Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, TX
Lohn, Texas
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Why Are So Many People Confused About How to Raise Meat Goats?

As a long-time meat goat breeder (January 1990), developer of two heavily muscled breeds of meat goats, and author of many articles on meat goat nutrition, management, and health, I get six to eight calls per day from folks who either want to begin raising meat goats or have acquired goats and are having problems with them. The common denominator is that they don't have a clue how to raise meat goats properly.

I have decided that the confusion starts with the type of goat being raised. There are three different types of goats: meat, milk, and hair. Each has its own specific purpose. Most people's first exposure to goats has been to dairy goats. People tend to assume that all types of goats are raised similarly. Not true.

Dairy goats have the same health issues as meat goats, but management and nutrition are very different. They are linebred for maximum milk production. Kids are often bottle fed as a CAE-preventative measure. Dairy goats are housed in pens and stalls much of the time and lactating does are pushed on grain to produce lots of milk. They are hand tamed so that they can be handled easily and milked regularly. They are very domesticated, which means that their instinct to adapt to living off the land has been bred out of them. Dairy goats have become largely dependent upon humans for food and shelter.

Veteran dairy goat producers know a lot about goat health because of the close proximity in which their goats live. Illness can be frequent and deadly if not controlled through awareness, cleanliness, and medication. Dairy-goat raisers tend to be super vigilant about illness and disease (sometimes to the point of irrationality -- CL is an example I discuss in other articles) but I understand their concerns.

Meat goats are a totally different goat. As relatively new arrivals -- they have been popular in the USA only since Boers were imported around 1993 -- most people don't understand how to raise them. Think of meat goats as deer. They live, eat, and need to travel over large areas like deer. Meat goats are a market-oriented product. They need to feed themselves on forage/browse as much of each year as possible if the producer expects to make any money selling them. To do this, the goat raiser needs to have multiple acres of dry land so that the goats can avoid stomach worms and other illnesses common in wet climates. Dry means less than 25 inches of rain per year. Forage/browse, not pasture, is needed so the goats can eat "from the top down" to avoid stomach worms. Crowding leads to contamination of the goats' environment, increasing the exposure to bacteria, viruses, and other types of infections. Crowded and wet conditions lead to worms and coccidia. Wet = Worms. All breeds of goats are dry-land animals.

Adding to people's confusion is that two breeds have been imported into the United States within the last 20 years do not possess true MEAT goat body conformation. Boers are South Africa's significantly Nubian (dairy) -based attempt to produce a dual-purpose (both meat and milk) goat. There is no such thing as a dual purpose animal; cattle raisers have tried it several times and learned it doesn't work. Genetics works in ways that emphasize either meat, milk, or hair and not combinations of these characteristics in the same animal. Kikos came into this country from New Zealand years after Boers were imported. Their genetic make-up is almost wholly dairy influenced (Nubian, Toggenberg, Saanen). I mention these two breeds because their appearance is very similar to dairy breeds, leaving people confused and likely believing that all goats are meat goats. Not true. Dairy goats have long legs to carry big udders; meat goats are short legged, deep and wide bodied, and have milk-on-demand udders that are carried tight against the body to avoid being torn on plants during foraging/browsing.

While all goat breeds produce some milk and some meat, specific breeds are MILK producers while other breeds are MEAT goats (or hair/fiber goats). Angora goats, for example, have been selectively bred to produce quality hair; as a consequence, they often have insufficient milk to raise multiple kids because their bodies utilize protein to produce hair rather than milk. Spanish goats are significantly dairy influenced, as they were about the size of a small Texas white-tail deer, so Spanish goat producers put dairy bucks on them as long as 40 years ago to increase their size. If you know dairy-goat markings, you can see them on today's Spanish goats.

For many people, their only exposure to goats is through goat shows. Show goats have largely been Boer or Boer crosses. Show goats are not meat goats, just as show animals in other species are not meat production animals. More reasons for confusion . . .

There are three MEAT breeds in the USA. Pygmies, which hardly anyone takes seriously as a meat source, are mostly pet and show animals. Myotonics are the only breed that puts MEAT on their offspring. If a goat has meat on it, it has Myotonic in it. Tennessee Meat Goats™ are the larger and more heavily muscled fullblood Myotonics developed at Onion Creek Ranch in Texas starting in 1990. The third meat breed is TexMaster™, which was developed beginning in 1995 at Onion Creek Ranch in response to my deep disappointment in the Boers brought into the USA. It didn't help the health and performance of imported Boers that they were confined and coddled because people paid huge sums of money for them.

Producers can and should cross-breed goats. Hybrid vigor helps improve hardiness. But producers must understand that moving dairy goats from a heavily-managed environment to a forage-based feeding system is difficult on the goats, will result in some deaths, and takes time for those goats to re-gain their instincts and adapt to a new way of being raised and fed. The best way to put meat on these goats' offspring is to breed them to a meat-goat buck - a Tennessee Meat Goat™ or a TexMaster™.

I have concluded that many folks trying to raise meat goats think they can be raised like dairy goats because their knowledge of and exposure to goats began with dairy goats or show goats. All goat breeds are not alike. Meat, milk, and hair goats have distinct body conformations and are raised differently for specific purposes.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas 7/4/16

Meat Goat Mania

Important! Please Read This Notice!

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.

In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Suzanne Gasparotto is not a veterinarian.Neither tennesseemeatgoats.com nor any of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.

The author, Suzanne Gasparotto, hereby grants to local goat publications and club newsletters, permission to reprint articles published on the Onion Creek Ranch website under these conditions: THE ARTICLE MUST BE REPRODUCED IN ITS ENTIRETY AND THE AUTHOR'S NAME, ADDRESS, AND CONTACT INFORMATION MUST BE INCLUDED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE REPRINT. We would appreciate notification from any clubs or publications when the articles are used. (A copy of the newsletter or publication would also be a welcome addition to our growing library of goat related information!)

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