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Does that get your Goat?

Posted by romeethredge on January 19, 2012

Here’s Justin Burke with his pair of day-old spanish goat twins.

Goats were among the first animals domesticated by humans. Worldwide, more people eat goat meat and dairy products than the meat and dairy  products of any other animal. Goats have proven to be an enduring source of tasty, low-fat meat and high-calorie milk for people in some of the globe’s harshest climates. However, in the United States  goat consumption is just beginning to take off.

Experts estimate that there are more than 3 million goats in the U.S. today.  They fall into three categories: meat, dairy and angora.


Popular breeds include: Boer, Kiko, Spanish Meat Goat, and Tennessee Fainting Goat (meat); Alpine, LaMancha, Nigerian Dwarf, and Nubian (dairy); and Angora and Pygora (angora). There are also Kinder goats which are used for both dairy and meat, and Pygmy goats that are mainly used for pets.

The largest segment of goat production in the U.S. is the meat goat segment. There are an estimated 2.6 million meat goats in the U.S.  Most  of them live in Texas, but Georgia has the fourth-largest goat population east of the Mississippi River.

The growing Chicano and Latino populations in the Southeastern United States and in Texas have brought with them a historical preference for goat meat, also known as chevon. And this cultural preference has turned into to big business for those producers who can meet  this steadily increasing demand for goat products.

Origin of Most Frequently Used Breeds

The Spanish meat goat — also called the brush or briar goat — is of uncertain origin. The population probably consists of goats brought into Colonial America that migrated west with their owners and bred with goats from Spain and Mexico. Later, dairy breeds and Angoras intermingled throughout the population.

Spanish goats come in a variety of colors and patterns; most are horned.  (Polledness in goats is genetically associated with an undesirable reproductive condition.) Their size is variable depending on location. Mature brush goats in Georgia are smaller than their Texas counterparts. Spanish bucks in Georgia weigh 80 to 120 pounds with does (nannies) weighing 60 to 80 pounds.   Bucks (billies) from Texas can weigh up to 200 pounds and does up to 130 pounds.  This is probably a reflection of nutritional value of forage.

Georgia brush goats have been selected over the years for survival of the fittest, with some selection pressure placed on color, horns and size. Selection for survival has led to small, light-milking, adaptable goats mainly because a small animal can meet its nutritional needs more easily than a large one.

The introduction of the South African Boer Goat and the Kiko from New Zealand in the early to mid-1990s provided producers a new source of germplasm. This heavily muscled, well-tempered goat has become quite popular since its importation in 1993. Research indicates that using partial or full-blood Boer billies increases the size, muscle and growth rate of the kid crop. The effect of the Boer on the resulting females should be to increase the size, muscle and milk production; however, research to document the Boer female’s reproductive efficiency has not been conducted.

The importation of the Kiko, a New Zealand breed selected for survival and growth rate is also likely to improve meat goat production. The Kiko is a large-framed, early-maturing goat with high feed conversion rates. They may be more tolerant of internal parasite loads.  Crossing Kiko or Boer with other breeds should result in increased heterosis or hybrid vigor.  Very few Angora goats are used for meat in Georgia.

Most of the above information is from UGA Publication, Meat Goat production in Georgia; click below for full publication.

“That really gets my goat.”

A commonly repeated story which tries to explain this phrase’s origin is that goats were placed with racehorses to keep them calm. When a bad guy who wanted the horse to race badly removed it, they ‘got someone’s goat’, the horse became unsettled and ran badly.

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