Goats Unlimited brought first Kikos into U.S. The First Kikos in America

By An Peischel ©2020 (First in a series)

Goats Unlimited began its meat goat farming experience on the Big Island of Hawaii in early 1985. It consisted of searching for breeding females to begin a herd/mob and then securing replacement stock to maintain the herd. Being on an island has its limiting factors (challenges) and one cannot become frustrated. We started putting together two doe mobs – one of Spanish meat goats and one of mixed dairy breeds. The decision to maintain a closed herd was made at the initiation of the project (business) to se- cure a disease-free status. Because of our rigid testing procedure, the herd is clean of caprine arthritis encephalitis (CAE), caseous lym- phadenitis (CL), brucellosis, tuberculosis, toxoplasmosis and lepto- spirosis. We have spot-tested for campylobacter, chlamydia, bovine viral diarrhea (border disease), Johne’s disease and Q-fever, never having a case appear. BIOSECURITY has always been an important crite- rion for our business, sometimes extreme, but disease prevention and control are a vital part our business.

Over several years, it became obvious that seedstock for herd- sires possessing the production characteristic traits we had identified were not available. We required a breed that would readily adapt to the environment, twin and recycle on native vegetation; with kids having rapid growth rates on scrub vegetation and brush and still pro- duce a high quality carcass for our diverse ethnic population. And, just as important, the bucks had to be from a closed herd or from another country that was considered free of the specific diseases we had identified.

Several years later, visiting with a close friend from New Zea- land, it was mentioned that Garrick Batten (Caprinex) and a group of individuals had been breeding feral does in New Zealand and crossing them with AngloNubian, British Toggenburg, British Alpine and Saanen bucks.

The breeding regime was developed to take advantage of the feral doe base dynamics as a breeding and genetic improvement tool. Feral does are small in stature with an amazing ability to survive ad- verse climatic conditions and demanding nutritional constraints with- out supplemental feeding. In crossbreeding with dairy breed bucks that met the size and meat production criteria established by the New Zealand breeders, milk production of the feral does was enhanced. Goats produced under extreme environmental and vegetative constraints are naturally (by Mother Nature herself) selected for soundness in conformation, structurally correct feet and legs, fertility, milk production (good udder attachment and teat conformation) and temperament. Consequently, there are both polled and horned ge- netics in the Kiko breed as well as a range of coat colors with white being the most dominant. Initially, there was no set breed type since the ‘breed’, now known as the Kiko, was selected for survivability and growth rate under commercially farmed hill country conditions. With selections from the F2 and F3 generations, the liveweights of the kids increased; kid growth rate increased as did their ability to survive under New Zealand hill country pastoral conditions. The Kiko was then tested for performance under the conditions estab- lished for the breed by the New Zealand producers. The breeding flock was farmed on steep hill country and man- aged with minimal inputs such as internal parasite drenching. The does were expected to twin at first kidding and rear twins at sub-

8 Goat Rancher | May 2020

America’s Kiko industry had its roots in 1990 when Dr. An Peischel of Goats Unlimited, then located in Hawaii, visited with Garrick Batten in New Zealand and purchased four Kiko bucks to cross with her herd of 1,500 Spanish meat goat nannies. The Kiko bucks arrived in Honolulu in January 1991 and were released from quarantine on March 5. The bucks were shipped to Dr. An’s ranch on the Big Island of Hilo and began breeding on March 7. Approximately 800 does were bred over the next few months, with the first kids arriving in late August. This was the beginning of the Goats Unlimited Kiko flock, which has been moved intact over the years from Hawaii to northern California then to Tennessee, where Dr. An is now a retired extension goat specialist. Because Dr. An was focusing on her commercial meat goat operation, the Goats Unlimited flock has been bred up over the years with careful selection for milk production, good udders, good feet and fast growth while foraging on Hilo’s dormant volcanoes, California’s forest lands and now Tennessee’s humid brushland. Dr. An can be contacted at 615-772-7467 or

— Terry Hankins

sequent kiddings. They were pressured by a higher stocking rate and culled ruthlessly. Five-month liveweights of kids were used as an ini- tial selection point (weaning at 4 months of age) as it is a measure of maternal ability. At eight months, liveweights were a good indication of the weanoffs’ ability to obtain growth rate from vegetation on their own accord and at 15 months, the liveweight was used to select re- placement stock.

By that point in time, the offspring had become environmentally adapted, they had survived and had a high growth rate – the major characteristic traits that had been selected for the breed. Therefore, successful completion of the performance tests under stressful con- ditions by four generations had evolved the new breed – the Kiko meat goat.

The breed seemed to offer everything that we were looking for in seedstock herdsires. New Zealand is an extremely disease con- scious country (island) with strict import regulations. And, Hawaii, being a Pacific island, has its own set of extremely strict importation criteria – including a federally mandated quarantine program. There are only two federal quarantine stations in the U.S. – Florida and Ha- waii. All incoming livestock has to be admitted for the required quar- antine period and pass additional testing.

I decided that I wanted to go into the New Zealand hill country, especially areas that were infested with gorse and berry vines because we were using our goats for the eradication of Christmas berry, guava, thistle, indigo, wattle trees and other noxious, invasive and poisonous plants (gorse, rattlepod, coffeeberry, false tobacco). Goats Unlimited’s goal was to establish a breeding mob that could survive all of the environmental, topographic, climatic, soil di- versity and plant community uniqueness imposed by the islands. This doe mob had to twin, raise twins and rebreed to a commercially man- aged production scenario of three kiddings in two years. The kids had to reach 70 to 75 pounds with a minimal supplemental feed (and a loose, free choice chelated mineral mix and sea kelp) in six to seven months to meet our ethnic demand for quality carcasses. I traveled to New Zealand (South Island) and spent the week See PEISCHEL, Page 34

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