BREED SELECTION FOR MEAT PRODUCTION
When I began raising meat goats in 1990, there were 12 million goats (meat, milk, and hair breeds) in the USA. According to the US Government, that number has declined to two million goats as of January 2013. As many people quit raising goats each month as begin raising them. There are many reasons, but the primary three are (1) climate too wet, (2) insufficient acreage, and (3) mistakenly believing that goats are easy to raise. All breeds of goats are dry-land animals. Goats are like deer; they need lots of land to forage over and to eat "from the top down" to avoid blood-sucking stomach worms that they encounter at ground level. Goats aren't the tin-can eaters seen in cartoons.
A few facts about raising goats -- any breed of goats:
(1) No goat breed is worm resistant. Anyone who claims that a goat breed is resistant to worms is either misinformed or lying. Within a given breed, it is possible over a long period of time (years, not weeks or months) to select for animals that can carry a reasonable level of worms and maintain their productivity, assuming that management conditions like overcrowding and too wet climate don't exist. But no goat can overcome bad management.
(2) Meat goats have short legs with deep and wide bodies. Dairy goats have long legs to carry large udders off the ground. Just as there is no breed of cattle that successfully combines meat and milk production, there is no such thing as a successful dual-purpose goat. Over many decades, goats have been selected for either meat, milk, or hair production.
(3) Compared to cattle, goats require more maintenance, have higher mortality, and need better much nutrition. Any species that has early sexual maturity, short gestation, and multiple births comes with its own set of problems.
(4) Goats live and behave like deer; sheep, like cattle. Goats require lots of space. They cannot tolerate over-crowding.
(5) Goats have the fastest metabolism of any ruminant except deer. You cannot starve the profit out of them.
(6) The best genetics will never triumph over bad management.
Just as milk production and quality varies among dairy-goat breeds, certain meat-goat breeds produce a higher percentage of useable meat than others. Research has proven the accuracy of that statement. Yet I cannot count the times over the years that I've read about or been involved in discussions of goats that were nothing more than opinionated and emotional "breed wars" based upon people's attachment to and perception of their favorite breed.
I can help just about anyone learn how to raise healthy goats if the environment is right and management is correct, but if you want to put MEAT on your does' offspring, only fullblood Myotonics (and specifically Onion Creek Ranch's trademarked Tennessee Meat Goats™ and TexMasters™) will do it. If a goat has MEAT on it, it has Myotonic influence in it.
All meat goats sell reasonably well at commercial auctions if they are in any decent body condition because there is always a shortage of fresh goat meat in this country. Forty percent (40%) of the goat meat sold in this country is imported frozen from Australia and New Zealand after having been (mostly) harvested from herds of feral goats. If you as a producer are content to raise what everyone else is raising and aren't willing to expend the effort to improve your product and educate your buyers so that you can make more money, then you should continue to follow the crowd. Lots of people who raise goats on a part-time basis or as a hobby take this approach towards breeding. But if you decide to improve your herd, you need to educate your buyers, whether they are individuals or auctioneers, that you are producing a superior product that has less waste and more useable meat. Some people don't want to expend such effort. That is your choice. I've personally always taken the path less travelled because I know it is the route to success. I never visualize myself as competing with others. I see myself as my biggest competitor and continually strive to improve my product.
A recurring criticism of fullblood Myotonics is that, as a breed, they are slightly slower growers than breeds containing dairy influence. That is true, but that is a very small part of the story. Myotonics are the only breed with a 4:1 meat-to-bone ratio; no other breed has better than 3:1 meat-to-bone ratio. Dr. Lou Nuti of Prairie View A&M University produced research 15 years ago proving that any goat that is at least 50% Myotonic yields 6% to 10% more useable meat. They also have less waste since they have smaller bones, tight skin, and smaller internal organs than dairy-influenced breeds (Boers, Kikos, Spanish -- yes, Spanish, which 40 years ago began being crossed with dairy goats in West Texas to add size to them). Myotonics also eat less than larger goat breeds. Since there is no large-scale market for the parts of goats that are considered waste (offals) because the goat population is small, more meat with less waste is an important feature of the Myotonic breed.
I always recommend using a fullblood Myotonic buck (preferably Tennessee Meat Goat™ genetics originating from Onion Creek Ranch in Texas as these are the larger and more heavily muscled fullblood Myotonics) on other-breed does to put MEAT on their offspring. The kids will have more meat yet will be a bit smaller for easier birthing because of their sire's influence and grow slightly faster due to their other-breed dam's genetic contribution. Pat Cotten at Bending Tree Ranch near Damascus, Arkansas also raises these genetics.
TexMasters™ are the commercial breed I began developing in 1995 when I first bought Boers. I was sadly disappointed in Boers but knew they were here to stay because they generated interest in goats, so I decided to improve upon the breed. TexMasters™ have significant Tennessee Meat Goat influence. I view TexMasters™ as the ultimate productive commercial goat breed. Pat Cotten at Bending Tree Ranch near Damascus, Arkansas also raises TexMasters™ out of Onion Creek Ranch genetics.
My purpose in writing this article is to provide an objective evaluation of meat-goat breeds. If you take its content as nothing but an advertisement for my goats, then you are missing the "meat" of this article. There is huge need for productive meat goats. It is your challenge to breed them and meet market demand.
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas 3/16/15
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All information provided in these articles is based either on personal experience or information provided by others whose treatments and practices have been discussed fully with a vet for accuracy and effectiveness before passing them on to readers.
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