If you raise goats for meat, you may want a little help determining which breeds are best. While you can use any goat breed for meat, specific types are bred specifically for their ability to provide edible meat. Most meat goat species are bred to mature quickly, put on weight, and be ready for the market as soon as possible, with little emphasis on producing milk. In contrast, milk goats are expected to produce for a long time. No one expects a meat goat to live to old age.
You don't need a show goat if you keep goats for meat. Show goats and meat goats are raised in different ways. And you don't need to buy registered stock. Most meat producers find it ideal to select a good, full-breed buck and breed him with several mixed-breed nannies. Whatever market you find for your goat meat will determine what qualities you want in the kids. According to the American Goat Federation, over half of the goat meat eaten in the U.S. comes from feral goat meat imported from Australia.
The most significant traits that you want to look for in meat-producing goats are their adaptability to environmental changes, fast growth, and ease of reproduction. Namely, you want to have a steady conception rate, kidding rate, and the ability to breed out of season. A good meat goat has a good distribution of lean muscle to fat and bone. Usually, the largest muscle mass will be in the leg and shoulder.
Here are some notable breeds often recommended for raising for goat meat.
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Boer goats were bred in South Africa for meat and selected for their superior body shape, high growth rate, and fertility. They are known for being docile. Boers are highly resistant to disease, and it does well in hot, dry, and semi-desert areas. It reaches slaughter maturity in about 90 days. Does gain about 190 to 230 pounds, and bucks can get up to 200 to 340 pounds.
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Before Boer goats became available in the United States in the late 1980s, Spanish goats were the standard meat goat breed, especially in the South. Spanish goats are descendants of the goats brought by Spanish explorers, making their way to the United States via Mexico. Boers have replaced Spanish goats as the favorite meat goat in the United States, but they have found a new purpose—controlling invasive brush plants, such as buckthorn. Some consider them to be more a goat category than a defined breed, and others also call them brush goats.
What Are Brush Goats?
The term brush goat is a general term used to refer to various breeds and breed mixtures known to be adaptable and hardy, both of which are useful in their capacity for eating brush and unwanted vegetative growth. They are also known as hill goats, briar goats, or native goats. They are not a specific breed but rather a category of goats. Brush goats are usually genetic crosses between meat goats and dairy goat breeds.
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Tennessee Fainting Goat
Tennessee fainting goats hail from Tennessee and are also called myotonic goats, nervous goats, wooden goats, or stiff leg goats. When startled, these goats' muscles go rigid and they "faint" or fall over. Myotonic goats are hardy, fertile, and have a long breeding season.
They are medium-sized animals; males can sometimes reach 200 pounds. They are good mothers and easy to raise as kids. They are capable of giving birth three times in two years. Their eyes have a unique protruding quality. These goats are primarily used for meat and also kept for milking. Somewhat rare, this species is sometimes kept as a novelty specimen or as a family pet.
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Large-framed, white, hardy, and able to thrive under poor conditions, the kiko (the Maori word for "meat") was developed in New Zealand and brought to the United States in the 1990s. Kikos are meat-producing goats with compact, muscular bodies and dramatic spiraling, outswept horns. These goats are a fast-growing breed, with adult males reaching 300 pounds. Kikos may be a more economical breed than Boers since they prefer rough grazing territory and require little attention if you have a lot of land.Continue to 5 of 15 below.
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Bred from the West African pygmy goat breed, modern pygmy goats are kept chiefly as pets, but they have some potential for meat because they have a compact and meaty body and are fertile out of season. They typically grow to a mature size of 50 to 75 pounds for females and 60 to 86 pounds for males. A variety of solid colors and patterns are available. Pygmy goats frequently breed every 9 to 12 months.
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Savannah goats are also called white Boers and were developed from local South African goats. This breed resists heat and drought. They have an extra fluffy cashmere undercoat to help them stay warm in colder winters and are highly adaptable to various weather conditions. They grow fast, are prolific breeders, and make excellent mothers. They are a relatively new breed in the U.S., first imported in the late 1990s.
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The Damascus goat breed, also called Aleppo, originated in the Middle East and is raised in Syria, Cyprus, and Lebanon. It is a good producer of milk and meat. Its reproductive cycle starts at about 13 to 16 months. Its average gestation period is 155 days long, capable of giving birth to three to four kids per kidding. They are large-bodied, docile animals.
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Beetals are bred in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan and are a popular source of meat and milk in that region. They are hardy, adaptable, tough animals with extremely long, curled, drooping ears.Continue to 9 of 15 below.
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Hailing from the Kalahari Desert region spanning Botswana, South Africa, and Namibia, the Kalahari red is hardy and can easily withstand hot, dry conditions. Their lineage goes back to Boer goats, although they have a ruddy color and all-over pigmentation. The red coat and long ears help it resist the heat and blend in with its natural region. They are popular in meat production because their meat is lean and tender. Nannies can give birth every eight months.
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The tiny black Bengal goat is a popular meat and milk goat in Bangladesh and northeastern India. They are small; their meat is prized for its quality. They are bearded with short ears and long horns for both sexes. The average weight is about 40 to 45 pounds for females and 35 to 40 for males. They breed prolifically, able to produce kids three times in two years.
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Anglo-Nubians, or simply "Nubians," were first developed in the 1870s by crossing British goats with African and Indian varieties. It is known more for its milk production, but it's worth raising it for meat. These large goats can reach up to 175 pounds. It is also reared for milk. Kids fatten quickly for meat production.
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Known the world over for their luxurious fleece production, Angoras also produce great meat and dairy, although the meat is not as abundant as some other breeds. Their coat and skin make up most of their body weight, so the meat yield is less than some, producing good quality meat and milk. They hail from Turkey (Ankara/Angora), featuring a strong profile, medium-sized neck with medium-long pendulous ears.Continue to 13 of 15 below.
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Saanens are the largest breed of Swiss goat, well-known for their milk production and popular for their meat in Switzerland. They are one of the most widely distributed dairy goats in the world. They feature a short white coat and are pale-skinned, so they do not tolerate strong sun. They have a calm, docile nature.
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The Jebel Akhdar, named for a mountain range in Oman in the Middle East, is one of the largest goat breeds and is popular for meat production. It has a medium-length, gold-brown coat, often sporting medium-long twisted horns. It has a fast growth rate and produces good quality meat.
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Australian rangeland goats are otherwise known as Australian feral goats or wild goats. These low-maintenance goats can withstand harsh, dry conditions. The breed accounts for about 90% of the world's goat meat production. The U.S. imports half of its goat meat from Australia. This breed originated from Angora and Cashmere goats. Now, they are bred with Boers for rapid meat production.