mation on the meat properties of older and heavier kid goats at slaughter. Louw Hoffman, longtime meat scientist and noted game meat specialist at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa, is now at the University of Queensland in Australia. He and his research team determined the effects of live weight on the carcass characteristics and meat quality of goats averaging 53.6 and 73 pounds at slaughter. They obtained free-range goats from commercial farmers captured as feral goats but that were deemed too light for immediate slaughter.

The intact male kid goats were then fed Mitchell grass hay and

finisher pellets ad libitum for 42 days before slaughter. The heavier goats had higher dressing percentages, higher percentages of hind- quarters and greater amounts of offal (edible organs) than the lighter goats.

The live weights at slaughter did not result in differences in pro- portion of carcass cuts, color of the loin eye muscle (M. longissimus dorsi) or outside hind leg muscle (M. biceps femoris), Warner- Bratzler shear force (which is an indication of meat tenderness), total amounts of fat and ash or cooking losses.

These results were similar to those for Spanish and Savanna- Spanish intact male goats fed 16% crude protein concentrate and hay ad libitum at the Louisiana State University Ag Center Small Rumi- nant Research Unit to average slaughter weights of 59.5, 79 and 99 pounds. Dressing percentages, external fat covering, loin eye area, and percentage of kidney and pelvic fat were higher with heavier slaughter weights, while slaughter weight had no effect on boneless cut yields and shear force or color of the inside hind leg muscle (M. Semimembranosus).

Meat and animal scientists at the University of Melbourne in Australia compared meat quality of 6-to-9 month and 2-year-old wether Boer goats slaughtered in a commercial plant. As expected, the older goats had heavier live and hot carcass weights, higher dress- ing percentages and more external fat than the younger goats. The loin eye (M. longissimus dorsi) and inside hind leg (M. Semimembranosus) muscles from older goats also had higher shear force (less tender) and less color stability during display and the loin eye muscle had higher cooking losses — possibly due to differences in moisture and fat — than the respective muscles from younger goats.

A collaborative study by LSU Ag Center and Southern Univer-

sity Agricultural Research and Extension Center scientists on devel- oping branded goat meat funded by a Federal-State Marketing Improvement (FSMIP) grant in the mid-1990s determined properties of meat from goats of different weights, ages and sexes. Tenderness and overall acceptability of Semimembranosus muscles was found to be different only when from yearling male goats of low conformation (muscling and size) or goats older than yearlings. To determine the amount of goat meat to be produced by U.S. producers to meet the 15-million pounds of goat meat shortfall due to the decreased imported supply last year or to totally replace the amount of imported goat meat requires certain assumptions. The latest data on the number of U.S. farms with meat goats was the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture, which showed 101,578 farms.

More updated information on numbers of different categories of meat and other goats is from the annual USDA Sheep and Goats report issued in January that had 2,045,000 meat and other goats and kids, 1,639,000 meat and other breeding goats (1,220,000 does, 292,000 replacement kids and 130,000 bucks), and 406,000 meat and

other market goats and kids. There was also reported to be a 1,280,000 kid crop from the

previous year. The average live slaughter weights (68 pounds) and slaughter numbers (624,400) are from the USDA Livestock Slaughter 2020 Summary.

It should be noted that those calculations assumed that only meat goats would enter the food supply because it is unknown and would purely be a guess to estimate the number of male dairy kid goats, Angora goats or cull does that are used for goat meat. To increase the domestic meat goat production to supply the 15- million-pound deficit from last year would require a 34% to 70% in- crease in production by any of the single strategies. Combinations of strategies would reduce the increased production needed in any of the four strategies. To replace the average 36 million pounds of goat meat imported annually would require increased domestic production by 80 to 85% with any or combinations of the strategies.

Each of the options or strategies to produce more domestic goat meat would require a cost-benefit analysis for each farm operation. Currently, many producers do not keep the necessary records of vari- able and fixed costs to accurately determine if increasing their doe numbers, improving the number of kid goats marketed per doe or growing kid goats to heavier market weights would be profitable for their operation. Without sufficient values for cost:benefit analyses, increasing the number of farms raising meat goats would seem to be less feasible for the meat goat industry than increasing the number of does per herd, or improving doe prolificacy through selection, or raising kid goats to heavier slaughter weights.

Raising kid goats to heavier slaughter weights might have neg- ative consumer consequences whereas increasing numbers of does or their prolificacy would not seem to elicit market responses other than those associated due to supply and demand pressures on pro- duction costs and returns. Contrarily, we speculate that most of the domestic slaughter goats originate from the thousands of small farms that have less than the average 35 does and most likely are operating at maximum ca- pacity. If this be true, then increasing the numbers of does would be more difficult to do economically due to costs of raising the ad- ditional breeding does compared to feeding the kids to heavier weights. The over-80-pound penalty is seemingly being lessened every- where that we are aware and we’re hearing that consumers are in- creasingly buying half and quarter carcasses due to high carcass prices per pound. Moreover, if goat meat retailing moves toward re- tail cuts similar to the merchandising for meat from other livestock species, then larger carcasses would be a plus.

Any of these scenarios reflects that producers use records of their herd productivity so they can accurately determine differences in cost:benefit to maximize their profitability. A future article will provide information on costs and returns of supplemental feeding of kid goats and does to have more goats on the same amount of land and facility resources.

(Frank Pinkerton, PhD, is a retired extension goat specialist living in San Marcos, Texas. Ken McMillin, Phd, is a retired Pro- fessor of Meat and Animal Science, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, La.)

September 2021 | Goat Rancher 15

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