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Meat Goat Selection

Filed Under:
Publication Number: P2782
View as PDF: P2782.pdf

“Meat goat” refers to goats grown for meat purposes in the United States today. In this context, the term is used as a breed, even though meat goats do not qualify as a breed in any technical sense. Older terms referring to meat goats to distinguish them from Angora and dairy goats include “brush goat,” “Spanish goat,” or “common goat.” Today, the term “meat goat” refers to any combination of goats used for meat production.

The South African Boer goat provided a new source of genetics for meat goat producers for nearly 30 years. Recently, the Kiko breed, and more recently the Spanish breed have become popular to use as an outcross with the heavily influenced Boer genetics.

In the past, the lack of a well-defined, distinct, and perhaps superior meat goat breed in the United States adversely affected meat goat production. However, genetic improvement through selection and breeding programs has produced a more desirable animal with a quality carcass, which improved demand for the product.

Selecting Meat-Type Goats

Growth rate and meat quality (muscle) are two of the more important considerations in a meat goat selection program. In selecting goats for meat production, also consider—

  • adaptability to environmental and production conditions
  • reproductive rate

The best way to increase adaptability is to select breeding stock from animals maintained under the same natural conditions in which their offspring will be raised. For example, heat-tolerant goats are best selected for production in hot climates.

Reproductive efficiency is a major factor contributing to efficient and profitable meat production, but it is relatively difficult to select for because of low heritability. Manage the breeding herd to increase reproductive efficiency. Select for twinning rate, and cull nonproducing does for best results. Cull animals that do not meet high reproductive performance criteria.

Selecting goats for growth rate should be relatively easy because of the fairly high heritability of growth traits. Base growth rate selection on higher post weaning gains or yearling weights. Goats selected for their increased growth rate will typically also produce increased lean muscle yield and thereby better meat quality.

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. Improvement of meat-type goats based on production alone can easily be achieved if good records are maintained. Progressive producers will select replacements based upon records using these guidelines and a strict culling process for those animals that fail to carry economically important traits.

Visual Selection of Meat Goats

Body Types

Drawings of good and bad meat goat body types. From overhead, a good body type is triangular, and a bad body type is rectangular. From the front, a good body type is overall larger, and the space between the front legs is wider.

Poor Conformation

A goat with poor conformation has a pinched muzzle; coarse neck; thick, meaty shoulders; roach back; slump rump; body not deep enough; and untrimmed feet.

Parts of a Meat Goat

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  1. Jaw
  2. Muzzle
  3. Throat
  4. Wattle
  5. Neck
  6. Withers
  7. Crop
  8. Chine
  9. Loin
  10. Back
  11. Hipbone
  12. Rump
  13. Thurl
  14. Tail head
  15. Tail
  16. Pin bone
  17. Thigh
  18. Stifle
  19. Hock
  20. Dew claw
  21. Rear flank
  22. Fore flank
  23. Sheath
  24. Belly
  25. Fore rib
  26. Rear rib
  27. Barrel
  28. Heart girth
  29. Pastern
  30. Hoof
  31. Knee
  32. Chest

Publication 2782 (POD-06-22)

Reviewed by Dean Jousan, PhD, Associate Extension Professor, Animal and Dairy Sciences. Written by R. Kipp Brown, Extension Livestock Coordinator (retired). Adapted from publications by the Texas A&M Extension System.

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Authors

Portrait of Dr. Dean Jousan
Associate Extension Professor
Extension 4-H Livestock Specialist