Meat Goats for Weed Control and Alternative Income on Cattle Operations
The demand for goat meat exceeds supply in North Carolina and other East Coast states. In North Carolina a new slaughter facility has opened to supply domestic and export markets. With the continual influx of immigrants who prefer goat meat, the demand is expected to increase. While goats have been used for biological control of weeds, brush, multiflora rosa and kudzu on farms, there is a limited supply of meaty type animals available to producers.
The goal of this project was to find out what breed of goat would produce the most rapid growth and the heaviest carcass in the Southeast. Finding a meat goat that produces more per acre per year (because of more kids born) could potentially have a significant impact on income. Finding a breed which provides a higher dressing percentage will bring premium prices.
1.) Evaluate and compare Tennessee Stiff Leg goats to existing goat herd in terms of meat production performance and compatibility with beef cattle.
2.) Maintain production records of animal breeding and gain performance, slaughter characteristics and price.
3.) Share production records and cooperate with NC State Cooperative Extension in disseminating information about meat goat production.
4.) Host a field day/tour to demonstrate the integration of meat goat production in beef cattle operations.
The research took place on a 130-acre cattle ranch that has traditionally used goats to improve pasture for cattle.
The project compared the production performance of mixed breed goats to the production performance of mixed breed goats that have been interbred with pure Tennessee Stiff Leg goats known for heavy muscling and high kid counts. The Stiff Leg goats supposedly have two kid crops per year and average three kids/doe. Most meat type breeds kid only once per year, averaging 1.4 kids/doe.
The Hobbs Packing Company of North Carolina purchased all the kids and reported the dressing percentages for comparison purposes. Breeding records, gain performance, slaughter characteristics and price were also compared between the two herds.
Six herds of 16 does each were used in the study. For the purposes of this study the term Spanish goat refers to unregistered, high quality grade goats of the Spanish type. Standard goats in this study are unimproved strains of mixed-breed goats as found at local auctions. They are sometimes referred to as brush goats, native goats or junkyard goats, depending on locale. Stiff Leg goat refers to the purebred stock introduced to upgrade the Spanish and standard goats.
Of the six groups of does, two groups were Spanish, two groups were Stiff Leg and two groups were standard.
One group in each breed category was bred to a Stiff Leg buck, with the other group in each breed category bred to a Spanish buck.
In these on-farm trials there was no difference in compatibility with the beef cattle when the Tennessee Stiff Leg goats were compared to the producer’s original herd of Spanish goats that were raised with the beef cattle. Both groups performed adequately in removing brush and weeds from overgrown land and turning it into pasture.
However, the rancher noticed that the Stiff Leg goats were not as aggressive in foraging, and they were more prone to illness in bad weather as compared to the Spanish goats.
In meat production, the Stiff Leg crosses did not perform as well as the producer expected. In almost every category, they produced fewer kids as compared to the Spanish goats. The kids from Stiff Leg crosses had lower weights at birth, at weaning and at slaughter 30 days after weaning as compared to Spanish crosses.
The Stiff Leg goats did produce a slightly higher dressing percentage in some categories, but not enough to offset the fewer kids and the lower weights.
The greatest number of kids (36) came from Group A, which consisted of Spanish does and a Spanish buck from a line that had been selectively bred for multiple births and meaty build through several generations on the project coordinator’s ranch. They represented the best of the project coordinator’s breeding program. Does from that same line were used for Group E, but when bred to a Stiff Leg buck they produced only 20 kids that also averaged 1¼ pounds less at birth.
When bred to standard does, the Stiff Leg buck made a better showing (24 kids) but still did not equal the performance of the Spanish buck (23 kids) because at slaughter the Stiff Leg kids averaged four pounds lighter as compared to the Spanish kids.
The rancher conjectured that perhaps in a strict production management system, the Stiff Leg goats could produce two kid crops per year, but on his forage-only system they did not. He also noted that even Spanish goats will kid twice a year if they are in a strict production management system.
Although the duration of the project covered only one generation of Stiff Leg cross breeding, the rancher anticipates that future crosses building on that generation will produce the heavier kids that Stiff Leg goats are reputed to produce. However, since his own breeding program has produced a strain of goats prone to multiple births, he does not expect that the Stiff Leg breeding will increase the number of multiple births. Therefore in this farm trial the most improvement from the influence of Stiff Leg breeding was seen in the lower quality animals.
The project coordinators spoke at the Southeast Regional Meat Goat Association Educational Meeting sponsored by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service and hosted a field tour attended by 117 people in conjunction with it. The rancher also spoke at a goat field day sponsored by Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.