Prior to the early 1990's most of the goat meat produced in the United States came from unwanted male dairy goats and either Spanish or Spanish-cross goats. The increasing numbers of ethnic immigrants in addition to a growing demand for high quality, healthy, lean red meat created a demand for goat meat that could not be met by American producers. The arrival of the South African Boer goat in the early 1990's along with the collapse of the goat fiber market led to a period of growth as producers began to cross their fiber and other goats with the Boers, which resulted in a heavier muscled goat that yielded more meat. In spite of the growth in the American Meat Goat Industry, even today, the importation of goat meat into the United States is estimated to be over 30 million dollars annually, and over half of the goat meat eaten in the U S is from feral goats imported from Australia.
Goat meat is called either cabrito or chevon. Cabrito is from kids harvested within the first week of birth. Chevron is from older kids. Goat meat is leaner than poultry and other red meats, low in fat and cholesterol and is a source of conjugated linoleic acid. Meat goats totaled 1.3 million head in 2016 (NASS).
For the next couple of centuries the goats were used for milk, meat, hair, and hides. They survived well with minimal management, and those that became feral survived with no human management at all. They also adapted well to their regions, and natural selection was the norm, producing a breed of goat that was an exceptionally well-adapted survivor.
Goats were some of the last animals to captivate the interest of large-scale livestock breeders and commercial markets. Cows and sheep had all of the attention, and next to that were pigs and chickens. The Spanish goats thus escaped the intensive and industrialized livestock management practices that became so popular in the 19th and 20th century. In this country, in the 1840’s, a goat was still just a goat.
[Information taken from the Spanish Goat Association which was organized in 2007 to preserve the breed.]
The South Africans carefully selected and bred goats to produce the traditional Boer goat which a goat with a white body and a red head. There are also grade Boer goats that may be solid reds or white, or paints or dapples. While most of these can be registered with the Boer breed associations in the USA, in South Africa only the traditionals can be registered. Docile, high fertility and a fast growth rate are some of the traits that set the Boer goat apart in the purebred and commercial segments of the American meat goat industry. Mature Does can weigh between 190- 230 lb and mature Boer bucks can weigh between 200 – 340 lb.
After four generations of selective breeding – selection being on the grounds of survivability and growth rate in a hill country environment – a dramatic improvement in liveweight and animal performance was achieved. By 1986 the Kiko breed was established and the herd was closed to further cross-breeding. Within New Zealand, control of the breed remained with the original developers. Kikos were exported to the United States in the 1992, where breeders were looking to improve meat production by crossing with the indigenous Spanish goats.
The Kiko breed was slow to catch on in the United States, but has gained popularity in recent years, particularly in the South East and other humid areas due to good parasite resistance and motherability.
[PIctures courtesy Dr. An Peischel, Goats Unlimited.]
Myotonic Goats [fainting goats]
Myotonic goats are docile, curious and friendly. They are self-sufficient, sure-footed and adaptable. They are not fence jumpers or climbers. Does are excellent mothers, very protective of their babies, and easy kidders. A 200% kidding ratio is not uncommon. Well-attached compact udders produce milk "on demand." Research completed at Virginia State and Virginia Tech universities has revealed these durable, self-sufficient pasture animals to be more parasite resistant than other breeds. Myotonics tend to be "year-round" (aseasonal) breeders.
Myotonia Congenita. Myotonic Congenita is the medical term to describe stiffening. Myotonia is a inherited neuro-muscular condition which causes the goats muscling to stiffen or "lock-up" when they are startled or overly excited . If they are off balance when their muscles lock up they will tip over, thus the terms of Nervous Goats, Fainters, or Stifflegs. These goats will still be chewing their feed/hay should they get startled and loose balance. Myotonia occurs in the muscle fiber... not as a function of the central nervous system.... and causes no problem for the goats. The goats stay conscious the whole time......thus the term "fainter" is a misnomer. The proper name for these animals is "Myotonic".
On the rugged, harsh bush country where temperatures and rainfall can vary to a marked extent, natural selection played a big role in the development of these fertile, easy to care for, heat and drought resistant animals. These goats have thick, pliable skins with short white hair. The Savanna has excellent reproduction, muscular development, good bones and strong legs and hooves. Although these goats have white hair, they are selected for totally black pigmented skin, horns, hooves and all bare skin areas to avoid injury by strong ultra-violet rays.
The original Savanna importers in the United States maintained the natural selection development and continued the hardy meat goat breed. They noted that the half Savanna kid got up faster after birth and nursed quicker than their other goats. The Savanna breed is relatively new to the United States, having been imported in the late 1990s. The breed is a large framed, extremely well- muscled goat with white color containing a few black pigments found on the ears. The body characteristics resemble those of the Boer goat. The breed is very adaptable and is successful on extensive grazing, as well as on intensive pastures.
The Savanna is not a seasonal breeder, and mating can usually be done at a time that will ensure enough feed is available at kidding. The Savanna goat is a highly fertile and fecund breed, and a high twinning rate is generally achieved, even under less than optimal conditions.
Savanna wethers have a good growth rate and are an early- to medium-maturity type that produces carcasses with good confirmation.
The does have very good mothering ability and great milk production and produce fast-growing kids. Best of all, they require very little handling and care due to their disease resistance and limited hoof problems.
The TexMasterTM breed is significantly Myotonic, with just enough Boer to add a bit of faster growth. They are hardy and parasite resistant.