following guidelines, and links to the University of
Illinois Extension's SheepNet and Meat GoatNet website, cover
range of topics that potential producers should understand before
launching a meat goat enterprise.
step is to do an honest evaluation of resources. This
includes personal attitudes, availability of land, buildings,
machinery, equipment, labor, and capital. (See Evaluating
Marketing is another consideration. You should not raise goats as a
business if you do not have a profitable outlet for them.
Potential markets to consider:
Sales outlets include sale barns, buying stations,
pools, processing plants, on farm sales, meat products, restaurants,
sales through Farmer's Market Online.
If you plan to sell directly off the farm, consider the ethnic
diversity in your area. In general, large cities and university towns
will have more ethnic diversity.
(commercial or registered). You can sell to other producers, but you
need to know how to reach them. Consider joining breed organizations,
state organizations, and attending breeding stock sales.
(breeding stock or wethers). Once again, you need to know how to reach
potential buyers. Look into 4H and FFA program, and goat breed
The commercial goat
meat industry is almost entirely ethnic, (Muslim,
Hispanic). It is affected by the dates of various religious holidays
shown below plus others. The dates for most holidays change from year
to year. Islamic holidays change by 11 days each year. Watch the Holidays
for upcoming ethnic holidays and opportunities to market your goat meat.
Producers also need to develop a health program for the meat goat herd
and feeding guidelines are also important. (See Developing
a Health Program and Feeding
If you decide to start a goat enterprise, where you get your starter
herd is critical. Be sure to purchase healthy animals. Also, don't buy
on pedigree alone – it is the performance of the goat that
counts, not the papers that come with the goat.
- Educate yourself
- visit other goat farms, read
books, visit websites, and join goat organizations.
- Don't be bashful
- put your hands on the goat!
- Check for a
sound mouth, two teats, no lumps or
sores, healthy feet, no nasal or eye discharge, clean butt, good body
condition, size fits with age.
- Ask to see the
sire and dam.
- Ask its birth
rank, how it was raised, and
- Ask for its pre
and post weaning average daily gain.
- Ask about their
culling practices. Do not buy from a
farm that sells everything as breeding stock.
- Make sure that
they raise goats the way you will be
raising them. Don't buy a pampered show goat and expect it to survive
on pasture with minimal care - it will die!
- Don't buy from a
sale barn or auction!
- EPD's are just
starting in goats.
- Start cheap
– it's better to make mistakes on
less expensive goats that your high dollar breeding stock.
The key traits to be considered in selecting a breed for meat goat
production include: adaptability to environmental and production
conditions, reproductive rate, growth rate, and carcass characteristics.
There are five major breeds of meat goats in the United States: Boer,
Kiko, Spanish, Myotonic and Savannah. Each breed was developed with the
same goal in mind: fertile, low maintenance goats able to survive in
harsh conditions. While each breed has its pros and cons, the most
important factor in breed selection is the individual animals you are
The Boer is a
heavier goat that was developed in South Africa. This makes the Boer a
good fit for drier climates such as Texas. Puberty is achieved early,
at about 6 months for the males and 10-12 months for the females. A
mature Boer buck weights between 240 and 300 pounds and the Boer doe
weighs between 200 and 225 pounds. For some situations, this breed
might be too big, with high maintenance costs.
breed was developed in New Zealand from feral and dairy breeds and
continues to be selected for specific commercially-important traits.
The Kiko goat is therefore well suited to wetter climates such as the
Southeast and Midwest. It performs well under a variety of conditions
in forage-based meat production systems. They have good reproductive
rates, growth rates, and are low maintenance. On average, mature bucks
can weigh up to 200 pounds and does up to 130 pounds.
Generically, the term Spanish has been used to describe goats of
unknown ancestry. Because they have been crossbred for many
generations, they are very hardy, and can survive under adverse
agronomic climates. They are excellent range animals because of their
small udders and teats. Body shape, size and color are not consistent
among goats of the breed. On average, mature bucks can weigh up to 175
pounds and does up to 120 pounds.
Savannah was also developed in South Africa. It is known for its
survivability and mothering ability.
Myotonic goats are often referred to as the Tennessee 'fainting' goats,
'wooden leg' or 'stiff leg'. The stiff-leg name is derived from the
fact that, in a startled or frightened state, the goats 'lock up' and
fall over and lie very stiff (faint) for a few seconds (a condition
referred to as myotonia). Researchers claim that this type of
involuntary muscle contraction could build a more tender muscle than a
muscle developed by strenuous use. This breed is one of the few
indigenous goat breeds to the United States. Although a smaller goat,
overall the breed is very muscular and meaty.
is a dwarfed, heavily muscled and short-legged breed originating in
West Africa. It is well suited to humid conditions and twinning is
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