«4-H Meat Goat Guide H H H H Texas Agricultural Extension Service Chester P. Fehlis, Deputy Director The Texas A&M University System College Station, ...»
Texas Agricultural Extension Service
Chester P. Fehlis, Deputy Director
The Texas A&M University System
College Station, Texas
Original cover art by Ross Stultz.
4-H Meat Goat Guide
Frank Craddock and Ross Stultz*
ompetition in the show arena is increasing every year
C as 4-H members are discovering that goats are an
excellent choice as a club project. Because goats are
small, easy to work with and demand a small amount of space, they provide a meaningful livestock experience in a relatively short amount of time.
If you have decided to have a club goat project, your first decision will be to determine which shows to attend. It is your responsibility, as an exhibitor, to read the general rules and regulations as well as special rules governing the shows you will attend. This will tell you the number of goats you may enter, weight limits, ownership dates and entry dead- lines. Show schedules, rules and regulations may be obtained from your county Extension agent or directly from the shows.
Show dates are extremely important because they determine the age and size or weight of the goats to be entered, and at what time of year they should be purchased. Most shows require that goats have their milk teeth. Goats usually hold their milk teeth until they are 10 to 12 months of age. After this time, it is probable that a goat will lose its baby teeth and become ineligible for show.
Goat shows also have weight limit requirements that must be met.
Under normal conditions, goats will gain approximately 2 to 3 pounds per week. Not all goats can be fed to the same final weight because there are differences in frame size. Large frame goats may be correctly finished at 120 pounds, while small frame goats may be correctly finished at 80 pounds. You must learn to look at indicators of frame size and growth (length of head, neck, cannon bone and body) and determine at what weight a goat will be correctly finished. If you know the approximate weight of a goat at the time of purchase and the length of time until a show, you can calculate feed requirements (light, moderate or heavy) needed to enable that goat to enter the show at its correct weight.
Remember that size does not make a good goat. There are good small goats and good big goats. Your management program is the key.
* Professor and Extension Sheep and Goat Specialist, and former Extension Assistant-Animal Science/Sheep and Goat Production; The Texas A&M University System.
Contributors: Mike Harbour, Schleicher County Extension Agent; and Joe Raff, Wichita County Extension Agent.
1 Facilities and Equipment One of the major advantages of a club goat project is that expensive facilities are not needed. A barn or shed where goats can retreat from cold, wet conditions and a pen with outside exposure are essential.
Adequate fencing, a feeder and a water container are required, yet other equipment may be considered optional.
Barns/sheds Goats need a living arrangement that combines access to a shed or barn and an area where they can get outside in the sunshine. The shed area should have at least 15 square feet of space for each goat. The outside pen needs to be as large as possible to permit the goats to exercise. The shed should be well drained and should open to the east or south. Barn temperature is critical. Structures should be well ventilated so goats will remain cool and continue to grow during the summer months. However, when club goats are slick shorn for shows, barns should be altered during the winter to keep goats as warm as possible.
This can be done by closing the front with a tarp or plastic sheet and by using heat lamps. The illustration shows the recommended dimensions and layout for a goat feeding facility.
Fences Fence height should be at least 42 inches to keep goats from attempting to jump. Fences should be predator proof. If using net wire fences, 12-inch mesh should be used rather than 6-inch mesh to keep goats from hanging their heads in the wire. The most desirable pens are constructed from galvanized livestock panels that are 5 feet tall with 4-inch squares.
Feeders Self-feeders are often used in the feeding of goats. Self-feeders should be blocked at least 6 inches off the ground. If goats are hand fed, use movable troughs that hang on the fence at the appropriate height.
Troughs should be hung at the same height as the top of the shoulder of the goat being fed. These movable troughs need to be taken down and cleaned regularly. Likewise, hay and mineral feeders need to be raised off the ground. This will help reduce the spread of disease. It also is important to make sure that goats are unable to stand in their feed troughs because they will urinate or defecate on the feed.
Water containers Fresh water is the most important ingredient in feeding club goats.
Water should be checked daily. Water troughs should be small in size so they can be drained and cleaned on a regular basis. Troughs should be located in the shade to keep water cool. In the hot summer months, some goats tend to drink too much water and appear “full.” Water should never be totally removed from the goat. However, rationing water prior
3 to a show will help remove the belly from the goat and improve its appearance in the show ring. Remember, do not dehydrate your goat. The proper amount of fluids is vital to the feel and condition of your goat.
Equipment To properly feed and exhibit a club goat, it is necessary to have the
following additional equipment:
• stiff brush to clean water troughs;
• shovel to clean pens;
• scales to weigh goats;
• trimming table that measures 45 inches long by 20 inches wide and 18 inches tall;
• electric clippers with 20- and 23-tooth combs and cutters
• small animal grooming clippers;
• syringes and needles;
• goat blankets and/or socks;
• halters, collars and/or show chains;
• hoof trimmers;
• back-pack drench gun;
• small portable feed troughs;
• soft brush for grooming;
• water bucket.
You may want the following optional equipment if you are exhibiting
several goats at major shows:
• show box to hold equipment;
• hot air blower or dryer;
• portable livestock scales;
• extension cords;
• electric fans.
Selection The selection of a goat for a project is one of the most important decisions you will make. The type of goat you select will have a major influence on the project’s results. Remember that a winning goat is a combination of good selection, good nutritional management, proper grooming and outstanding showmanship.
People differ in their ability to select animals. Some have a natural eye for selecting young animals of high caliber, while others never 4 develop this ability. Do not hesitate to ask for help from someone with these skills. It may be your county Extension agent, Future Farmers of America instructor, parent or another leader in the county. Also, many breeders are willing to assist you in your selection.
When selecting, you must know the animal’s age. Remember that most shows require that goats have their milk teeth, therefore you need to know how old your goat is. It also is important to be aware of fat thickness. Young goats that are bloomy and fat always look good, while young, thin goats do not look as nice. Learn to look past fat and recognize muscle so that you can pick a genetically superior goat.
When purchasing a goat, it is important to know some information about the producer. Do not hesitate to ask questions about the goat’s bloodline and age.
Consider the following when selecting a goat: structural correctness, muscle, volume and capacity, style and balance, and growth potential.
Structural correctness Structural correctness refers to the skeletal system or bone structure of an animal. A goat should hold its head erect and the neck should extend out of the top of the shoulders. A goat should travel and stand wide and straight on both front and rear legs, and the legs should be placed squarely under the body. A goat should have a strong level top, and a long rump with a slight slope from hooks to pins. Your goat should be heavy boned and be strong on its pasterns. Open-shouldered, weak-topped, weak-pasterned, steep-rumped goats should be avoided.
Muscle Generally, a goat that walks and stands wide is going to be heavier muscled. The goat should have a deep, heavily muscled leg and rump.
When viewed from behind, the widest part of the leg should be the stifle area. The goat should have a broad, thick back and loin that is naturally firm and hard handling. A good goat should be wide through its chest floor, with bold shoulders and a prominent forearm muscle. The chest and forearm are the best indicators of muscling in thin goats.
Volume and capacity This refers to the relationship of body length to body depth and body width. Goats should be long bodied, with adequate depth and spring of rib. Avoid selecting goats that are short bodied, shallow bodied, narrow based and flat ribbed.
Style and balance Style and balance refer to the way all body parts blend together, how the neck blends into the shoulder, the shoulder into the rib cage, the rib cage into the loin, the loin into the rump, and how “eye-appealing” a goat is. When viewed from the side, a goat should have a smooth shoulder, level top, trim middle and straight legs. A goat that is balanced, pretty and holds up its head is the first one you notice when you walk in the pen.
Growth potential The ability of an animal to grow rapidly is very important. Generally, a larger framed goat that shows a long head, neck, cannon bone and body, will grow faster, be larger and be more competitive in the show ring.
Nutrition Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a “magic” ration that will make your goat a champion. To implement a good feeding program, study the goat and use all available information to make judgments on when feed changes should be made. Since most goats do not deposit external fat as rapidly as other species of livestock, a selffeeding program can be effective. However, some goats will become too fat during the feeding period and should be hand fed twice daily to control the amount of feed consumed.
All livestock require five basic nutrients: water, protein, fats and carbohydrates (or energy), minerals and vitamins.
Water Clean, fresh water is a daily necessity because water composes more than 70 percent of lean tissue and all body fluids must be replenished regularly. Never deprive your goat of water because water regulates the amount of feed a goat will consume. However, reduced water intake at certain periods during the program can reduce feed intake and reduce the size of the rumen for improved appearance.
Protein The primary constituent of the animal body is protein. Dietary protein serves to maintain or replace protein in body tissues, provides for carriers of other nutrients and is a major component of various products such as meat, milk and fiber. Protein requirements for goats vary according to their size, age and maturity. Young, fast-growing goats need higher protein diets to allow them to grow and develop their muscle potential. Rations that contain 16 to 18 percent protein are useful during many phases of the feeding program. Remember that goats have a daily requirement for protein. If more protein is fed than is required, the excess is used for energy. Using protein as an energy source is very expensive.
When total feed intake is greatly reduced, protein supplementation may be necessary in order to provide the adequate daily requirements for your goat.
6 Carbohydrates and fats The most common limiting nutrients in goat rations are energyproducing carbohydrates and fats. Inadequate energy intake will result in slow growth and weight loss. An adequate supply of energy is necessary for efficient nutrient utilization. Grains and protein supplements are high in energy. However, in goat rations, too much energy intake can be just as detrimental as not enough.
Minerals The minerals of major concern in goat rations are salt (sodium and chlorine), calcium and phosphorus. Salt can be fed free-choice. However, many rations contain 1/2 to 1 percent salt.
Calcium and phosphorus are necessary for proper growth and development, and should be fed at a ratio of two parts of calcium to one part phosphorus. Rations that contain high levels of phosphorus in relation to calcium may cause urinary calculi. The addition of ammonium chloride at the rate of 10 to 15 pounds per ton of feed will help prevent urinary calculi. Roughages are generally high in calcium and low in phosphorus.
Grains are generally low in calcium and intermediate in phosphorus.
Most protein supplements are high in phosphorus and intermediate in calcium. A mineral supplement with a 25 to 30 percent protein content can be of benefit in a feeding program when used to top dress the ration.
However, this will not work with a pelleted ration. Supplements must be used in the proper amounts because excesses will deplete the muscle mass of the goat.
Vitamins Vitamins are essential for proper body function and are required by goats in very small amounts. Only vitamin A is ever likely to be deficient.
If goats are fed alfalfa hay or dehydrated alfalfa pellets in the ration, then vitamin A deficiency should not be a problem. It is a good practice to occasionally inoculate goats with a B complex vitamin. This promotes their health and helps them eat well.
Health The key to a healthy goat is the development of a preventive health program. Most goats purchased for club projects are on a health maintenance program and have had a variety of vaccinations. However, as you develop your preventive program, assume that the goat you have purchased has had no treatments. Vaccinations and treatments for certain common problems should be included in your program.