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Meat Goat

Selection and Care

adobe pdf icon "Meat goat” is a term new to the southeastern part of the United States. In this context, the term is used as a breed, even though meat goats do not qualify as a breed in any technical sense. Other terms referring to meat goats to distinguish them from Angora and dairy goats include “brush goat,” “Spanish goat,” and “common goat.” Recently, the South African Boer Goat has provided a new source of genetics for meat goat producers; therefore, the term “meat goat” can incorporate any combination of all goats.

The lack of a well-defined, distinct, and perhaps superior meat goat breed in the United States has adversely affected meat goat production. However, genetic improvement through selection and breeding programs can produce a more desirable animal with a quality carcass that would improve the demand for the product. This publication discusses several points for the selection and care of meat goats. A sample production budget that can be adapted to a particular operation is included and is designed for producers interested in raising meat-type goats.


Figure 1. Parts of a meat goat

Selecting Meat Goats

Selecting meat goats for growth rate and meat qualities has not been widespread in the industry, primarily because meat goats usually are not a major livestock enterprise. In selecting goats for meat production, consider (1) adaptability to environmental and production conditions, (2) reproductive rate, and (3) growth rate.

The best way to increase adaptability is to select for the desired traits under your actual production conditions. Select your breeding stock from animals maintained under the same natural conditions in which their progenies will be raised.

Reproductive efficiency is a major factor contributing to efficient meat production, but it is difficult to select for under range conditions. To increase reproductive efficiency, improved management of the breeding herd—including selection for twinning rate and culling nonproducing nannies—is necessary and will yield good results.

Selecting goats for growth rate should be relatively easy because of the fairly high heritability of the trait. Base growth rate selection on higher postweaning gains of yearling weights.

Selecting for growth rate, reproductive efficiency, and environmental adaptability will greatly improve production efficiency (pounds of production per doe bred) and the likelihood of making a profit.

  • Know where you are going to market the goats before you purchase any goats.
  • Compare production costs (see Table 1) with a realistic market to determine a profit.
  • Start small and develop a realistic market before establishing a large-scale enterprise.
Managing Meat Goats

Feeding the Does

Goats do well on good pasture or browse; however, the mature goat will require 3–4 pounds of hay daily if she is not getting adequate pasture or browse. In addition, a grain-based supplement might be required during periods of high production, as in flushing, late gestation, and early lactation. The amount of supplement needed varies with pasture and/or hay quality and the quantity fed. The crude protein (CP) content of the supplement also varies with the forage quality. Two simple grain supplements include the following:

  1. 50 pounds corn or milo
    20 pounds oats or barley
    20 pounds wheat bran
    10 pounds cottonseed meal
  2. 40 pounds corn or milo
    20 pounds oats or barley
    25 pounds wheat bran
    15 pounds cottonseed meal

The first ration provides approximately 14 percent CP and the second about 16 percent CP. Goats dislike finely ground, dusty feeds, so grains should be coarsely ground, rolled, crimped, or pelleted. It is recommended you add a trace mineralized salt and a balanced, 12 percent calcium12 percent phosphorus supplement to any ration. You can add molasses to the supplement (5–7 percent usually is recommended) to reduce dust and to enhance palatability. Also, always have salt available for the goats.

Breeding the Does

Most goats are seasonal breeders, with the breeding season initiated by decreasing daylight hours. The season varies, with some goats breeding during any season of the year, but reproductive activity is highest from August through January. Does come in heat (estrus) at intervals of 20–21 days and usually remain in heat 1–2 days.

Signs of estrus are easily detected and include uneasiness, an unusual amount of tail wagging, frequent urination, an abnormal amount of bleating, reddish and swollen vulva, and mucus under the tail. Riding other animals or standing for riding is not seen as often in goats near estrus as in cows.

Conception is highest from the middle to the latter part of the heat period, 24–36 hours after onset of estrus. The gestation period in goats is 148–150 days. Maintaining good records of all heat periods and breeding dates is important to maximize reproductive efficiency.

Young does tend to reach puberty or sexual maturity at 5–9 months of age, provided they have been grown adequately and are in good condition. Keep bucks separated from does (except during the breeding season) in order to breed during the desired time interval. Prepare the bucks for the breeding season by daily feeding them 1–2 pounds of grain plus 3–4 pounds of hay or forage.

If does are thin at breeding time, kidding percent can be increased by flushing, or increasing nutrition during breeding. This puts the animal in weight-gaining condition and causes an increase in the ovulation rate. Flushing can be done by turning goats on a fresh, lush pasture if it is available or by feeding grain. For flushing, corn is most often fed at the rate of one-half to three-fourths of a pound per head per day. Begin feeding 2–3 weeks before the bucks are turned in with the does and continue for 2–3 weeks after the introduction of the bucks (for a total feeding period of 4–6 weeks). Flushing generally results in a 10to 20percent increase in kid crop, but does in good condition generally will not benefit from flushing.

Raising the Kids

It is important that the kid goat receive colostrum (the first milk) as soon as possible after birth and for at least 2 days. Colostrum provides antibodies for resistance to disease and is high in nutrients, including energy, vitamin A, the B vitamins, protein, and minerals. Overfeeding colostrum or other milk can cause scours.

Extra colostrum can be frozen and fed at body temperature at some later date. Orphan kids may be left on goat’s milk or changed to cow’s milk or a commercial milk replacer after the first days on colostrum.

Kids must have a warm, dry place to sleep if they are taken from their mothers. A deep wooden box with a slanted floor that is raised off the ground to provide drainage makes a good bed for new kids. The box should be well-bedded and draft-free.

For the first 3–4 days after birth, a kid should receive 2–3 pints of milk in three to four feedings per day. Kids can be fed twice per day thereafter. A creep feed containing approximately 20 percent CP and high-quality hay should be made available to kids at about 2 weeks of age. Keep clean, fresh water and salt available at all times, especially when the kids are weaned from milk at 8–12 weeks of age.

As soon as the kid begins eating a little grain and hay, the rumen will begin to develop, allowing the kid to use roughage materials. The kid will begin chewing its cud at this time. When the kid is eating hay and grain well, usually at about 4–6 weeks of age, you can discontinue milk feeding. The rumen will be fully developed at approximately 8 weeks of age.

The kid should have plenty of exercise and as much sunshine as possible. Provide boxes or barrels for older kids to have something on which to climb and jump. Separate the buck kids from the does at about 2–4 months of age to avoid premature breeding.


Horn development is a recessive trait of goats and is found in most breeds. For safety purposes, remove the horns while the animals are young, between 3 and 14 days of age. There are several ways to dehorn goats, including dehorning pastes or similar caustic compounds, burning irons, or physically removing the horns.


Bucks develop musk glands when they reach puberty. These glands emit a telltale odor that often taints the taste and odor of the meat. Once an animal reaches puberty, it is more active and harder to feed to an acceptable level of eating quality. Male goats not to be used for breeding must be castrated as soon as possible. Like dehorning, this can be done in several ways. Consult your veterinarian for best results.


Figure 2. Body conformation of a meat goat.

Internal and External Parasites

Roundworms, stomach worms, and coccidiosis are the most significant internal parasites that affect goats. Animals become infested by grazing on pastures contaminated with droppings from other infested goats. Use several pastures in rotation because parasite carryover can be markedly reduced by resting pastures for 30–60 days between grazing. Treat newly purchased animals for internal parasites; isolating animals because of internal parasites is of no value.

Coccidiosis can cause severe problems in goats, especially those managed in confined or drylot conditions. Goats managed under these conditions should receive a coccidostat regularly in their feed. Treatment of coccidiosis with anthelmintics is not effective. If you suspect coccidiosis, consult your veterinarian.

Symptoms of parasite infestation include general unthriftiness, a rundown condition, rough hair coat, loss of weight, poor appetite, diarrhea, and anemia. If you suspect your goats are infested with internal parasites, collect fecal samples and take the samples to your veterinarian. Examination will determine the type and degree of infestation and recommended treatment.

External parasites, including lice, ticks, mites, horn flies, stable flies, horse flies, deer flies, and mosquitoes, might present serious problems. These pests are most prevalent in the spring, summer, and fall but can be a problem throughout the year.

Common Diseases

A number of diseases occur in goats. When a problem occurs in your herd, consult your veterinarian. Information is readily available concerning these diseases and their diagnosis and treatments. The most significant diseases are soremouth, tetanus, overeating disease, foot rot, and bloat.

  • Soremouth is a contagious disease that causes formation of scabs on the lips and around the mouths. This virus can affect humans, so be careful when working with goats with soremouth. A live virus soremouth vaccine, available as a preventive measure, is applied to a small scratched area in the fore or rear flank or in the ear. Few medicines help in the actual treatment of soremouth. Iodine can be rubbed into lesions after the scabs are removed to help dry up the area and reduce the infection. If your goats do not have soremouth, do not vaccinate or you will introduce it into your herd.
  • Tetanus (lock jaw) is a disease usually resulting from a wound infection. The disease is caused by a powerful toxin produced by a bacterium that grows in the absence of oxygen. The first sign of tetanus is a stiffness about the goat’s head; the animal often chews slowly and weakly and swallows awkwardly. Also, the goat’s third or inner eyelids protrude over the forward surface of the eyeballs. The animal shows violent spasmodic reactions with the slightest movement or noise and usually remains standing until close to death. All ages are susceptible, but kids weakened due to castration or dehorning are more susceptible to tetanus. Tetanus is hard to treat, and death occurs in more than 50 percent of the cases. Contact your veterinarian immediately; keep infected goats as quiet as possible. Tetanus antitoxin might help if administered early, but prevention is the best policy. Reduce the incidence of wounds, apply sanitary and proper wound treatments, and vaccinate with tetanus toxoid immediately after dehorning or castration surgery.
  • Overeating disease (enterotoxemia) generally results in death and seldom exhibits symptoms. This disease is caused by a clostridial organism that is normally in the intestine of most goats. Goats that have their feeding schedules abruptly changed or consume large amounts of grain are the most susceptible to overeating disease. These changes cause the clostridial organism to grow rapidly and to produce a powerful toxin that causes death within a few hours. The two types of enterotoxemia are C and D. Vaccinate all your goats with the combination C and D vaccine; multiple vaccinations are recommended. Two or three vaccinations are preferred, with the booster doses coming at 3to 4week intervals following the first vaccination. A good vaccination program should eliminate losses from overeating.
  • Foot rot is not often seen in goats, but it may occur if animals spend considerable time in wet, unsanitary yards or barns. The first symptom is lameness, followed by a swelling of the foot that becomes hot to the touch. Carefully trim the rotten area away and treat the foot with a 10to 30percent copper sulfate solution or other medication prescribed by a veterinarian.
  • Bloat is the accumulation of an excessive amount of gas in the rumen. This may result from overeating tender, young, high-moisture legumes or other green forages still wet with dew. Symptoms of bloated goats include the animal’s lying down and getting up at frequent intervals, kicking at the abdomen, making loud grunting noises, or otherwise showing distress. Prevention includes making sure the animals have a good fill of dry hay before turning them onto moist pasture. Animals can die suddenly with bloat; therefore, do not wait too long before calling the veterinarian for assistance.

Few drugs are approved for use on goats. Nonapproved over-the-counter drugs become prescription drugs. Every goat producer should have a valid client-patient relationship with a veterinarian. Goats that are kept on adequate browse and grazing have few disease problems if not overcrowded. Carefully buying new breeding stock and isolation can help prevent bringing in new diseases.

Remember: Most goats will be sold for meat; therefore, after treating goats with any drug, be sure you allow adequate withdrawal time before slaughter.

Table 1. Estimated annual expenses for a meat-type goat operation in Mississippi, 1996.

Table 1


  1. This budget is for planning purposes—use it only as a guide. Use the column on the right to adjust these figures to fit your operation.
  2. The market for goats in Mississippi is not well-defined.Income figures depend on location and individual access to market outlets.
  3. Expense items are based on these production parameters
  • acres per doe - 0.25
  • number of does - 40.00
  • number of bucks -1.00
  • pounds feed day—does and bucks - 2.00
  • days fed—does and bucks - 74.00
  • average pounds feed /day—kids - 2.50
  • Days fed—kids - 150.00
  • Pounds hay/day—does and bucks - 3.00
  • Days fed hay—does and bucks - 150.00
  • Pounds hay/day—kids - 1.00
  • Days fed hay—kids - 150.00
  • Kids sold per doe - 1.50
  • Investment per doe - $150.00
Table 2. Meat goat production calendar.


  • Evaluate pasture and forage conditions
  • Monitor body conditions of does supplement if necessary
  • Prepare for kidding


  • Sort pregnant from open does.
  • Begin feeding pregnant does.
  • Evaluate does and bucks sell unsound or inferior animals.
  • Treat for internal and external parasites.


  • Begin kidding; check teats for milk flow; identify kids.
  • Separate singles from twins; if possible, pen individual does with their kids;
    feed does to maintain milk production.


  • Finish kidding.
  • Continue to supplement lactating does.


  • Consider weaning smal,l stunted kids.
  • Discontinue supplement feeding to does.
  • Monitor internal parasites through fecal samples


  • Begin looking for replacement bucks with good conformation, structural correctness, muscling, an a high weight per day of age.


  • Continue selecting replacement bucks.


  • Treat for internal and external parasites.
  • Vaccinate kids.
  • Select replacement does and bucks.
  • Wean kids; supplement replacement does and bucks with a high protein (21 percent), high-energy feed.
  • Evaluate does and bucks; sell unsound and inferior animals.
  • Criteria for culling :
    • Barren female—missed two seasons in a row.
    • Bad teats or udders—too big or too small (mastitis).
    • Bad mouths—smooth or broken mouth or over- or undershot jaw.
    • Structural defects—bad feet and legs or back.
    • Bad testicles—too small or infected (epididymitis).
    • Unthriftiness—due to old age or disease.


  • Begin flushing does and bucks; flush with fresh green pasture or a half-pound of feed/head/day for 2 – 3 weeks before and after buck turnout.
  • Treat for lice if necessary.


  • Turn out bucks with does; breeding ratio 1 buck per 20 – 25 does, depending on pasture size and breeding conditions.
  • Continue to flush does for 2 – 3 weeks after buck turnout.


  • Evaluate pasture and forage conditions.
  • Determine does’ body conditions and plan winter supplemental feeding program.
  • Monitor internal parasites through fecal samples. If heavy, treat after first hard freeze.


  • Remove bucks and feed to regain body condition.
  • Evaluate pasture and forage conditions.
  • Watch body conditions of does; supplement if necessary.
  • Check for lice and use a pour-on lice treatment if needed.

Adapted from Texas Sheep and Goat Production Calendar.


Alford, Calvin F., Georgia Extension Animal Scientist. “Meat Goat Production,” Georgia Meat Goat Association, Vol. 1, No. 1, March-April 1996.

Martinez, Edmundo E., Paschal, Joe C., Craddock, Frank, & Hanselka, C. Wayne. Sept. 1991. Selection, Management and Judging of Meat-Type Spanish Goats. B-5018. Texas Agricultural Extension Service, The Texas A&M University System, College Station, Texas.

Martinez, Edmundo E., Paschal, Joe C., Craddock, Frank, & Rollins, Dale. Spanish Goat Management. B-5021. Texas Agricultural Extension Service, The Texas A&M University System, College Station, Texas.

Strickland, James, Georgia Extension Veterinarian. “Goat Health,” Georgia Meat Goat Association, Vol. 1, No. 1, March-April 1996.

By R. Kipp Brown, Area Extension Agent III, Carroll County Extension Service, and Director of International Livestock Program, Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences; and Charlie Forrest, former Extension Agricultural Economist. Adapted from publications by the Texas A&M Extension System.

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Publication 2177
Extension Service of Mississippi State University, cooperating with U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published in furtherance of Acts of Congress, May 8 and June 30, 1914. JOE E. STREET, Interim Director