How to Choose Meat Goat Breeds for the Small Farm

Boer Goat waiting for a Feed. Norfolk. UK.
E.A. Janes/age fotostock/Getty Images

If you are raising goats for meat, you may wonder what breed is best for the small farmer. While you can, of course, raise any breed of goat for meat, specific breeds are focused on putting on weight versus producing milk, as well as other characteristics that make the breed more desirable for meat production.

If you are raising goats for meat, you don't need to buy a show goat - in fact, you shouldn't. Show goats and meat goats are raised in completely different ways. You don't need to buy registered stock. Most meat producers will find a good, full breed buck and breed him with mixed-breed doe. Finding the right market for your goat meat will determine what qualities you want in the kids.


Boer goats were raised in South Africa for meat and were selected for superior body shape, high growth rate, and fertility. They have large frames. They are white and reddish-brown, or all red, short-haired, and with black, brown or red markings on the head and neck. They have short horns that are curved close to the head.


Before Boer goats became available in the US in the late 1980s, Spanish goats were the standard meat goat breed, especially in the South. These goats are descendants of goats brought by Spanish explorers. They're medium-sized and lanky, mostly short-haired, and come in all colors. They have long, often twisty horns.


These are a mixture of breeds that are adaptable and hardy. They're also called hill, briar, wood, or native goats. Both Spanish and Brush goats are more of a type of goat than an actual, defined breed.

Tennessee fainting goat

Tennessee Fainting goats are, in fact, from Tennessee and are also called myotonic goats, Nervous goats, Wooden goats or Stiff Leg goats. When startled, these goats go rigid and "faint" or fall down. Myotonic goats are hardy, fertile, and have a long breeding season.


Large-framed, white, hardy and able to thrive under poor conditions, the Kiko was developed in New Zealand and brought to the US in the 1990s. Kikos are strictly meat producing goats.

If you have a lot of range available, Kikos may be a more economical breed than Boers for you to raise.


Pygmy goats are mostly pets, but they do have some potential for meat because they have a compact and meaty body and are fertile out of season.

Dairy Goat Crosses

Often, dairy goat breeds such as Nubian, Alpine, Toggenburg, and Saanen are crossed with Boers for meat production.

Other Crosses

There are also some new crossbreeds available as meat goats that are growing in popularity. Some of the more common new meat goat breeds include:

  • Moneymaker. Moneymakers are a cross of Sannen and Nubian breeds, then bred with Boers.
  • Texmaster. This is a medium breed in size, a cross between Boers and Tennessee Fainting Goats developed in Texas by Onion Creek Ranch.
  • Savanna. This breed resists heat and drought. They are muscular and have a short, white coat with a cashmere undercoat to help them stay warm in colder winters. Highly adaptable to various weather conditions, they're a good choice for places with weather challenges. They make excellent mothers.