What breeds or breeds to raise is one of the first decisions on raising goats. You need to know particular races by name, appearance, and overall characteristics as a starting goat maker. Notice that the features mentioned are what the breed is popular for, but there is a great deal of human variety within each breed. Any people within a fast-growing breed, for example, would actually grow more slowly than some people within a slow-growing breed. It is also very necessary that the stock is chosen according to its individual qualities and not merely by the breed.
While a meat goat is any race of goat because most end up as meat, there are four main meat goat breeds that are bred primarily for meat production in large numbers. There are Boer, Myotonic, and Kiko, the Spaniards. For their luxurious fibres, angora and cashmere goats are bred, but they also provide feed. The Nubian breed is used to increase milk production and the frame size of meat goats, whereas most dairy goats provide meat. For meat, pygmy goats are sometimes used. Some new breeds, such as the Savannah and the Scandinavian ridgeback, are available, but they currently have small animal numbers. In meat processing as well, crosses of all of the above have importance.
By natural selection from goats first placed in Texas by Spanish explorers in the early 1540s, the Spanish breed has evolved. Survival of the fittest meant that the breed, good foragers, and good mothers were hardy. Living in the wild gave smaller stocks an advantage, since they needed less fuel. In certain countries, these goats have been referred to as “brush” goats, because of their use in brush management. By choosing stronger muscles, more milk, or other requirements, some farmers have increased the stock. These improved Spanish goats are much bigger than the average Spanish goat and are meatier. There’s a lot of difference in the growth rate of Spanish goats in terms of productivity. To maximise the trait, selection is essential. Spanish goats are valued by farmers for their resilience and their capacity to survive in a low-input situation. Spanish goats come in many designs and colours.
Boer goats were developed in South Africa and a white body, red head, and broad, muscular frame are readily recognised. In 1993, the breed was first introduced from Australia and New Zealand into the United States. Boer goats are in high demand because they grow rapidly and yield carcasses that are attractive. Owing to the small quantities initially imported, breeding animals were very high, but recent numbers have risen enough that costs have become more rational. Some animals were retained for breeding purposes because of their rarity and high demand, which should have been culled because they were not resilient. Some of the animals were also pampered at the time due to high costs, and as a result, some Boer goat people in the U.S. are not as hardy as Boer goats raised in South Africa. With a mature doe weighing as much as 200 pounds, Boer goats are the biggest of the goat breeds. They have been selected for growth rate and may benefit under feedlot conditions in excess of 0.4 pounds per day.
In New Zealand, the Kiko breed was created by crossing feral bucks with Nubian, Toggenberg, and Saanen. Usually, Kiko goats are white and reasonably hardy. Data from a 2004 study conducted at Tennessee State University showed that Kikos could be more immune to pests than other breeds and have less foot-rot issues. In that research, as opposed to Boer goats, Kikos weaned more pounds of kid per doe. Boer goats, however, are favoured by customers at sales barns. Most breeders would use a Boer buck on Kiko for this purpose.
Myotonic goats are sometimes referred to as “stiff-leg” or fainting goats from Tennessee, called Wooden Leg. These goats have a recessive gene that, when the animal is shocked, makes their muscles tense up, allowing them to tip over (‘faint’) momentarily. Most of the only dogs that are indigenous to the United States is the breed. In the rump and deep in the belly, the Myotonic goat is heavily muscled but is smaller than the other three main meat breeds. They have strong crossbreeding potential. Since breeding numbers are not high, it can be costly to breed cattle. The myotonic function makes it easy to store them in fences, but can also make them more vulnerable to predators.
In the United States, the Savanna breed is comparatively recent, having been imported in the late 1990’s. The breed is a large, incredibly well-muscled, framed goat with a white colour that includes a few black ear pigments. The features of the body mimic that of the goat Boer.
Small goats of African descent are Pygmy goats. They are known as beef goats, but are used mostly as livestock. In order to be “cobby” and big boned, pygmies are born. Both body colours are appropriate, but they include race-specific markings.
Angora goats originated in Turkey and are mostly bred because of their luxurious fibre of mohair. They also have essential meat in the U.S. In a cross-breeding scheme, they perform well; the importance of the mohair film, though, is lost. In cold or hot climates, angoras may be bred, but they lack hardiness. In dry or open-range conditions, they do not have much parasite tolerance and do well. Angoras are more likely to have single children than twin children and have a propensity under stress to abort. In general, their first joke is at two years of age rather than as yearlings, due to a poor reproductive rate. Angoras can be lucrative if there is a strong demand for mohair and if production costs can be kept down. Be mindful of the need to shear Angoras every six months. The breed has a compact body but delivers a carcass of decent consistency.
All goats, excluding Angoras, grow to a degree cashmere; however, several classes have been chosen for improved cashmere production in several goat breeds. The challenge of harvesting and exporting the fibre has caused some suppliers to rely exclusively on cashmere goats for their beef. ‘Cashmere’ goats are not a different breed, but there are major differences in body size, form, colour, and productivity.
For beef, dairy goats are used, but dairy children prefer to have more bone on their bodies, and less meat. With meat breeds, Nubians and LaManchas cross well, and the result can be a very good carcass on the baby, one that grows quickly due to the mother’s milk production. Other dairy breeds can also be used in a cross, since a heavier weaned infant results in an increase in milk quality. In many places, milk is also readily accessible and cheap.
Crossbreeds allow commercial producers to choose suitable characteristics from two or more breeds and achieve greater vigour in the resulting offspring (known as “hybrid vigor”). Yet crossbreeding does not necessarily achieve the desired effects, often combining the parents’ less-desirable features rather than expressing the best. Uniformity can suffer if multiple breeds are included. Crossbreeding generally, though, results in a larger and healthy herd that is easier to manage.
Producers should judge individual goats on their own merits and do not presume that the breed standard would suit all animals in a given race. It is much better to choose superior individuals, regardless the species, than to pick a breed and take whatever is for sale. There are many critical factors when choosing breeding stocks: the children’s market, your personal interests, stock supply raised with management close to yours and in your environment, conformation, and most notably, fitness. We will discuss each of these concepts in the next segment.