Strategies for increasing the supply of domestic goat meat

Dr. Ken McMillin contributed to this article

Each of our update articles on the meat goat industry for the past 20 years have indicated a lack of domestic supply to meet America’s demand for goat meat by ethnic and/or health-conscious consumers. Australia, and to a lesser extent New Zealand, have exported goat meat to the U.S. to partially fill this gap, averaging 36.7 million pounds per year over the last dec- ade. However, there were only 21.6 million pounds imported into the U.S. last year, cre- ating additional shortfall of goat meat in the U.S. With the recent upswing in prices for both market goats and breeding stock, it is evident that the imports of goat meat, or lack thereof, impact domestic meat goat production. As previously reported, Australia has had drought and wildfires that reduced the numbers of feral goats to be harvested. The Goat In- dustry Council of Australia also developed a 2020 strategic plan that aimed to increase consumption of Australian goat meat and other goat products domestically and internationally. This could further reduce U.S. imports of goat meat from Australia.

additional assumptions for all calculations are that all additional meat kid goats were used for meat production, 68 pound average slaughter weight to give 34 pound average carcass weight (50% dressing %), no weight loss in converting carcasses into meat, 15,000,000 pounds/34 pounds per kid goat = 441,176 additional kid goats.


One fear is that if the price of goat meat rises above a ceiling level due to lack of supplies from domestic and imported sources, then goat meat consumers will switch to other sources of meat, which would cause adverse economic consequences for the U.S. meat goat industry. To address the situation of goat meat shortfall for American con- sumers by increasing our domestic production, we have identified that there are only three possible solutions: • Increase the number of goat herds.

• Increase the numbers of does in each current herd. • Increase the weight of kid goats being sold for slaughter in federal or state plants.

Ethnic consumers have long desired to purchase live goats or the subsequent meat from kid goats weighing 40 to 60 pounds, with goats weighing over 80 pounds usually receiving a discounted price per pound. This is based on the perception that heavier goats are older and produce less lean and less tender meat. Increasing the weight of slaughter kid goats necessitates feeding them for a longer period of time, thus increasing their age at slaugh- ter, or necessitates increasing their rate of growth. One can select for growthier kid goats so that they reach a heavier weight at a given age, but this requires having production records to identify superior sires and dams.

14 Goat Rancher | September 2021

Although the exact heritability estimates are not known for goats, production or growth traits like liveweight gain (ADG), feed conversion (gain to feed ratio), feed efficiency (FE), and weaning weight are only moderately heritable in livestock species, which limits the rapidity and extent to which genetic progress can be made. Crossbreeding provides some heterosis, which is more success- ful in improving fertility, but only with moderate improvements in production and growth traits.

Raising goats to a heavier weight or older age usually requires feeding a concentrate diet at some point in their life as the quality and quantity of pastures to provide adequate nutrition for satisfactory growth occur only for a few months during the year. Pre-weaning creep feeding, supplemental concentrate feeding with forage or pasture grazing or feeding a carbonaceous (energy) concentrate with a roughage and high-quality protein source are op- tions to improve growth of kid goats.

This adds to the cost of production, but there is not as great a price discount for goats weighing over 80 pounds as in previous years due to the shortage of domestic and imported goat meat. Also, the population of ethnic groups that prefer, and are willing to pay a pre- mium for, heavier young goats is increasing. Frank has discussed confinement goat management and pro- duction of heavier kid goats in several of his Goat Rancher columns. Having an average slaughter weight greater than 80 pounds could possibly result in negative consumer perceptions because eth- nic consumers tend to associate heavier goats or carcasses with older animals. Older slaughter animals of other livestock species develop a higher amount of crosslinking in the muscle connective tissue, which decreases the tenderness of the meat. Two studies from Australia have increased the available infor-


Table 1. Calculations of additional goat meat production with different production strategies to meet the shortfall of 15 million pounds of imported goat meat in 2020.

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