Meat Goat Genetic Research

Episode 32
For the Love of Goats

Meat Goat Genetic Research featured image

If you ask any goat breeder what is their favorite breed, they will most likely tell you it’s the breed they are raising. However, there is no perfect breed. Each one has its own pros and cons. In the world of meat goats it is not uncommon to hear people say that boers provide more meat, whereas kikos have better parasite resistance — and the discussion usually ends with those two breeds.

Richard Browning, Ph.D., of Tennessee State University, has been studying the genetic differences between boer, kiko, Spanish, and myotonic goats since 2001. In this episode, he talks about the differences that they have found in their research herd, which numbers about 250 head.

Check out my other episode about meat goats – Raising Meat Goats on Pasture

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Deborah Niemann 0:18
Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode. I am really excited today to have with me Richard Browning, professor of animal science and a goat researcher at Tennessee State University. And if you have ever talked to anybody who raises meat goats, everybody will tell you that the breed they raise is the best. So I was really excited to hear that Richard has been doing research since 2002 on Boers, Kikos, Spanish, and Myotonic goats, which are the four main meat breeds that you will find in the United States. So we are going to talk about all of those today, we’re going to talk about what’s awesome about each one, and what’s not so awesome. So, welcome to the show, Richard.

Richard Browning 1:07
Glad to be here.

Deborah Niemann 1:09
So right off the bat, like, you’ve been doing this for a long time. So why did you guys get started with this research in 2002?

Richard Browning 1:17
Well, we were doing commercial cattle research—doing fescue toxicosis work—with beef cattle, and we were looking at heat-tolerant genetics. And then we’re using breeds such as Angus and Hereford and Brahman and Senepol, which, the latter two are a couple of heat-tolerant breeds. And then our administration decided that we needed to kind of go in a different direction. And, you know, find an alternative to beef cattle. And so we decided, “Well, meat goats seem to be a growing thing, and so let’s venture off into some meat goat research.” And right off the bat, I recognized that there were some unique aspects of meat goat production and the meat goat industry that lent itself to some real interesting research, and that area that we focused in on was the genetics, because we’ve always done genetic research with the cattle. And so we decided, “Let’s do this with the goats.” And we realized early on that, although there were a lot of marketing activities going on with different breeds of meat goat, there really wasn’t any research to back up any of the marketing claims or any of the hype that was really out there with some of these breeds. And that’s how we got started.

Deborah Niemann 2:33
Okay. So what was the first… Did you start with multiple breeds? Or did you just start with one breed?

Richard Browning 2:40
We started with two breeds, actually. We started… We put a pilot project together in 2002 after we started with some wethers. We said, “Let’s see… Before we invest in any breeding stock, let’s buy some wethers. And if we can keep these wethers alive for six months to a year, then we’ll jump in with the… with some breeding stock.” And so we put together a group of Boer wethers and some Kiko wethers. And I, you know, at the time, well, I’m learning about the different breeds, and these are two breeds that were really coming up, the Boer in particular, but at the time, there was a growing interest in this other breed called a Kiko. And so we put some wethers together, and we did fine with the wethers. And, after about seven or eight months, we said, “Okay, let’s go on and put a little small herd of breeding goats together.” So we bought—it was about 35 Boer does, all full-blood registered, and about 35 Kiko does. And within the first year, we started having these goats dying on us. And we hadn’t ever seen anything like this before. And I forgot what the numbers were, but out of 60-some goats, there were, like, maybe 20 of them that got sick and died, or had all kinds of health issues. And I’m thinking, “Okay, how am I gonna explain this to our administration, that we bought all the goats and we let them all die on us?” When we looked a little bit closer, we realized that, “Wait a minute. There’s a particular aspect of which goats are dying and which ones are not dying.” And we realized, it was the goats with the red heads that were having all the health problems, and the other goats seemed to be doing fine. And so we decided, you know, we’re gonna double-down on this. We said, “We can either shut this program down, or we’re gonna really get in this.” And that’s when we saw that there’s a real opportunity to do some breed evaluation research. And so, we told our administration that, “Hey, we got these goats, and we found some real interesting preliminary data that we really need to really follow up on for the benefit of the industry and producers.” And so what was almost the end of the project, before it really started, we said, “You know what, there’s something to be investigated.”

Richard Browning 4:53
So we went and invested in a lot more Boer goats. We went and bought a bunch more Kiko goats. And then, from Year Two on, we added Spanish goats. So we had a three-breed diallel that we were running. In that very first pilot project, we used Spanish bucks to breed those Kiko does and those Boer does. And a lot of producers were saying, “What in the world are y’all doing? Y’all got these expensive Boer goats and you’re putting a Spanish buck on them? What are y’all thinking?” But that was part of the research protocol. We needed to make sure that, if we’re evaluating these does, that we don’t have any kind of sire or buck influence affecting the data. So we decided, once we said we’re going to expand the herd, we said, “Well, let’s add some Spanish goats to the program.” And so we ended up for the next, you know, several years running straight-Boer, straight-Kiko, and straight-Spanish does, and we introduced Boer bucks and Kiko bucks. So we had all three breeds of buck as well. And one of our thoughts was, “Maybe we can produce a better group of replacement does than going out and trying to buy them.” And so, that’s why we went and bought four bucks to breed these Boer does. So we said, “Maybe we can produce some Boer does that were better than what we’re buying.” But in the end, it didn’t really make that much difference if we were buying them or if we were producing them. They just, they had some deficiencies that we weren’t able to overcome in our management program.

Deborah Niemann 6:29
So, I know one of the things that I’ve just heard in general is that Boers are bigger and meatier, and Kikos are more parasite-resistant, which is a super simplistic summary. But is that true? And what are some of the things, some of the differences, that you’ve found between the breeds?

Richard Browning 6:51
First off, just let me say that if you’re a commercial producer and profit is one of your objectives, one of your enterprise objectives, then it really comes down to the performance of the doe herd. Now, we can talk about growth of the kids, and we can talk about carcass attributes, but it really comes down to fitness of the does. And we say “fitness,” we’re talking about reproductive attributes and health attributes; these does have to stay healthy, and they have to reproduce. And so that’s where we focus a lot of our research on. And we spend most of our time talking about that. The growth is fine, the carcass is fine, but they don’t really draw profitability. It’s all about doe performance. And so, most of our research has been on the does. And so, what I’ll say is that we’ve probably spent 15 years after that pilot project basically just verifying what we saw on that very first year, which was that, on the maternal side fitness attributes, a pure-blood or full-blood Boer doe, on average, is not going to be as productive and not as fit as a Kiko or a Spanish doe. And so, whenever we talk to producers about starting a herd, we always tell them that you want to really look at Kiko genetics and Spanish genetics and kind of shy away from the Boers, and that’s because they’re not going to give you what you need in a commercial herd for maternal performance.

Richard Browning 8:27
Now, we did do some carcass evaluation, which was probably the most interesting of all the work. It was a small project, we did three years, and we processed… about 300 kids that we processed over those three years. And we found that… And we had USDA graders grading these animals both live and carcass, and as one would expect, when you grade these animals on the hoof, or if you grade them in the cooler, that the Boer goats, they had better carcass grades—you know, you’re just going 1s, 2s, and 3s. The full-blooded and the crosses, whether out of a Boer buck or out of a Boer doe, they graded better in those subjective numbers. But when we’d get dressouts, and we did lean-to-bone ratios, there was no difference. Actually, the best dressout—and we looked at the numbers yesterday; folks looked at the numbers—the best dressouts of all the crosses were the Spanish-Kiko crosses. They had high dressing percentages. And when we looked at the lean-to-bone ratio, there was no difference. And so, what we concluded—and we’ve seen some similar-type things in some cattle work, if I recall from when we published this paper—is that, the Boer goats, the way they were selected and bred is they have this really short, compact build. And that gives them that real thick conformation that buyers like, where you look at a Kiko goat or a Spanish goat, they’re a longer, leaner kind of an animal. So, in essence, there’s no more lean tissue there. It’s just how it’s presented.

Deborah Niemann 10:16

Richard Browning 10:18
It’s kind of like, I take—I’ll give an example—I take two sheets of paper, and one of them I kind of ball up, crumple up, and one of them I fold nice and neat. And I present it to you. They’re two totally different presentations, but there’s no more material for one versus the other. And so, we advise producers, if you’re doing market kid production, then yes, you can use a Boer buck in your production system. They’re not necessarily gonna produce more meat, but the buyers like them, and they’re gonna pay more for them, so take advantage of that psychology of that look of that animal. And so, when we start looking at how different breeds fit into a production system, we will say that Boer goats work in a terminal sire program, where you’re taking those kids to market. And you don’t need to keep that buck long. Get him, use him to get your does bred, and then sell him, because you don’t need him for the rest of the year. We found in our production system that there really wasn’t much of a benefit in keeping those bucks around for a very long period of time. Now, if you’re looking at producing replacement doelings, commercial-production does, then I wouldn’t use a Boer buck, I would use a Kiko buck or I’d use a Spanish buck to get those good maternal attributes that we’re trying to build a commercial herd with.

Deborah Niemann 11:40
Okay. That’s a really good point there, too. Because so many people, you know, have just focused on, like, that shape of the Boer, and you… I mean, you look at it, and it looks so much meatier. So that’s really interesting, though, to know that, like, ultimately, the amount of meat is the same. It’s just presented differently in those other breeds. They’re just longer-bodied, which totally makes sense to me.

Richard Browning 12:06

Deborah Niemann 12:07
So you mentioned their maternal attributes, which I know is, like, super important as someone who… Like, I’ve raised Shetland sheep and Katahdin sheep, and 12 years of raising Shetlands, I never had to bottle-feed a lamb that was rejected by its mom; with my Katahdins, I am bottle-feeding one or two lambs every year.

Richard Browning 12:30
Yeah, yeah, that’s no fun.

Deborah Niemann 12:32

Richard Browning 12:33
It’s no fun, and it’s not cheap.

Deborah Niemann 12:34

Richard Browning 12:35
Yeah. Yeah. So when we’re talking about maternals, you know, we’re talking about everything from the ability of these does to get pregnant, all the way up to delivering kids, you know, and raising those kids to weaning, because reproduction doesn’t end when the doe or ewe drops her kids or her lambs. It’s when she weans them. At, you know, whether… We wean at three months of age. I know a lot of sheep folks wean at two months. But whenever you wean, you expect that doe to raise that set of kids all the way up until your protocol says you’re gonna wean them off. And for us, it’s three months, you know, some producers may leave them on for like four months, it just depends on their production system. But that’s the expectation. And part of that maternal ability kind of goes back to basic fitness. If we have goats that are having constant problems with their feet, does are having constant issues with internal parasitism, that disrupts the whole production system. And if we were to go back to our main focus on maternal breeds, maternal genetics, one of the things that we saw early on with the Boer goats, was that they had a tremendous amount of internal parasite issues that the Spanish and the Kiko goats did not have. And so, when you have does that are having parasite issues, they’re not going to be good maternal performers. And so it all kind of ties together. So again, it goes back to that one term that we use, which is “fitness.” And again, fitness equals the ability to stay healthy, and the ability to reproduce. You got to have those two things to have a good commercial enterprise, something that’s gonna be profitable, and the extension of that: something that’s going to be sustainable.

Deborah Niemann 14:21
Were some of the breeds better in terms of not rejecting kids?

Richard Browning 14:26
Um, if we were looking at… Early on, we had—not to a great extent, but—we would have a few more Boer does that we would have to go out and bottle feed, but I think the thing with the Boer goats—it wasn’t so much that they were rejecting kids—it’s that they just weren’t having kids.

Deborah Niemann 14:46

Richard Browning 14:47
You know, and so if your reproductive rates are lower, then everything else is going to be just kind of academic at that point. It’s really for discussion. You can have great growth genetics, but if you don’t have any kids to grow, then what’s the point?

Deborah Niemann 15:02
So was it problems with them just not getting pregnant at all, or problems… or more of them having singles rather than multiples?

Richard Browning 15:09
No, a lot of it was just them not getting pregnant, or some of it was also that the does would die. You know, does… If you kind of understand internal parasitism and how it works in in goats, their greatest internal parasite births are going to be around the time that they kid. And so, one thing that we would find was that… Because we would deworm maybe once a year. We started twice a year, then we backed off to just once a year, because we wanted to find out the goats that generically are gonna be able to perform in our production environment. And what we would find is that, by two months of age, the Boer does had a tendency to start drying up. They stopped lactating.

Deborah Niemann 15:52
Oh, wow.

Richard Browning 15:53
While the Kikos and Spanish, they kept lactating, you know, for three, four months even past weaning. And part of that was tied back to internal parasitism, and the goats not able to maintain their body condition to the point where they could lactate and maintain a lactation. And the first sign was that you would see these little kids out there with long hair and potbellies. And when you saw a kid like that, the first thing I would tell the students, “Go find the mother and see what the mother looks like.” And, usually, the mother would already pretty much have started drying up, and that kid’s having to go out and pretty much nourish itself without the benefit of a lactating dam. And, of course, that kid is out there picking up parasites, and that’s why they start looking kind of rough. And so we would see some of that.

Deborah Niemann 16:42
Wow, that’s incredible. I know Boers are not good milkers. Like, I raise dairy goats, and so I’ve had goats stay in milk for two or three years. And that’s like my little personal research project is, like, how long can I keep these does milking? So to hear about a goat that, like, can’t even produce enough for two months, that’s…

Richard Browning 17:06

Deborah Niemann 17:06
Really astonishing.

Richard Browning 17:09
Yeah. Now, we… A lot of people say that our projects have been kind of, like, the ultimate stress-test on goats, because we try to do a minimal input. We want to make sure that we are able to tease out the genetic differences between goats. And, you know, we’ve had some Boer goats that have done really well. But they’re by far the minority of that group of goats. What we find is that, once you roll back the management, the genetic fitness of these goats is going to show up. Because we can mask a lot of genetic shortcomings through over-management. We can throw all kinds of money and management at these goats, and they all do fine. That may not be the most sustainable way to do it. And we advocate for low-input management, because there’s not… You know, unless you’re doing show goats or you’re doing these high-dollar registered goats, if you’re the average commercial producer, you’re selling by the pound. And so, you know, you have to be able to run these goats with minimal inputs. Not no input; you have to put something into them. But keep it minimal.

Richard Browning 18:17
And that was, you know, the research project, trying to find that balance to where we can maintain the performance of the herd, while still allowing the genetics to show us which ones are really good doers in our production system, and which ones are not going to be long-term herd members because they’re just not going to perform. And, I mean, there was some Kiko does, they fell out. You know, there’s no perfect breed out there. The thing with the Kiko goats is we have some that, you know, because they have a dairy background, some of these goats have some real problems with their udders after, like, their second or third lactation. And they will kind of cull themselves out just by… They weren’t able to raise their kids because the udders were so large and the teats were so large where they were blown out. And so, you would see some of that. That could become a problem if you’ve got too many of those in the herd. And that was something that… We’ve had very few, if any, udder problems with the Spanish goats. They have really small, tight udders. The thing about the Spanish goats: They’re a little bit smaller. You’re gonna lose some… You’ll lose some weight on those market kids, but they’re reproductively sound.

Richard Browning 19:30
That was kind of the funny thing, when we got started—and I used to always tell this story early on. When we had that pilot project, with the Boer and the Kiko. And, after the first year, and the Boer goats were having problems, and Kiko goats were doing fine, and, you know, we said, “Well, this is this a real easy explanation.” That these Boer goats were coming from South Africa, a really dry climate. And the Kikos were coming from New Zealand; they’re kind of like Tennessee. You know, plenty of rainfall, green grass. And so, it was kind of this environment-of-origin thing, that the Boer goats just aren’t performing because they’re not from a wet climate. And that seemed to explain everything. But what kind of blew that little theory out the water was when we brought all these Spanish goats in. And all these Spanish goats came from out in west Texas, Sonora, San Angelo, Uvalde, and that region. That’s a pretty dry area. And folks would typically say that these Spanish goats were not gonna perform because they’re not from… You know, they’re from the same kind of a dry climate like a Boer goat comes from. But those Spanish goats came in, and they performed. They were right there neck-and-neck, they were just as productive as the Kiko goats. And so we had to say, “Well, there’s more to it than just the environment of origin, because these Spanish goats have come from a dry climate, and they’re thriving here in our middle-Tennessee production system.” So there’s something more to it than just where they’re coming from. We’re not sure what it is, but it’s pretty evident what the outcome is.

Deborah Niemann 20:59
That’s really interesting. Could you talk a little bit more about the Spanish goats and why someone might consider having them? Because I think so many people, if they think, “I wanna raise meat goats,” they’re just looking at Boers and Kikos.

Richard Browning 21:12

Deborah Niemann 21:12
But, there’s also Spanish and Myotonics, and I want to get to Myotonics in a minute, but since you were mentioning some of the benefits of the Spanish already, can you just expand on that a little bit?

Richard Browning 21:22
Sure. The Spanish goat, you know, that was like the… you could say the “original goat” in the United States. Because goats in general, just like, you know, cattle, they’re not really indigenous to North America or really to the Western Hemisphere. So the Spanish goats are… They’re kind of a product of explorations from back in the 1500s and 1600s, I guess you could say. I like to liken the Spanish goat to Texas Longhorn cattle. You know, everybody’s heard of Texas Longhorn cattle, and they kind of know the history. And so, I like to say, “You just take that narrative, and you take a Sharpie pen and scratch out ‘Texas Longhorn’ and write in ‘Spanish goat,’ and you pretty much have their history.” It’s kind of the same thing. And so, now over the decades or centuries, I guess we can say, that these goats have kind of adapted to their low-input environment in the Southwest. There are some pockets of Spanish goats in the Southeast, as well. But more recently, out in Texas, when they were, you know, raising a lot of those Angora goats for fiber, and the Spanish goats, you know… So you had the Angora goats, you had the dairy goats, and then the meat goats were just basically brush goats that are used just to kind of clear land and to provide a barbecue for Fourth of July or Juneteenth or what have you. And you could go buy a Spanish goat for like $10 or $15; there really was not much value in them. And so, when the Boer goats came in, which is about the same time when the mohair market kind of dried up because of the loss of the government incentives, the Spanish goats were the means of really replicating and really accelerating the Boer goat genetics in the United States, because they were seen as a vessel of really pushing Boer genetics. And we almost lost the Spanish goats, because everybody was crossbreeding every Spanish goat that they had to Boer goats to produce a superior meat-goat animal. And so, the Spanish goats were pretty much… They became endangered, I guess, because they almost were crossbred out of existence with folks not realizing there were actually some real positive performance attributes to the Spanish goats—and now people are starting to realize—that are there. And because they’re product of natural selection, I think that’s what plays into their ability to perform across a range of production environments, in the weather out in west Texas or over here in middle Tennessee, they seem to do pretty well. They’re a little bit smaller animal than the Kiko and the Boer, because they haven’t been really pushed for commercial production over the decades, I guess. But they really will form a really nice genetic base for a commercial—or if you’re trying to build a commercial enterprise. You know, you’ll lose a little size, because they’re not as big, as I said. But you’re going to get the kid production, and you’ll get the hardiness that you’re looking for in a commercial system. So, you know, you can get some Spanish goats, and you can put a Boer buck on them, and produce some really nice commercial kids.

Deborah Niemann 24:30
Wow, that’s really interesting. I love the idea of animals that do well in a low-input system, because I always kind of worry that the more you’re intervening, the more you’re creating an animal that would not be able to survive without your constant attention.

Richard Browning 24:46
Yeah, what happens is, you know, again, you start masking some of those genetic shortcomings by over-management. You know, anything that we look at in terms of performance trait—whether it’s reproductive traits, or internal parasite tolerance, or propensity to foot rot, or either no lactation yields or kid growth—all those traits are going to be influenced by both the environment and the genetics. And we can overcompensate for poor genetics by over-management. Anytime we add management, we start changing the environment, and we start adding input costs. And we have to be really careful about the adding of input costs trying to overcompensate. And what we typically find and what we tell producers in the end is that if you start with poor genetics, you’re not gonna manage your way out of it. You’re just throwing money down the drain. If you start with the proper genetics, that makes the management aspect of it a whole lot easier. You’re gonna have a few animals, no matter what breed you select, that are gonna not be good doers. But you don’t want to mask that to a great extent by over-managing those animals. Identify those animals, move them out of the herd, and get you some animals that will perform in your production system.

Deborah Niemann 26:01
Yeah. I love what the man who invented the FAMACHA system… There’s a video of him on YouTube where he says that when it comes to parasites, we need to be like the lion on the savanna who is taking down the ones who are not healthy. But instead of being like the lion, we’re being a nurse.

Richard Browning 26:22
Yeah, yeah, that’s very true. You have to kind of bite the bullet. It’s hard sometimes. And that’s what got some people in trouble early on back when we were doing it. Because when you’re spending $1,000, $2,000, $3,000 for a goat, you’re gonna do everything you can to baby that goat in the hopes that you’re gonna get your investment back. And so, when you find that this goat is not very parasite-tolerant, you’re gonna do all you can to shelter that animal from being exposed to internal parasites. But, at that point, what you’re doing is you’re propagating those genetics, and you send those genetics down the line to somebody else, and they’re gonna have problems with them. Because they’re not gonna probably spend $500 or $700 on management cost just to shelter this goat to keep it from getting internal parasites. And, ultimately, all these genetics, whether they’re Kiko, Savanna, Myotonic, or what have you, they’re going to end up in a commercial production system. And these commercial producers use these genetics, and they’re expecting to be able to produce kids with not a lot of input and not a lot of management requirements. And, I mean, I want to put those goats out there, like what we do—we try to not put our hands on these goats except for at kidding and at weaning, and other than that, I don’t expect to put my hands on these goats, period, for any reason. And so, that’s where, you know, selection and culling become important. You know, and different producers have different approaches to how they go about culling their goats.

Richard Browning 27:53
But, you know, back to your comment about, you know, being the nurse: Um, yeah, we have a lot of that, because, folks, when you’ve invested all kind of money in these goats, you’re not gonna want… You don’t want any parasites or anything else to take them out of the system. And you’re not gonna want to cull them. We used to have producers that say, “Hey, I bought this goat $2,000, $3,000, $4,000, and she hasn’t had any kids yet. And it’s been two or three years. So what do I do?” And they already know the answer to the question. They’re trying to find some kind of way, “If I could just get just one set of kids out of this doe, I can get my investment back.” But it’s just not how it works, you know, from a commercial perspective.

Deborah Niemann 28:35

Richard Browning 28:30
But the thing is, whether you’re a seedstock producer of any breed, you have to consider, you know, how do your genetics translate into a low-input commercial production system? And, I like to challenge these producers: If you were to take your herd—whether the Kiko herd or Savannah herd or Boer herd—if you managed that herd as if it was a commercial production system, what would happen to the fitness in your herd? And I think some of them kind of recognize that “Yeah, yeah, we kind of maybe over-manage our goats a little bit.” They say a little bit, but probably it’s an awful lot, because of all the money that’s invested in those animals, and all the infrastructure that’s been put into them. So at our research facility, we don’t have any barns on the place. We have little shelters that the goats get into, but we don’t have a barn to do anything with the animals. I think producers that come visit our farm, they kind of appreciate the fact that they say, “Hey, this is just a goat farm. It’s not some fancy research station.” You know, our fences were kind of just a mess even before the tornado. Our fences are kind of a mess. We kinda patch things up. We don’t have any big structures down there. It’s just, you know, pasture, browsing areas, and that’s about it.

Deborah Niemann 29:55
Yeah. So, let’s talk about Myotonics a little bit, because I think they’re definitely one that gets forgotten a lot when people are talking about meat goats. What are some of the benefits that you’ve found of the Myotonic breed?

Richard Browning 30:09
When we started working with Myotonics—before we started working with Myotonics—I said, “I will not have any Myotonic goats on the place.” Because we’re studying fitness. And we’re all about fitness and survivability, and fainting under stress, or, you know, getting paralysis under stress is not a fitness attribute. And so, we said, “We’re not fooling with them.” They’re a really nice little novelty animal to talk about, but for production, no. But we had gotten to a point where we did the Boer, Kiko, and the Spanish pure-bloods. And then we started looking at producing Boer F1s, which is a whole nother project where the Boer crossed does, but we needed a fourth breed of sire to breed these goats to. And it was either the Myotonics or Savanna bucks, and we decided to go with the Myotonics simply because they were a Tennessee goat. And so that’s why we went with them. They’re really small, and so you’re gonna lose some weight on the kid side. Interesting thing about the Myotonics, and we’ve done two or three little projects with Myotonics, they have some really, um, very favorable—better than the Kiko and better than the Spanish—they have very favorable internal parasite profiles. We’re getting to start a second long-term project looking at Myotonics. And so, they were more productive than the Boer does that they were on the study with. They weren’t quite as productive in terms of kids weaned and some other fitness attributes as the Spanish and the Kiko. But one thing that stood out about those goats is that, without fail, they always had favorable internal parasite profiles. And so, with this new project, we’re going to see can we get some of those favorable intern parasite attributes into a crossbred animal? Well, we’re gonna be crossing these Myotonics with Spanish and Kiko, and see if we can kind of get that in a little larger animal. Interesting thing about it, when we take… So, we run some Myotonics now, a small herd of about maybe 20 or 30 head. And when we take the goats to the market, to a local market, they always grade out the highest, because they got that really… When they’re in a purebred form, and they get that myotonia, they really have that real thickness to them. And so they grade out pretty well. They always grade out the best and bring the most money at the market in terms of price per pound. But, again, they’re small. And so there’s some benefits there that we’re going to do a little bit more research to just kind of see where they fit in a production system. Right now, we kind of got them tagged as more of a terminal sire breed. But, I think the jury’s still out, because we still have some more research to do with those Myotonics. The one study that we did, we only looked at Myotonics as a purebred animal. Now, we’re going to introduce them into a crossbreeding system and see, can we get some positive maternal attributes in a Myotonic cross?

Deborah Niemann 33:11
Wow, that is so interesting. This has been so much fun and very educational. Do you have any final words for anybody who maybe is thinking about getting into meat goats or thinking about improving their herd?

Richard Browning 33:24
Yeah, yeah. Some things we might just be reiterating what was said earlier. And we know, in a commercial system, you’re probably going to be using a lot of crossbred does, not necessarily straight-bred does, and so we always advise producers, “If you have to have Boer genetics on your maternal side, it should be no more than 50%.” And we’ve done some studies with Boer crosses, and the Boer-cross doe, whether Boer-Kiko or Boer-Spanish, is a far more productive doe than a straight-bred Boer. So you can use Boer genetics on the maternal side, but at no more than 50% genetics. The lesser the better in terms of that. So if you’re looking… If you’re trying to produce market kids, slaughter kids, by all means get your Boer buck—or Savanna buck, for that matter—and put them out. But, the thing is that your primary target are market kids and not replacing the does. If you’re trying to expand your herd—and we need herd expansion. We still have a million-goat deficit in this country in terms of how much goat meat that we import; we need at least a million more goats being produced. So there’s room for herd expansion. That’s where I’m going to use my Kiko bucks or my Spanish bucks—to produce those replacement does. So your breed selection is really based on what your production objectives are. And every breed has a role, whether Savanna, Boer, Kikos, Spanish, or Myotonic. You just have to determine “What are my production objectives?”

Richard Browning 35:06
And, you know, I guess the other thing I’ll add, is, you know, we have a website. So if anybody wants to kind of go and take a look at some of the research that’s been done over the years, they just put my name into any search engine: Richard Browning, TSU. Just those three terms: Richard Browning, TSU. That website will come up. And a lot of those reports are on that lab website.

Deborah Niemann 35:29
Okay, good. And I’ll be sure to put that in the show notes also. I’ll put a link to it.

Richard Browning 35:35

Deborah Niemann 35:35
Well, thank you so much!

Richard Browning 35:38
All right. My pleasure. My pleasure.

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2 thoughts on “Meat Goat Genetic Research”

  1. I agree with most of what is being said but as someone who raises registered Boer goats I can say that if you have good parasite resistant does in your bloodline and strong , healthy “easy keepers” is what we call them , The Boer goat is a excellent choice for meat production . We also breed for good maternal instincts and our does will produce enough milk to nurse twins and even triplets for 2-3 months or occasionally quads and those that have singles or twins often times have to be milked daily to empty their udder . We have does that produce a gallon per day as milkers . It’s all down to genetics and knowing the bloodline of your goats .

    • That’s really the point of the research — looking at how genetics influence production. Some people think that all meat goats (and dairy goats) are created equal, and they don’t think about asking about things like milk production and finishing weights when buying breeding stock. They just buy the first goats they find. Sometimes it can be harder to find good quality genetics as a breed gets more popular, such as boers in meat goats and Nigerian dwarf in dairy goats, because people don’t do their homework and just start breeding without any goals in mind — and without a willingness to cull the lower quality goats.


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