getting started in the meat goat business

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  • GETTING STARTED IN THE MEATGOAT BUSINESS

    Bulletin I, Vol. VII

    Selecting and Evaluating Goats forMeat Production

    By

    Angela McKenzie-JakesExtension Animal Science Specialist

    Florida A&M UniversityCollege of Engineering Sciences, Technology and Agriculture

    Research and Cooperative Extension Programs

  • To My Producers

    Florida A&M UniversityCollege of Engineering Sciences, Technology, and Agriculture

    Research and Cooperative Extension Program

    Statewide Goat Program

    Acknowledgments

    Special appreciation and gratitude is extended to Ms. Marian Gibbons for her constructive criticisms and advice whilereviewing and editing this publication. I would like to also extend my thanks to Mr. Gerry Bryant, Ms. Eunice

    Cornelius, and Ms. Norma Tillman whose contribution to this publication has been invaluable.

    New publications from the Getting Started in the Meat Goat Businessseries are coming soon

    Website http://www.famu.edu/goats

    This publication is also available on CD

    i

  • TABLE OF CONTENTS

    Acknowledgment............................................................ i

    Table of Contents.......................................................... ii-iii

    Introduction................................................................. 1

    Production Traits ........................................................... 1-2

    Educating Yourself.......................................................... 2

    Breeds of Meat Goats....................................................... 2-6

    Finding a Reputable Breeder................................................ 6

    Judging Breeding Stock................................................... 5

    Judging Breeding Stock..................................................... 7

    General Appearance................................................... 8Head and Neck........................................................ 8-9Forequarter............................................................ 9-10Body.................................................................... 11Body Condition Scores (BCS).......................................... 11-13Hindquarters........................................................... 13-14Mammary System of the Doe......................................... 14-15Mammary and Reproductive System of the Buck..................... 15

    A Final Note................................................................... 15

    Meat Goat Judging Terminology...............................................16-18

    References.....................................................................19

    Notes...........................................................................20-22

  • Introduction

    Whether you are starting a purebred orcommercial goat operation there are somebasic skills and knowledge you should acquirebefore selecting animals for your farm.While visual characteristics are importantparameters for selecting goats for yourherd, there are four production traits thatshould also be taken under consideration.These traits are adaptability, reproductionefficiency, growth rates and carcass merit.These performance indicators can assist youin increasing genetic improvements in yourgoat herd as well as enhancing productivityand profitability of your farm operation.

    Production Traits

    Adaptability

    Goats are able to survive and reproduceunder a wide variety of environmentalconditions. However, some breeds are bettersuited in certain climatic conditions thanothers. For example, the Spanish goats mayperform better in the arid Edwards Plateauin west-central Texas rather than the humidsubtropical climate of Florida. Adaptability, therefore, refers to how wellan animal can adjust to their productionenvironment. Since, adaptability is a lowheritability trait, improving thischaracteristic in your herd may take sometime. It is therefore, advisable to selectgoats that will be maintained under the sameenvironmental conditions in which they willbe expected to perform on your farm.

    Reproduction Rates

    Reproduction efficiency is one of the mostimportant economic traits in terms oflivestock production. Maintaining good re-productive functions in the herd is pivotalto the success of any livestock productionsystem. Productivity and profitability in the

    goat herd are measured by ovulation rate,conception rate, the number of kids born,the number of kids weaned and the frequencyin which they are produced. Therefore, thedoe must be able to give birth three timesevery two years and wean 1 1/2 to 2 kidsper year to earn her keep in the herd(McGowan, 1995). However, the seasonal breeding behaviorof goats raised under the environmentalconditions of Florida, has seriously limitedthe producers ability to increase herdproductivity. Does generally come into estrus(heat) from late August through the earlypart of January with the anestrus period(absence of heat) occurring in late spring.This breeding behavior does not alwayscoincide with optimum marketing periodsand may reduce your opportunity to accessmarkets that bring the highest economicreturns. Fortunately, there are a fewsynchronization drugs available today thatcan be used to induce heat in out-of-seasondoes. Check with your local veterinarian,extension agent or extension specialist foradditional information. To improve reproduction efficiency in yourgoat herd, select replacement does that wereborn as twins and cull all nonproductive does.

    Growth Rates

    Growth rates consistsof two phases; pre andpost-average dailygains. High pre-weaningaverage daily gainsreflects the genetic potential of the kids,and the mothering ability of the doe(Luginbuhl, J. 1998). Post-weaning average daily gains (ADG) isthe measure of the individual animalsperformance and the type of management ithas received up until this point. Stuntedanimals are usually the results of poor man-agement during the critical stages ofdevelopment. To increase post-weaning1

  • ADG, select animals that are healthy andhave the highest postweaning growth rates.

    Carcass Merit

    Some carcass traits to consider are dressingpercentage, muscle-to-bone ratio and thedistribution of lean-to-fat and fat-to-bone.For meat goats the dressing percentageranges between 40-55% depending on thebreed and condition of the animal. When theanimal grows, the fat percentage willincrease and the percentage of bonedecreases. The percentage of lean muscledoesnt change much and the legs and theshoulder of the goat tends to have the highestmuscle mass on the animal (Luginbuhl, J. M.1998). With the possible exception of carcasscharacteristics, these production traits canbe easily evaluated on the farm, if the pro-ducer has maintained good productionrecords and has access to a scale (Gipson,date unknown). If these records are notavailable, you will have to solely rely onyour visual skills and sense of touch to as-sess the merit of the animals that you areconsidering purchasing for your farm. To improve carcass merit in your herd, se-lect animals that are heavy muscled in therear, loin and front and hindquarters.

    Educating Yourself

    Before purchasing any animals, take a live-stock judging class if one is offered in yourcommunity, familiarize yourself with thestandards for each breed and learn theanatomy of the goat to be able to make anaccurate and consistent comparison betweenindividuals within a herd and between farms.You will also need to be able to identifygood and bad characteristics in the animalsin order to deduce which goats can best as-sist you in reaching your production andmarketing goals. As a last word of advice, start small.Purchase a small group of animals (1 buck to 2

    25 does) to start your goat business anddont purchase the most expensive animals inthe beginning. Raising goats can be quite alearning experience for the first two tothree years. Many times you will learn fromyour mistakes, but the consequences can befinancially devastating. By starting small, youwill be able to learn if your feeding,breeding and herd health program aresuitable for your herd without majorrepercussions. When you are ready to expandyour herd, you will have gained several newskills and knowledge to identify potentialproblems, weaknesses and strengthens inyour business.

    Breeds of Meat Goats

    A breed is considered a group of animalsthat are genetically related and can pass oncertain characteristics to their offspring.There are over sixty recognized breeds ofgoats that exist in the world today. In the U.S., there are three primary typesof goats. They are the dairy, fiber and meatgoats, which totals over 2.5 million heads.All of these goats can be used for meatproduction, however, with the introductionof the Boer goat into many breeding programsaround the U.S. in the early 90s, certainbreeds and crosses are now acceptedexclusively for meat production.

  • The breeds of meat goats that areavailable in the U.S. today are listed below:

    Boer Goat

    The Boer goat from South Africa wasimported into theU.S. in 1993. Theword Boer isderived from theDutch word meaningfarm. This namewas probably usedto distinguish thesenative goats fromthe Angora goatsthat were imported into South Africa duringthe 19th century. In the U.S., the Boer goat is consideredthe leading meat breed because of itsexceptional carcass yield, high muscle to boneratio (7:1), high dressing percentage (55-60%) and earlymaturity. Boergoats have highfertility rates(200%), matureearly (4-6 months)and are prolific. A mature male canweigh between 260to 380 pounds andthe female between 210-300 pounds. Theyare capable of obtaining average daily gainover 0.88 pounds under feedlot conditions.Boer do

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