December 2011 Issue

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Now let's talk BREEDS. The purpose of this discussion is to objectively evaluate what people think of as meat breeds. I've been raising Myotonic goats since January 1990. I am the only person I know of in this country who has raised Myotonics and Boers side-by-side since Boers entered the USA around 1993-94. I've owned several different breeds of dairy goats and I've even raised Pygmies and so-called spanish goats. Every breed has pluses and minuses, and I will address both for each breed evaluated.

The phenotype (body conformation) of a MEAT goat is short legged, deep, and wide bodied, with udders that are tight against the body and produce milk on demand. This body type means more meat and less waste (bone, fat, internal organs) at slaughter and less likelihood of damage to does' udders when foraging/browsing over land covered with briars and bushes. On the other hand, dairy goats are long legged and long bodied so that the does can carry big udders that will likely, in a forage/browse or pasture situation, be damaged by bushes and briars. Dairy goats are like the typical West Texas whitetail deer in that they have very little meat on them. They aren't *meat* goats; they are the opposite of meat -- they are *dairy.*

Boers came into the USA in 1993-1994 from New Zealand. In the late 1980's-early 1990's, when apartheid still existed in South Africa and most of the world embargoed trade with that country because of its racial practices, embryos out of show-goat culls were smuggled out of South Africa into New Zealand and implanted into surrogate dams ("recipient" does) whose offspring were sold to US goat producers at hefty prices. People who paid lots of money for these goats heavily managed them to protect the value of their investments. An unfortunate side effect of this close management has been pampered goats that became feed bucket dependent and who were never required to adapt to their new environment. Very little culling for bad traits or selecting for good traits was done to a breed which is significantly Nubian (dairy) to begin with, and Boers that producers had problems with were not slaughtered for meat but were instead sent to sale barns to become other producers' problems. Americans also did their "if it is bigger, it has to be better" thing, completing the over-domestication of what had been a successful dual-purpose (meat & milk) breed in South Africa. As a consequence, Boers have gotten a bad rap as an unadaptable goat in the USA, but this isn't attributable to a breed deficiency because the goats weren't in most instances given an opportunity to adapt to locales, most of which were far wetter than the eight-inch annual rainfall climate from which they originally came. Most folks don't have enough land on which to raise commercial goats anyhow, so Boers have pretty much remained show goats in America. Serious commercial producers have been moving away from fullblood Boers for years.

Kikos were developed in New Zealand beginning around 1978 in an effort to raise a bigger brush goat. New Zealand is an island without predators and feral goats were overrunning the island. Toggenburg, Saanen, and Anglo-Nubian bucks (all dairy breeds) were bred to several hundred of the feral does and the outcome over about seven generations was named "Kiko." Like the typical spanish goat, Kiko has little meat on it and has retained the phenotypical long legs of dairy goats that are representative of the dairy bucks used to create the breed.

Despite some claims to the contrary, fullblood (pure) spanish goats don't exist as a breed anymore, having long ago been crossed with dairy goats to increase their size and later with Boers. I have personally seen many (but not all) so-called pure spanish herds, and if you know what you are looking at, you can see dairy-goat colorations and markings on what people today call pure spanish goats. So-called spanish goats' attraction to producers has been their hardiness and not their size or amount of meat. As you have read in previous paragraphs, this hardiness exists because the goats have adapted to their environment. Adaptation does not transfer with them to new locations but instead must take place over months and years at their new homes.

Subscribe FREE now! Monthly issues with new articles and other educational information on meat goat health, nutrition, and management written by Suzanne W. Gasparotto of Onion Creek Ranch and Pat Cotten of Bending Tree Ranch. In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Neither Suzanne Gasparotto nor Pat Cotten are veterinarians. None of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.

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There are three true meat breeds in this country: Pygmies, TexMasters™, and Myotonics. Pygmies are considered to be pet animals by most Americans and are pretty much relegated to shows but they are in fact a decent small meat goat. TexMasters™ are a breed that I began developing in 1995, breeding my Tennessee Meat Goat™ bucks (larger and more heavily muscled fullblood Myotonics developed at Onion Creek Ranch in Texas) to Boer does and then changing the breeding protocol over the ensuing years to remove as much Boer influence as possible because I quickly learned that it didn't take much Boer to take the meat off the offspring. I developed TexMaster™ as a commercial meat breed.

The breed most maligned by producers who don't know goats and don't understand how myotonia works and its contribution to developing meat is the Myotonic breed. There are basically three types of Myotonic goats: (1) the smaller sized Myotonic that pet and show breeders have crossed with Pygmies and Nigerian Dwarf goats or have been line bred within the smaller Myotonics to create special features attractive to pet buyers, such as long silky hair, blue eyes, and unique color combinations; (2) small to medium-sized and occasionally larger sized goats that display myotonia but are not fullblood Myotonics. Within this category are producers who deny that Myotonics are a breed and instead view it as a condition, so they call any goat that displays myotonia "Myotonic"; and (3) the larger and more heavily muscled fullblood Myotonics developed at Onion Creek Ranch in Texas and trademarked as "Tennessee Meat Goats." Category (1) above -- the pet category -- has given the Myotonic breed a bad reputation by coining colloquial names for them (fainting, fall-down, scare, wooden-leg) that imply that the breed is defective and more susceptible to predation than other breeds -- neither of which is true. All breeds of goats are susceptible to predators; goats are sprinters, not long-distance runners, and can easily be caught by predators. Livestock guardian dogs are essential in any goat-raising operation.

If you see a goat with MEAT on it, particularly in the rear end, I promise you that it has the Myotonic breed in it. I've seen Kikos and Boers purported to be fullblood Kiko and Boer and I can see the Myotonic influence in those goats. If you know breeds, the Myotonic conformational traits will jump out and scream "myotonic" to you. The fullblood Myotonic goat has a 4 to 1 meat-to-bone ratio -- 25% greater than any other breed -- and Dr. Lou Nuti of Prairie View A&M University north of Houston, Texas has done meat studies that has proved that any goat that is at least 50% Myotonic has a 6-10% greater meat yield. This increased meat yield and higher meat-to-bone ratio more than make up for the slightly slower growth of fullblood Myotonics. Even the show-goat industry has recognized the value of breeding Myotonic into show wethers to give them that hard topline sought by many show judges.

If you've made it this far through this article and still want to raise meat goats, go for it. Here are some resources to help you: There is a lot of information on the Internet about meat goats, both good and bad. ChevonTalk, my meat-goat education group, has been on Yahoogroups since 1998 and has over 2900 subscribers. MeatGoatMania, the online meat-goat magazine owned by me (Suzanne Gasparotto of Onion Creek Ranch in Texas) and Pat Cotten of Bending Tree Ranch in Arkansas, is also on Yahoogroups and is published monthly. Both are free. My website's Articles page on www.tennesseemeatgoats.com has dozens of articles that I've written available for reading. If you want to be successful in raising and selling meat goats, heed the information in this article, choose your mentors carefully, and learn to THINK LIKE A GOAT.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas 12-12-11

Wishing You a Merry Christmas from

Bending Tree Ranch

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Breeding age Myotonics, TMG’s, TexMasters as well as nice commercial crosses available year round. Contact us for your breeding stock needs.

Pat Cotten 501-679-4936
Bending Tree Ranch located near Greenbrier, Arkansas
www.bendingtreeranch.com
bendingtreeranch@cyberback.com

 

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