Selection of Goats 5

Four key traits to be considered for selection of goats used primarily for meat production are the following:

1) adaptability to environmental and production conditions,

2) reproductive rate,

3) growth rate and

4) carcass characteristics.

Of these four production traits, only carcass characteristics are not readily measurable on the farm.

With good record keeping and a set of scales, the meat goat producer can collect the information needed to measurably increase the productivity of his/her meat goat enterprise.

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This trait is the most important of all the reproduction traits. The profitability of any meat goat enterprise may be greatly diminished if an animal’s ability to survive and reproduce is impaired by the production environment. The goat has proven to be perhaps the most adaptable of all the domesticated livestock. Indeed, the goat survives worldwide in a wide range of environmental conditions. However, when taken out of one environment and placed into another,

domesticated livestock may not always realize its production potential. Boer goats might perform differently in South African then they do in India.

Adaptability is a lowly heritable trait because natural selection has already reduced the genetic variability. Therefore, adaptability will respond slowly to selection.

Reproductive rate

In animals kept primarily for meat production, reproductive rate is the single most important factor contributing to the efficiency of production. Reproductive traits of interest in meat goat enterprise would be conception rate, kidding rate, and ability to breed out of season.

BOER with kids

Boer goat with Quadruplets

In general, goats have a high reproductive rate with conception rate not being a problem. Several studies have demonstrated that although twins and triplets have lower birth and weaning weights

have slower growth rates, they produce more total weight of kid per doe per year


Therefore, prolificacy, defined as the number of kids born per doe, is an important reproduction trait. Goats that have evolved in the temperature zones of the world tend to be seasonal breeders, with females coming into estrus in the fall and anestrus occurring in late spring. This breeding pattern does not always coincide with the optimal marketing period of weaned kids. On the other hand, goats from tropical regions are non-seasonal breeders and kid all year-round. Therefore, incorporating this trait of non-seasonality into a meat goat enterprise would be advantageous.

Productivity Index = conception rate x litter size x survivability to weaning x 365/kidding interval x (birth weight + pre-weaning ADG x age at weaning

Growth rate

Growth rate can be effectively divided into two periods: pre-weaning average daily gain and post-weaning average daily gain. A high pre-weaning average daily gain not only reflects the genetic potential of the growing animal, but also the mothering ability of the doe. In some production systems, kids are sold at weaning and therefore pre-weaning average daily gain is an important production trait to consider. In other production systems kids are sold as yearlings or as older animals and post-weaning average daily gain becomes an important production factor.

Carcass characteristics

Carcass characteristics of interest are dressing percentage, anatomical distribution of muscle and the ratios of lean:fat:bone. Generally, the dressing percentage of goats is around 50%. As an animal grows, the percentage of fat in the carcass tends to increase, the percentage of bone tends to decrease whereas the percentage of lean muscle stays about the same. The portions of the carcass with the largest muscle mass are the leg and shoulder. However, percentage wise, these portions tend to decrease as the animal grows.


  1. North Carolina State University, USA

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