Raising meat goats on the homestead offers not only lean and naturally raised protein for the dinner table, but an opportunity to earn some extra cash to funnel back into your sustainable and self-reliant efforts, as well.
It is not necessary to own a large, or even medium acreage homestead to keep quality meat goats. The miniature Pygmy goat breed offers the opportunity to raise meat goats even for small or backyard homesteaders. Always check to make sure home butchering goats – or any small livestock, it not illegal in non-rural farming and homesteading regions.
What Is Goat Meat Called?
Goat meat is called chevon, or sometimes even mutton when it is derived from mature animals. In some regions of the world goat meat is also referred to as capretto or cabrito – meaning kid or young milk-fed goat.
Goat Meat Market
Goat meat is incredibly popular around the globe, more so than any other meat-producing animal in many regions. Goat has not traditionally been popular in the United States, but the percentage of Americans eating this lean, low in cholesterol and fat meat has been on the rise over the past decade. In fact, goat ranches have increased substantially even in the heart of cattle country – Texas.
Purchasing, raising, and processing goats for meat is a lot less expensive than doing the same with cattle – and such an operation can be successfully completed on far less land. Meat goat breeds can producer kids(s) twice each year and take substantially less time to mature than cattle.
There are approximately 2.1 million meat goats being raised across the country. Sales of feral goats imported to America from Australia brings in roughly 30 million on an annual basis. The vast increase in ethnic immigrants in the United States, along with the quest to find leaner and healthier meat to consume, has been credited with the enhanced demand for goat meat in the United States. Goat meat is leaner and offers more protein than poultry.
Until the beginning of the 1990s, the bulk of the goat meat produced in America stemmed from male dairy goats that were no longer wanted – typically Spanish or Spanish crossbred boar breeds were harvested for meat.
It was during this same decade that the South African Boer goats arrived in the United States. Because the market for fiber goats took a downturn, animals once bred for their mohair were often crossbred with Boer goats. The crossing of the breeds developed a goat that not only was more muscular in tone but offered a higher meat yield.
5 Best Meat Goats
High quality standard size meat goat breeds typically weigh between 170 to 335 pounds. Pygmy goats, the only real small stature meat goat breed, generally weigh between 85 to 130 pounds.
- Boer Goats
This top meat goat breed generally matures far more quickly than its peers. Boer goats also typically possess a high fertility rate, making breeding pairs a boon to keepers who want to bolster herd number as economically as possible.
Boer goats are so stout and hardy they have been used as pack animals in rugged terrain for thousands of years. This meat goat breed was developed during the early years of the 1900s in South Africa by Dutch farmers. Boer is actually the Dutch word for “farmer.” The developers of the breed were focused upon creating a meat goat that matured rapidly, was hardy in a broad array of environments, and boasted prime carcass qualities.
It took decades of carefully selected breeding practices to create the Boer goat breed. The first full-blooded Boer goats did not arrive in America until 1993. This breed remains at least one of the most popular meat goats in the United States today.
Boer goats can feature solid coats of white or red but most often feature a paint or dappled coat. They are known to not only have a rapid maturity and high fertility rate but also to be an incredibly docile goat breed to raise. Mature Billy goats tend to weigh in between 200 to 340 pounds. Mature female Boer goats generally weigh between 190 to 230 pounds.
- Spanish Goats
This meat goat breed is popular with homesteaders and small farmers who live in hot climates throughout the globe. Spanish goats were initially developed in both hot and sparse terrain conditions, in which they easily thrived with barely any intervention by their keepers.
This meat goat breed arrived in North America with early Spanish explorers who brought the livestock along on ships with them as a source of meat. These goats were dubbed “brush goats” or Spanish goats at the time.
The breeding ancestry of these original feral goats remains largely unknown as they were developed through a process of natural selection and not at the hands of farmers. The DNA from Spanish goats being raised in the United States indicate they were of Iberian origin. These brush goats are prone to keeping, or even putting on weight when living without the aid of human keepers in even the harshest of the environment.
The size, horn shape, color, body shape, and ear shape are not generally consistent through this breed, also likely results of their feral origins and hands-off breeding. Goats identified as being from this breed typically have large horns that are often twisted in nature.
Initially, Spanish goats were kept not just as meat producers but for dairy, mohair, and hide processing, as well. Spanish goats can range in size from only 50 to 200 pounds.
The Kiko goat breed was developed during the 1980s by New Zealand ranches Anne and Garrick Batten. The couple crossbred imported dairy goats like the Toggenburg, Nubian, and Saanen with local feral goats to create the breed. Kiko is a Maori word that means meat or flesh.
The Nelson island region ranches were striving to create not only a severe climate hardy meat goat breed but also one that would mature rapidly with very little handling or aid from the keepers.
It required four generations of breeding by the Battens to develop the Kiko breed. The Kiko meat goats were first imported to the United States in 1992. The goats were largely exported from New Zealand to America to ranchers seeking to improve goat meat production. The Kiko goats were often crossed with Spanish goats.
The Kiko goat breed was not immediately popular in the United States but after several years the meat breed gained traction in the South due to its high resistance to parasites and the superb maternal nature of its nanny goats.
Mature female Kiko goats weigh 110 pounds on average. Mature male Kiko goats weigh in around 176 pounds, on average.
- Myotonic Goats – Tennessee Goats
This meat goat breed is more commonly called “fainting goats.” These animals possess a genetic mutation that causes their legs to stiffen, prompting them to fall over, when they are startled. They do not really lose consciousness, and the so-called fainting does not cause the myotonic goats to feel any pain.
Tennessee goats are what is known as a “landcare” breed of livestock. This means they are domesticated on a local level and then adapt to their environment of time and have traditionally been isolated from other populations of the same animal type and initially spent little time with humans.
Fainting goats first became known during the 1970s. They “discovered” when John Tinsley, a migrating farm hand appeared on the Marshall County farm of Dr. H.H. Mayberry, in Tennessee. Little is known about Tinsely, who was then described as having a “strange accent” and often wore a beret style hat. His is believed to have hailed from Nova Scotia, bring along one Myotonic Billy goat and a handful of mature female goats of the same breed with him.
John Tinsley, a quiet man by all accounts, never shared any details about how he came to have the goats or where they originated from before arriving in Tennessee. One day he suddenly decided to leave the Mayberry farm and sold the fainting goats to the doctor before making his exit.
Tennessee goats are not only incredibly self-sufficient and able to traverse the most rugged of terrain quite easily, but they also boast a very friendly, docile, and curious nature. Myotonic goats are a bit unusual in the goat world because they are not prone to trying to either climb or jump their pen fencing.
Most fainting goat nannies are extremely maternal, breed year round, and have an excellent kidding live birth ratio. Kidding and milk production seems to come both naturally and easy to Myotonic goats, as well.
These heavy parasite resistant goats weigh about 200 pounds on average, regardless of sex, once they reach maturity.
- Pygmy Goats
These miniature goats were once thought to be merely popular petting zoo attractions. They arrived in the United States during the 1950s aboard a ship from South Africa – along with the big cats they were supposed to feed on the way to American zoos.
Pygmy goats are very muscular for their compact size. On average, a mature female Pygmy goat weighs in around 60 to 86 pounds. A mature Billy goat typically weighs between 50 to 75 pounds.
While you will not harvest as much meat from a Pygmy goat as you would the standard size prime meat goats on this list, the lean meat boasts a nice flavor and is incredibly tender.
Pygmy goats are a popular meat goat on small farms, ranches, and homesteads for residential consumption because they are incredibly friendly, easy to handle, and take up substantially less space to house and range that standard size goats.
When cross with another popular miniature goat, the Nigerian Dwarf, homesteaders can develop a quality dual purpose meat and dairy goat.
Meat Goat Nutritional Needs
A meat goat requires an enhanced percentage of natural forage material to meet both their nutritional and growth rate needs than dairy goats. Supplementing a meat goat’s diet with winter rye, red winter wheat, and corn fodder will help them both retain and increase their weight during the winter months through the early weeks of spring.
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