E de la Garza Institute for Goat Research Langston University
Langston University Research Building
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research & extension


Meat Goat Management
Robert Swize
American Boer Goat Association

PDF version of this module

Unit Objective

After completion of this module of instruction, the producer should be able to identify the two general categories to follow when selecting goats and to use common selection tools when making decision for doe purchase and/or replacement into the herd. The producer should be able to evaluate the body condition of the goat herd. The producer should know procedures to tattoo, trim hooves, disbud and castrate with knife, elastrator and burdizzo. The producer should be able to estimate a goat's age by looking at its teeth. The producer should be able to score 85% on the module test.

Specific Objectives

After completion of this instructional module the producer should be able to:

  1. Identify the two general categories for use with proper goat selection.
  2. Identify common selection tools that goat producers should use.
  3. Identify desirable traits of a meat goat.
  4. Distinguish between good and bad reproductive traits of the breeding meat goat doe and buck.
  5. Identify the different kinds of records that a meat goat producer should keep on his/her animals.
  6. Select the appropriate time to wean a meat goat kid.
  7. State the purpose of the Expected Progeny Difference Evaluation Program.
  8. Identify some of the most common Expected Progeny Difference.
  9. Select the three factors that determine how well a goat performs.
  10. Match production traits to heritability percentages for meat goats.
  11. Select the purpose of having each animal identified.
  12. Distinguish between permanent and non-permanent identification.
  13. Identify two management decisions that warrant consideration for disbudding.
  14. State the proper methods of castrating a goat kid.
  15. Match the Body Condition Score ranges with their descriptions.
  16. Identify appropriate management practices that should be followed at kidding.
  17. Identify appropriate management practices that should be followed from birth to weaning.
  18. Know the procedure for tattooing a goat.
  19. Know the procedure for trimming hooves.
  20. Know appropriate methods of disbudding.
  21. Know how to estimate a goat's age

Module Contents

Goat Selection

Animal selection is a skill that meat goat producers needs to master. Animal selection relies on the ability of the producer to identify parent animals that possess desirable traits to contribute to their offspring. These characteristic are economic important traits which should allow the producer to achieve defined production goals. Commercial producers may place greater emphasis on growth measurements. Seed stock producers or purebred producers may place more importance on reproduction and carcass traits to meet their production goals.

The animals selected or not selected fall into two general categories or methods of selection.

  1. Breeding and(or) herd replacements
  2. Cull animals

Breeding or herd replacements can be defined as animals selected to produce offspring. These animals are selected for their desirable characteristics or traits. Selection by culling, on the other hand, is the process by which a producer removes animals from the herd. Animals are culled for not meeting the goals of the producer. Despite the different needs within the meat goat industry, a balanced approach is the key to sound animal selection.

Selection Methods and Tools

Producers have many tools to aid them in selection with visual appraisal as the most common method. Under this method, producers visually review the live animal much in the same way a livestock judge evaluates livestock during a goat show. Common selection tools include the following:

  • General visual appraisal
  • Breeder records
  • Performance data
  • Genetic Animal Evaluation - EPDs
  • Show records
  • Pedigree data
  • Industry standards
  • Breed standards

Utilizing a combination of selection tools can provide insight into the genetic makeup of the animal which may not be determined from visual appraisal alone. When using the selection tools together, the producer will come closer to meeting the desirable production or herd goals.

General visual appraisal

goat anatomy

Visual appraisal begins with the general appearance of the goat (buck and doe). For commercial meat goats a producer wants an animal that exhibits a long body which is desirable with leg and cannon bone in proportion to the animal. Extremely long legs are more desirable than extremely short legs. The goat should exhibit a strong level back extending from the neck to the hook bones. A producer should keep in mind that older animals are more likely to have a weaker line than young animals. You want the back to be long, wide and strong.

The width and length of the loin are important for volume of meat in the carcass. You want the back to be wide from withers to the rump with smooth shoulders to blend into the neck. The rump should be long and wide also, with the same width between hooks (hip bone) as pins, if not wider between the pin bones. You want the rump to have a slight slope from the hook bones to the pin bones, but should not be overly steep. Some angle to the rump is necessary for easy kidding.

The front end of the commercial meat goat should be wide and smooth. The front legs should be well-spaced representing a wide chest floor and perpendicular to the ground. The forearm should show evidence of muscling and the feet should point straight ahead. Meat goats showing structural signs as knock-knee, buck-knees, pigeon-toed, or splay-footed are animals that should not be selected as animals to place within the goat herd. Select goats where the barrel projects adequate spring of rib which indicates capacity for foraging, pregnancy, and maintenance of body condition.

The rear legs should be wide apart and straight when viewing from the rear. Muscling will be demonstrated by a thick thigh and the depth of the twist. The side view should project a vertical line from pin bone to point of hock and touching the ground just behind the hind hoof. This angle is more desirable for a correct free movement on the hind legs. The pasterns should be strong and straight. The feet should have tight toes and a level sole.

Frame size indicates growth potential. Adequate to moderate bone is acceptable. Avoid selecting animals that are sickle hocked, post legged and cow hocked. Skin coloring or skin pigmentation in the anal area is important to reduce the chance of skin cancer in that area.


Weak pasterns
Skin cancer
Weak pasterns
Skin cancer


You want a replacement doe to exhibit a feminine head and a feminine wedge appearance to the body with a long elegant neck that blends smoothly into a wide shoulder and back. The doe should project good spring of rib and depth of body which is a good indicator of volume. There should be adequate muscling in the rear leg without losing feminity. The body should have volume and capacity which demonstrates the ability to breed, carry several kids, and rear young in a pasture environment. The external genitalia of the female should be well developed and properly structured. Vulvas which turn up on end can cause a problem when the buck is serving the doe and can result in poor doe fertility.

Does should have well formed udders with good attachment. It is important that the udder is constructed so that the offspring are able to nurse unassisted. The number of functional teats should not exceed two per side with one teat per side as more desirable. Cull faults include udder and teat abnormalities or defects to include, but not limited to, oversized or bulbous teats, and pendulous udder. Other culling characteristics include cluster teats, fishtail teats, or a doe that has not kidded or exhibited signs of pregnancy by 18 months of age. Goats are prolific animals which will naturally reach puberty and be fertile at 6 to 7 months of age. Breeding age females should show evidence of having kidded by the age of two years.


You want the breeding buck to show masculinity and exhibit adequate muscling. The head should be masculine with a broad strong muzzle and horns set far apart enough to not rap or break legs of other goats. The neck should smoothly flow into wide smooth shoulders. The body should exhibit a masculine profile with a heavier chest and forebody. Because of manifestation of testosterone, older bucks may demonstrate higher, heavier, and more coarse shoulders.

Bucks must have two large, well- formed, functional, equal-sized testes in a single scrotum. Sperm production is related to the circumference of the testicles. More semen is produced by bucks with greater scrotal circumference. Mature bucks should have a scrotum circumference of 25 cm or 10 inches. In young bucks, testicles should be of equal size and large for day of age. Avoid selecting bucks that exhibit sizeable splits in the scrotum (see photo). Avoid selecting bucks that show overly pendulous testicles. Testicles should be free of bumps or lumps and should be smooth.

Cull faults include single testicle, testicles too small, abnormal or diseased testes, excessive split in scrotum. The teat structure of the buck should also be reviewed as the buck has a large impact on the herd if his daughters are retained as replacements.


The length of the upper and lower jaw should be equal. The teeth should touch the dental pad in young goats. However with older goats some leaning of the teeth is acceptable as long as the length of the jaw and dental pad when viewed from the side is equal. Avoid selecting replacement animals that exhibit undershot jaw (see photo).

Excessive scrotal split
Undershot jaw
Excessive scrotal split
Undershot jaw

Breeder records

Breeder records can provide valuable insight into the productivity of an animal over its productive life. Utilizing breeder records to meet production goals can enhance selection decisions. Visual appraisal is not always a true indication of how an animal will produce in a goat herd. Basic records should include the following:

  • Birth date
  • Birth weight
  • Animal ID
  • Sire
  • Dam
  • Sex of offspring
  • Number born
  • Birthing difficulties
  • Time of kidding
  • Frequency of kidding
  • Total pounds of kids weaned

As the animal matures, the breeder can add other records such as health, vaccinations, and marketing results. The resistance to foot rot or internal parasites can also be recorded to aid the producer in identifying superior genetics for future selection and mating. The number of kids born is extremely important, but the number of kids weaned is more important in determining profitability. The number of kids weaned is also related to the mothering ability of the doe and herd management. Time of kidding refers to the days of the gestation period of which is 150 days for goats.

Producers would like every doe to breed in the first cycle. Replacement animals from does that kidded early in the breeding season will be more productive over their lifetime compared to kids from does that did not breed until the third or fourth heat cycles. Recording the frequency of kidding will allow producers to cull does that do not kid every year.

Performance records

Performance records can aid the producer in animal selection and culling. Performance records are recorded at different phases of growth of the animal. Pre-weaning growth rate is how kids grow from birth to weaning and is primarily a function of milk production in the dam. Kids should be weighed at weaning which generally occurs at 60 to 90 days of age.

The total pounds of kids weaned are also important as the total weight of twin kids will be greater than that of a single raised kid. In most cases, the same inputs will be used to produce twins versus a single kid. However, as the number of kids increase, management inputs increase.

Once the kids are weaned they no longer have the dam’s milk to make them grow. They are now depending on their own genetic potential for growth, assuming proper nutrition. This is known as post-weaning growth rate or post-weaning gain. Purebred producers may place buck kids on a gain test to determine post weaning growth rate.

Other performance weights such as birth, 150-day and 365-day weights may aid the producer in making culling and mating decisions.

Genetic evaluation

Although genetic evaluation programs are new to the goat industry, producers of other species have used genetic evaluations for rapid improvement. Most genetic evaluation programs are provided by breed associations and are particular to the breed. Breeders within the breed record individual animal performance measures. Programs predict future performance based on performance of relatives and current performance of the individual animal. Most of the major sheep breeds including Katahdin have a breed improvement program in place and the American Boer Goat Association is evaluating the feasibility of implementing such a program for Boer Goats.

Expected Progeny Difference (EPD) is an estimate of the genetic merit of an animal for a single trait. The purposes of the genetic evaluation programs are as follows:

  • Identify and document genetic merit for major economically important traits.
  • Predict performance of the next generation.
  • Provide breeders with EPDs to be used as another tool in selecting breeding stock.
  • Provide the documentation for breeding stock customers to make informed decisions about their purchases.

The expected progeny difference (EPD) for a young animal will be mostly based on his parents’ performance records such as birth, weaning, and(or) yearling weights. After the kid’s own performance records have been processed, his EPD will be based on a combination of his parents’ records and his own performance. If that kid is selected as a breeding animal, and records on his kids are reported, the records on his progeny will also be used to calculate his EPD. Because all relationships (parent-offspring, half-siblings, cousins) among animals are taken into account, records on related animals will be used to improve the accuracy of predictions.

Producers can compare goats using EPDs. For example, a buck with a Weaning Weight EPD of +1.0 is good, but a different buck with a Weaning Weight EPD of +2.0 is better. EPDs give the most objective and reliable estimation of genetic value possible. The EPDs provided by a breed association will vary. The more common EPDs included the following:

  • Birth Weight EPD
  • Maternal Birth Weight EPD
  • 90-Day Weaning Weight EPD
  • 150-day Post-weaning Weight EPD
  • Maternal Milk EPD
  • Milk plus Growth EPD
  • Number Born, or Percent Kid Crop
  • Carcass EPD
  • Reproduction EPD
  • Production Life EPD

The breed association calculating the EPDs can provide more information on genetic animal evaluation programs and how to use EPDs as a selection tool to meet production goals.


IProducers need to consider the heritability of a trait when selecting for genetic improvement. How well a goat performs is due to its 1) genetic makeup, 2) environment; and 3) management. When goats are selected for the breeding herd, the breeder expects that their better production performance will be inherited by their offspring. The percentage of superiority of the parents passed to their offspring is called heritability. Faster progress can potentially be made in improving a trait with a high degree of heritability than in improving a trait with a low degree of heritability. The heritability levels are consider in the following ranges: low 10-20%, moderate 25-45%, and high 50-70%. The heritability values of some economically important traits in goats are in Table 1.

Table 1. Heritability estimates of some economically important traits in goats.

Trait(s) Heritability, %
Birth interval
5 - 10
Birth weight
30 - 40
Number born
Weaning weight
20 - 30
Yearling weight
Mature weight
Milk yield
Milk fat %
Milk protein %
Udder support
Teat placement
Feed conversion
Stature (Conformation & Frame)
45 - 50
Rear legs
Wither height
Cannon bone circumference
Carcass weight
45 - 50
Quality grade
Fat depth
40 - 45
Ribeye (loin) area
40 - 45
25 - 30
40 - 45
Scrotal circumference

Ageing Goats

Number and arrangement of teeth

Estimating the age of goats is done by looking at the teeth. The arrangement of teeth on the jaw, from front to back, is incisors, canines, premolars, and molars. Ruminants only have incisors on the bottom jaw. The top jaw has a thick layer of tissue called the “dental pad.” Ruminants do not have canine teeth and this open space along the jaw is useful when needing to insert one’s fingers to pry open a goat’s mouth for drenching, tubing, or other purposes.

Mature goats will have a total of 8 incisors (4 pair), 6 premolars (3 pair), and 6 molars (3 pair). It is customary when ageing goats by looking at their teeth to discuss teeth in terms of “pairs” rather than in total.

Telling the age of goats

Young goats have deciduous or “baby” teeth that are replaced by permanent teeth at a later age. Kids are generally born with the central pair of deciduous incisors (incisors erupt from the center outward) with the second pair erupting at 1 to 2 weeks, third pair at 2 to 3 weeks and the fourth pair erupting at 3 to 4 weeks of age. Kids also will develop 3 pairs of deciduous premolars but no molars.

As kids age, the deciduous incisors are replaced by permanent incisors, again from the center pair outward. The middle pair of deciduous incisors will be replaced sometime around 12 months. The second, third, and fourth pairs are replaced at roughly yearly intervals at 1.5 to 2 years, 2.5 to 3 years, and 3.5 to 4 years of age. Thus, a goat with 1 pair of permanent incisors is roughly 1 year of age, 2 pair of permanent incisors is 2 years of age, and so on. At four years of age when all permanent teeth are in place, the animal may be referred to as having a “full mouth.”

Ageing goats over 4 years of age is more difficult. Over time, the gums recede and teeth appear elongated. Teeth may also become broken or worn down from grazing and foraging. Animals that have broken or lost teeth are often referred to as “broken mouthed.” “Undershot” is a condition in which the lower jaw is longer than the upper jaw whereas “overshot” is the opposite. Malformed teeth can affect the ability to graze and consume nutrients.

Kid (‹1 year of age)
1 year old
2 year old
3 year old
4 year old
8 1/2 year old
Broken mouth

Animal Identification

The proper identification of animals is essential. Proper identification enables the producer to keep comprehensive records for milk production, reproduction, health problems, and management practices. The efficient maintenance of this information requires a permanent identification system. Several systems of identification may be used. The system selected will depend upon the size of the herd, the environmental conditions, the primary purpose for identifying individual animals, and regulations of federal government and breed-governing bodies. There are two basic types of identification: permanent and non-permanent. Permanent identification includes tattooing, ear notches or microchips. Non-permanent identification includes paint, chalk and tags.


Tattooing is one method of identification that is permanent if properly done. However, it is not easily viewed and may require another complementary method of identification, such as an ear tag, that is visible from short distances. Tattooing involves making needlelike projections in the goat's skin. The tattoo ink is forced into the punctures and remains visible after the puncture wounds heal. It is a good idea to sterilize the equipment and clean the goat's ears to help prevent the spread of some blood-borne diseases. On older animals some tattoos may be difficult to read; holding a bright light source such as a flashlight behind the ear when reading may make the tattoo more legible.

To tattoo an animal, begin by inserting the proper digits into the tattoo pliers. Check for correctness by pressing the pliers onto a piece of paper or cardboard. Secure the goat with a halter or head gate and clean the ear to be tattooed with alcohol. Don’t use water for cleaning as it could enter the ear canal and result in infection. Clip or trim any excessive hair present. A generous amount of ink should be applied to the center of the ear between the ribs of cartilage (green ink should be used for dark ears). Position the tattooing pliers between the ribs of cartilage and squeeze firmly forcing the needle-like numbers into the ear tissue. Care should be taken in removing the tattoo pliers from the ear to not scratch the tattooed area. Ink should be reapplied and rubbed into the tattoo. Using an old toothbrush will assist in pushing the ink into the punctures. Afterwards, the equipment and individual tattoo pieces should be cleaned and sprayed with alcohol.

Tatoo set

Ear tags

Ear tags are an easy way to permanently identify each goat in the herd. Unlike tattoos, they can be read without actually having to catch the goat. Unfortunately, unlike tattoos, they can break or be ripped out of the goat’s ear. Some producers use two ear tags because of this problem. Goats that are shipped are required to have a scrapie ear tag and these can be used for animal identification. Before putting in the ear tag, it is important to record what ear tag number is assigned to the goat. Ensure the ear tags are inserted between the cartilage ribs on the ears. The producer whose goats have been ear tagged will have an easy-to-read identification number which can be used for herd records.


The insertion of a microchip in the base of the ear or tail web of the animal is another form of permanent identification. After insertion, the microchip should be scanned to ensure that it is reading correctly. Care should be taken in recording the microchip number against the tag number of the animal to ensure the integrity of the microchip identification. Exhibitors are required to provide their own reader at many livestock shows.

Ear notching

Ear notching is commonly practiced in identifying goats. It has the advantage of being visible from a distance allowing identification without the necessity of catching the animal and can accommodate numbers up to 9999. An ear notching pliers are used to put “V”-shaped notches in the edges of the ear and a hole punch is used to punch holes in the middle of the ear, if necessary. The animal is restrained and notches and holes may be treated with iodine. As this process results in bleeding, the notching pliers should be disinfected between animals to prevent transmission of any blood-borne diseases. The notching system used is that begun in the Angora industry and adapted for meat goats. However, some producers may use alternate numbering system. Generally, notches on the goat’s left ear mean: 10 (top), 1 (bottom), 100 (end); and 1,000 (center hole). On the goat’s right ear, notch values are: 30 (top), 3 (bottom), 300 (end); and 3,000 (center hole). Thus, a goat with the number 135 would look as follows: 1 notch on end of left ear (100); 1 notch on top of right ear (30), 2 notches on bottom of left ear (2); 1 notch on bottom of right ear (3) with a total value equaling 135.

Hoof Trimming

Hoof trimming goats is a simple task that can be easily learned. The goal of hoof trimming is to allow your goat to walk normally. The lack of trimming, or improper trimming, can lead to foot and leg problems. The amount of time between trimmings depends on many factors, such as type of terrain, the goat's age, level of activity, nutritional level, and genetics. In environmental areas where natural wearing does not occur, producers need to trim hooves on a regular basis. Goats raised in relative confinement and on small acreages may require more frequent trimmings than goats raised in vast pastures. Generally, foot trimming should be done as needed.

Each hoof of the goat has two toes. The wall of each toe tends to overgrow and must be trimmed. The heels of the hoof and the dewclaws (especially on an older goat) may also develop extra tissue that needs to be trimmed. Most producers use foot shears or hoof trimmers. Other tools used may include a hoof knife with sharp edges, a pocketknife or a rasp. Pocketknives or a hoof knife can be dangerous to use for both operator and animal as goats may jump. Some people like to use hoof nippers to cut off the tip of the hoof or file it down with rasps.

Initially, use the point of the hoof trimmers to remove any dirt from the outside and the bottom of the hoof. The front of badly overgrown hooves can then be removed. The sides of the hoof should be cut back even with the sole of the foot. Continue to trim the sides around one toe and repeat the process on the other toe. Trim the frog and heel flat until the sole is parallel to the hairline of the pastern. Trim off thin slices. A good rule to follow is to stop when you see pink. If blood appears stop trimming and apply blood stop powder and finish the trimming at a later time.

Overgrown hoof
Hoof trimming
Overgrown hoof
Hoof trimming


Disbudding or dehorning is a management practice used in some meat goat herds. At the present time, there is no commercial market incentive offered for disbudded meat goat kids. However, two management decisions warrant the consideration of disbudding: 1) if resident fence(s) are constructed of materials capable of entrapping horned goats and are too expensive to replace or alter, or 2) if show wether production and marketing is a management objective. Some shows require and some exhibitors prefer disbudded kids.

The ideal time to disbud kids is from 3 days to 3 weeks of age. Fewer scurs (small, misshapen horn growth resulting from inadequate disbudding) are seen with disbudding earlier in that time frame. Kids need to be restrained during the procedure with use of a disbudding box preferable. A hot disbudding iron is placed over the horn and pressure applied to ensure complete contact with the skin surrounding the base of the horn. Leave the disbudding iron in place 4 to 6 seconds or until a ring the color of new leather encircles the horn base. Remove the horn tip and underlying loose skin. This process is repeated for the opposite horn. Return to the first location, and use the edge of the heated iron to sear the horn bud until it turns slightly yellow, usually not more than 2 to 3 seconds. This process is repeated for the opposite horn. Remove kid from restraints. The single most important determinant of successful disbudding is size of the horn base. Smaller horns generally result in greater success.

Disbudding box

Disbudding iron
Disbudding a kid 

Horn growth rate appears to differ between individual animals. Goats use their horns mainly for fighting and for defense from predators. If they are horned, injury may occur to one or both of the goats involved. Horned goats can on occasion also injure their handlers. In some breeds, the horn structure can provide some insight into some characteristic of the animal. Producers should consider not mixing horned and disbudded animals in the same pen due to the horned animals having a competitive advantage.


All young bucklings that are not to be evaluated as replacement bucks should be castrated. For some producers, this means castrating between the ages of 2 and 4 weeks. Castration of young animals produces less stress in the animals and there is less chance of complications occurring due to the procedure. Young bucks are capable of breeding females as early as 4 to 5 months of age. If a decision is made to not castrate young males, management practices should be in place to prevent unwanted matings.

Three common ways to castrate bucks is through the use of an elastrator that places a rubber ring around the scrotum, a Burdizzo® clamp that crushes the spermatic cord, and the use of a knife to cut the scrotum and remove the testicles.


Using an elastrator is an inexpensive, quick, and bloodless method of castration. It involves putting a heavy rubber ring around the scrotum near the body. The ring stops blood circulation to the scrotum and testicles and these will dry, shrivel, and slough off in 10 to 14 days. It must be done while the scrotum is still very small, i.e., from three days to three weeks of age depending on breed size, before the scrotal muscles and associated tissues develop.

The rubber ring is first put on the prongs of the elastrator (a pliers-like device that when squeezed will open the ring allowing the scrotum and testes to pass through). The male kid is restrained and the scrotum is passed through the open ring with the prongs of the elastrator facing the kid’s body. The producer must feel the scrotum to ensure that both testicles are in the scrotum below the ring. The rubber ring is positioned close to the body and then slipped off the elastrator prongs. Care must be taken to not inadvertently disturb the rudimentary teats of the male kid.


Animals should suffer minimal discomfort until the area becomes numb. However, kids should be monitored during the period prior to sloughing of the scrotum. This method has a higher risk of tetanus than many other castration methods. Some producers may wish to give tetanus antitoxin at the time of castration. If the banded scrotum does not fall off in an appropriate period of time, it may need to be removed manually.

Animals should suffer minimal discomfort until the area becomes numb. However, kids should be monitored during the period prior to sloughing of the scrotum. This method has a higher risk of tetanus than many other castration methods. Some producers may wish to give tetanus antitoxin at the time of castration. If the banded scrotum does not fall off in an appropriate period of time, it may need to be removed manually.


Another quick, bloodless method of castration is to use a Burdizzo® clamp, or emasculatome, to crush and rupture the spermatic cords. This method can be used on older animals, however, it is best to castrate goats when young.

It is important to remember that the spermatic cords must be crushed one side at a time. After restraining the animal, grab the scrotum and manipulate one of the testicles deep in the scrotal sac and find the spermatic cord. Place the clamp over the spermatic cord one-third of the way down the scrotum. Clamp down and hold for 15 to 20 seconds. Release the clamp, reposition it over the spermatic cord one-half inch lower and repeat the procedure. Perform the same steps on the other side to crush the other spermatic cord. Always check the position of the spermatic cord before and after each clamping to ensure no mistakes are made. With this method, the scrotal sac will not slough off, but the will remain on the animal. The testicles will atrophy and disappear.

This method is the best to use during fly season because it leaves no big open wound. Goats must be between four weeks to four months of age with eight to 12 weeks being ideal. Because of the difficulty in telling if the spermatic cords have been crushed, this method may be perceived as less reliable than other methods.


A third method of castration is the use of a knife. As with the other methods, knife castration is best done on young kids. This will result in less blood loss and stress on the animal. The animal should be restrained and the scrotal area washed if necessary. The producer’s hands should be washed and knife sanitized with alcohol. The scrotum is grasped with the testicles pushed to the upper portion and the lower third of the scrotum is cut off. Removing the lower third of the scrotum allows for wound drainage and helps prevent infection. Each testicle is slowly pulled down and away from the body until the cord breaks. If the animal is more than 4 or 5 weeks old, the cord should be scraped through with the knife rather than broken. This will result in less bleeding. The scrotum is sprayed with an antibacterial spray that also repels or kills flies. The kids will be lethargic for several days and then gradually recover. The kids should not be confined to a muddy or filthy area while they are healing from the castration.

Body Condition Score

An easy tool that producers can utilize to assess the overall condition of their goats is that of body condition scoring (BCS). BCS is a simple, fast method of assessing the thinness or fatness of your goats and getting an indication of available fat reserves that can be used by the animal. Goats should be normally be maintained with a moderate amount of body condition. When overall body condition starts to decrease in the herd and goats become too thin (under-conditioned), management intervention is needed. This could be supplemental feeding, deworming, pasture rotation, etc. Conversely, when overall body condition starts to increase in the herd and animals carry too much fat (over-conditioned) the producer should reduce supplemental feeding or could provide a lesser quality diet.

Assessing body condition and making feeding and management adjustments can prevent the occurrence of some diseases or production problems. As an example, does that are too thin will have kids with low birth weights; whereas overly conditioned (fat) does can suffer pregnancy toxemia and kidding problems. Producers need to develop skills in assessing body condition of their goats so that a desired moderate body condition can be maintained. With practice, evaluating the BCS of an animal will only take about 10 to 15 seconds. Adding BCS as a regular part of a management program will help producers to more effectively monitor feeding and herd health programs for a healthy and productive herd.

How to Body Condition Score

Scoring is performed in goats using a BCS ranging from 1.0 to 5.0, with 0.5 increments. A BCS of 1.0 is an extremely thin goat with no fat reserves and a BCS of 5.0 is a very over-conditioned (obese) goat. In most cases, healthy goats should have a BCS of 2.5 to 4.0. Scores of 1.0, 1.5, or 2.0 indicate a management or health problem. Scores of 4.5 or 5 are rarely observed in goats under normal management conditions; however, these scores can sometimes be observed in show goats.

Does should have a body condition of at least 2.5 but no more than 4.0 at the beginning of the breeding season. Prior to entering the winter a minimum score of 3.0 is desirable. Also, if body condition score is 4.5 or greater, pregnancy toxemia prior to kidding is likely as may also occur in animals with a score of 2.0 or less.

Three areas are evaluated in assigning a BCS: the lumbar region, or area containing the loin muscle; the sternum; and the rib cage. Scoring in the lumbar area is based on determining the amount of muscle and fat cover over the vertebrae. Lumbar vertebrae have a vertical protrusion (spinous process) and a horizontal protrusion (transverse process). Both processes are used in determining BCS. Run your fingertips over the spinous process to feel for the vertebrae. Try to grasp the spinous process between your thumb and forefinger. Use your whole hand to feel the loin muscle and fat cover. Try to slip your fingers underneath the tranverse process.

The second body area to feel is the fat covering on the sternum (breastbone). Scoring in this area is based upon the size of the fat pad on the sternum that can be pinched.

A third area is the rib cage and fat cover over the ribs.

Additional Body Condition Score Information

How to Body Condition Score Examples of Body Condition Scores
  Article on body condition scoring Photo presentation of Body Condition Scoring (Self-extracting zip file - download the file to your computer, put the file in a new folder, double-click on the file to extract individual photos.)

Kidding Management

Kidding season can be an anxious time for a producer. Proper kidding management begins with proper nutrition and care of the pregnant doe. Proper nutrition during pregnancy will increase the chances for birth of healthy kids with few problems. Kid mortality in the first 10 days is highest among kids born underweight either due to a premature parturition or poor doe nutrition.

Routine procedures

Most meat goats will give birth on pasture, although some producers may bring certain animals into a shelter. Animals and pastures should be checked frequently, at a minimum twice daily, for new arrivals. The navel cord should be dipped in a solution of tincture of iodine to prevent entry of disease-causing organisms and to promote rapid drying of the umbilical cord. If necessary, a long navel cord can be cut to one to two inches in length. A bleeding cord should be tied with surgical suture material. Kids should be weighed and ear tagged or identified in some way. The doe’s ID number should be recorded along with the kid data. Finally, kids should be checked carefully at birth for any deformities or abnormalities.

Abnormal births

At times birthing difficulties will occur. Abnormal deliveries include breech births (buttocks first), improperly positioned fetuses (one limb forward, the other back), or multiple births where one or more limbs of different kids are intertwined in the birth canal. These situations require human assistance. A lubricated gloved, or washed, hand should gently be inserted into the birth canal and the fetus pushed backwards slightly to reposition it. When either the front or hind legs can be grasped, the fetus should be pulled gently out and downwards. Ensure the kid is breathing and perform normal management procedures.

Birth to Weaning Management

It is very essential that newborn kids consume colostrum, or first milk, as soon as possible after birth. Colostrum contains antibodies that will help protect the kid as it develops its own immune system. The ability of kids to absorb the antibodies contained in colostrum decreases rapidly after the first 24 hours of life making it essential that consumption occurs as early as possible and certainly prior to 18 hours after birth. Excess colostrum can be frozen for use in orphan or for kids from large litters. If colostrum is hand-fed, amounts of 2 to 4 ounces should be fed to each kid 3 to 4 times per day. If the doe dies and no goat colostrum is available, cow colostrum could be used. This could perhaps be obtained from a nearby dairy farm. An additional practice at birth that enhances the health of the newborn kid is to give injections of iron dextran and vitamins A and D.

Milk is the principal component of the diet of the pre-weaning kid. Under natural suckling, kids consume small amounts of milk at frequent intervals. For kids that need assistance, there are numerous ways to feed milk, including the use of bottles or pails, suckling a nurse doe, and self-feeder units. The method chosen will depend upon factors such as the size of the herd and available labor, as well as personnel preference. Ideally, artificial rearing should mimic natural suckling. Small, frequent feedings increase digestibility and decrease digestive disturbances. Kids can be fed all the milk they will consume in three feedings per day. Begin with 6 to 10 ounces per feeding and adjust accordingly. After four weeks of age, kids can be limit fed one pint (16 ounces) twice daily until weaning. Some producers place cold milk in a cooler and make it available to the kids free-choice throughout the day to more closely mimic natural rearing.

Consumption of large quantities of milk may lead to bloat due to entry of milk into the reticulo-rumen or rapid passage of milk through the abomasum and small intestines resulting in diarrhea or nutritional scours. Research conducted on raising kids on milk replacer fed from four days of age to weaning at six weeks indicates that growth performance is lower and the incidence of digestive disturbances such as scours and bloat are increased compared to goat’s milk under the same system.

Dry feed consumption is important in developing the rumen of the kid and preparing it for weaning. Many goat producers will creep feed kids to maximize growth and weight gain. A creep feed or starter grain along with high quality pasture grass or hay should be made available to kids by two weeks of age. Weaning generally occurs at three months. Weaning can be a stressful event in a kid’s life but is necessary for the health of the doe.


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