Breeds of meat goats. Best meat goat breeds.
An increasing number of Indian, Caribbean and ethnic dishes in the U.S. has sparked a rise in the demand for goat meat. Goat meat is one of the most consumed meats in the world, with nearly 75% of the world’s population eating goat meat.
In the U.S., goat meat isn’t widely popular like it is in other places. It’s often viewed as an exotic meat and is overlooked.
Goat meat is healthy and producing goats is very sustainable. These two factors have helped to increase the meat goat population. Goats consume many of the brushy, weedy plants that other livestock leave behind. They usually leave the land in better shape once than how they found it.
Many people associate goat meat with a tough and pungent flavor. This isn’t the case. Goat meat can be quite tender and is very mild-flavored. An exception to this is seen in older goats that are culled from the herd; these goats are tougher, but usually more juicy and flavorful.
Goat meat is a very healthy red meat. It’s low in cholesterol and saturated fat. It’s also almost as low in calories as chicken meat!
What are meat goats?
Meat goats are goats that are bred specifically for meat production. When you’re purchasing goats, it’s important to note that there are breeds that excel in meat production while others excel in producing milk or mohair (fiber from Angora goats). There are then breeds that are considered dual-purpose. Dual-purpose goats are breeds that are good at both meat and milk production.
For this post, the focus is on goats that excel at meat production. You can read about dairy goat breeds here.
Production Traits of Meat Goat Breeds
Meat goat breeds have certain traits that make them more productive than other breeds. These traits are called production traits.
These are pieces of information and data that can be measured about the goat and the breeds. Goats that have good production traits are more likely to produce more meat for you than ones that have poor production traits.
The traits that are important for meat goats are adaptability, reproductive rate, growth rate and carcass characteristics.
Adaptability is a big concern when it comes to raising meat goats. Adaptability describes the breed’s ability to survive in a climate or conditions that are not like the climate or conditions where the breed was developed.
Many goat breeds are well-suited to hot and dry climates. The climates in much of the U.S. is actually too wet for most goats. Wet climates can lead to health issues for some goats, including hoof rot. A breed that is highly adaptable will be more likely to succeed in a climate different than its natural environment.
You could expect a Boer goat from South Africa to perform differently here in the U.S. than they would in South Africa. A goat that is adaptable won’t show much difference in production in either environment.
If you live somewhere that is unlike the environment where the breed was developed, look for adaptable individuals from herds raised in climates similar to yours that have few health problems.
Reproductive rate is also important when it comes to raising meat goats. Reproductive rate is the single most important trait you can look at in meat goats. It includes conception rate, kidding rate and the ability to breed out of season.
Goats usually don’t have issues with reproduction and have fairly high conception rates and kidding rates. Reproductive traits are highly heritable, which means that does are going to perform very similar to how their mothers performed. If a goat was born as a triplet, her ability to give birth to triplets is pretty high.
You may think that it makes more sense for the mother to raise one kid at a time. Studies have shown that, when one kid is born, it does tend to weigh more than twin or triplet kids. However, if the mother can raise them to weaning, you’ll produce more overall pounds of meat than if she just raised the one kid.
When looking at breeding animals, look for does that not only birth twins and triplets, but raised them to weaning. If you’re looking at a doe that hasn’t bred yet, ask how the mother performed to get an idea of how the doe will perform.
Growth rate is another important meat goat trait. There are two things to consider when looking at growth rates:
- Will you be selling kids at weaning? OR
- Will you be selling older kids?
If you’re planning on selling kids at weaning, then you’ll be interested in the pre-weaning growth rate. This is actually a trait that reflects the ability of the mother and her nursing ability. If you’re keeping kids past weaning, then focus on post-weaning growth rates. This is the growth rate that shows more about the kid’s genetic growth potential.
Compare a meat goat and a dairy goat side by side. You’ll notice that meat goats have considerably more muscle than dairy goats. This is important since you’re raising them for meat. Dual-purpose breeds tend to fall somewhere in between.
Meat goats have a higher ratios of muscle:bone than dairy goats.
What breed of goats are good for meat?
There are several popular breeds of goats that make for quality meat goats. The best breed is going to be the one that is best suited to you. The meat goat market has a ton of demand and not enough goats to fill that demand.
There are meat goats raised all over the world. There are a ton of breeds and types of meat goats available. I’m going to cover the ones that are most common in the U.S. and then a few notable hybrids and other breeds.
How many meat goat breeds are there?
There are numerous breeds and hybrids of meat goats. In many areas of the world where goat meat is consumed regularly, the goats are used for meat and milk. In the U.S., there are several popular and notable meat goat breeds including the Spanish, Kiko, Boer, Texmaster and Myotonic.
The Spanish goat was brought from Spain to the Caribbean as early as the 1500s. These goats were then brought into Mexico and the United States.
Spanish goats thrived in the Americas and were used as sources of meat, milk and hides. Their usefulness brought them everywhere that the Spanish went. The goats that were used for meat allowed any cattle that settlers had to be used as precious draft animals.
The amount of purebred Spanish goats in the United States is relatively low and many people do not know that the Spanish goat is in fact a breed. The term ‘Spanish goat’ can be used to describe mixed goat herds found in the Southwestern U.S. or brush goats found in the Southeastern U.S.
Early Spanish goats in the U.S. were often crossed with dairy goats that were imported from Europe. This led to a large amount of variation in Spanish goats.
Some Spanish goats weigh as little as 50 pounds, while others can weigh as much as 200 pounds. The larger Spanish goats are examples of populations that were raised primarily for meat.
Spanish goats are exceptionally adaptable and hardy. They can thrive in rough conditions and sparse, brushy forage. Does are long-lived and remain productive.
Spanish goats are typically horned. The horns on bucks are often large and twisted. Ears are large and are held horizontally from the head. Spanish goats can come in any color variation.
For more information, check out the Spanish Goat Association.
Boer goats are often the meat goat breed that is imagined. They are known for their characteristic white bodies and brown heads.
Boer goats originated in South Africa. It’s also referred to as the Africander or Afrikaner. This breed was developed as a meat goat that was highly adapted to the climate in South America.
The Boer goat breed is highly productive and prefers to browse, making it an ideal meat goat breed to raise alongside cattle. Does often weigh around 200-225 pounds and mature bucks weigh 240-300 pounds.
Breeding does are very prolific and can kid out more often than other breeds. It’s possible for a doe to have three sets of kids in a two year period. Puberty is reached early with this breed, with many Boer goats reaching puberty at 6 months.
The ability to put pounds on quickly is profound with Boer goats. Standard performance records for this breed show that average Boer goats are capable of putting on 0.3-0.4 pounds of flesh per day, with exceptional goats packing on nearly half a pound per day.
For more information, check out the American Boer Goat Association.
The term ‘kiko’ literally means flesh or meat in Maori.
Kiko goats were developed in the 1980s in New Zealand by Garrick and Anne Batten. They developed the breed by crossing local feral goats with Toggenburgs, Anglo-Nubian and Saanen goat breeds.
The Battens wanted to create a goat that would mature and develop quickly with little input from farmers. When developing the breed, goats were not given supplemental feed, hoof trimming, parasite medication or kidding help. Only the best of the best were allowed to breed and soon a hardy breed was developed.
Kiko goats are notable for their high productivity, excellent maternal ability and overall health. Kikos require little care from owners and are still productive.
The climate in the Southeastern U.S. is most like the New Zealand climate, making Kikos well-suited for living in the Southeastern U.S.
Kiko does weigh between 150-200 pounds and mature bucks weigh 250-300 pounds. Kikos are usually white, although colored Kikos do occur. The breed is horned. They also develop long, shaggy coats during the winter.
Does are not seasonal and will breed at all times of the year, allowing them to have more kids than seasonal breeders.
For more information, visit the American Kiko Goat Association.
The Myotonic goat also goes by Tennessee goats or Fainting goats.
The breed has a unique characteristic known as myotonia. Myotonia causes the muscle cells to become stiff for extended periods of time when the goat is startled.
Think about how you tense up quickly when startled. Generally, this only lasts for a second or two and then you relax. Myotonia prevents the goats from being able to immediately relax. Myotonic goats don’t truly faint, but stiffen up.
The breed can be traced back to the 1880s. John Tinsley came to central Tennessee with four goats that carried the myotonic gene. These ‘stiff’ goats quickly became known and were bred. Pockets of myotonic goats made their way into the hills of Texas.
The breed saw a significant resurgence of popularity in the 1980s. Two types of Myotonic goats were developed- one for meat production and one that exhibited an exaggerated stiffness that was ideal for pets.
There is a ton of variability in the size of Myotonic goats. Goats can range from 75 pounds to as much as 150 pounds. All Myotonic goats are heavily muscled for their frame size. Myotonic goats can come in almost any color. Myotonic goats are typically horned and have smaller horns.
Myotonic does are very prolific and can produce kids nearly every six months. They are also excellent milkers and can easily raise twins and triplets to weaning.
Savanna goats are relatives of the Boer goat. They are similar in appearance with the exception of the head coloration. Boer goats tend to have a brown head, while Savanna goats are typically white in color. The skin, hooves and horns are black in color to help make them less susceptible to sunburn.
Savanna goats were developed in South Africa and are very heat hardy. The breed produces large amounts of high-quality goat meat that is mild flavored with little input. They have excellent parasite resistance and are hardy.
Does weigh between 125-200 pounds and bucks weigh 200-250 pounds with some individuals weighing more. Does were bred to consistently give birth to 2-4 kids and wean them out. They don’t normally require assistance giving birth.
Savanna goats are extremely popular in South Africa, but are relatively new in the U.S.
The Texmaster goat was developed in Texas by crossing Myotonic, or Tennessee Meat goats, with Boer goats. The breed was developed by Onion Creek Ranch.
They were bred to be hardy and have low input from owners. They also have a higher meat:bone ratio. Most meat goats have a meat to bone ratio of 3:1. Texmaster goats often have a meat to bone ratio of 4:1, meaning that they really pack on the pounds.
For more information, visit Texmaster Meat Goats.
Pygmy goats were bred from the West African Pygmy goat. The modern Pygmy goat is typically raised and kept as a pet, but they do have some potential as meat goats.
Pygmy goats can breed year round and have small, compact frames that are muscular. Does weigh 50-75 pounds and bucks weigh as much as 60-90 pounds.
The Rangeland goat is native to Australia, where it is wildly popular. There are as many as 6 million Rangeland goats in Australia, making it one of the most numerous goat breeds on the planet.
Rangeland goats are very large and tall. They are exceptionally hardy and they thrive in dry, arid climates where little forage may be available. They are also highly adaptable and perform well when moved to areas unlike their native arid climate.
Does are known for their fertility and productivity. They are often crossed with other breeds to create hybrids that are more productive and fertile.
The Kalahari meat goat breed is another highly muscled breed that originated in South Africa. Kalahari goats excel in disease- and pest-resistant. They also suffer few issues from sun-related or heat problems.
Does can be bred year round and can produce three crops of kids in two years.
The distinguishing trait is their red coat. In fact, the breed is often called the Kalahari red. They have black pigmented skin, hooves and horns that help to prevent sunburn.
Bucks can weigh as much as 250 pounds and does weigh as much as 165 pounds. Kalaharis can be cross bred with other breeds to improve carcass quality and increase muscling.
Kalahari goats have strong herding instincts, which some other breeds may lack.
What is the most popular meat goat breed in the U.S.?
The most commonly raised meat goats in the U.S. are Spanish, Kiko, Boer and Myotonic.
Check out this video if you’re still eager for more information about meat goat breeds:
Which meat goat breed is best for you?
The answer to this question is up to you. If you want to raise goats with a more hands-off approach, choose a breed that is self-sufficient and requires little input. You’ll also want to choose a breed that is well-suited to your climate or choose a breed that is highly adaptable and hardy.
Raising meat goats is a profitable venture when done properly. The market for goat meat is huge and increases each year. The number of meat goats raised in the U.S. annually does not meet the demand for goat meat, meaning that it’s one of the most profitable meat industries to break into.