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Which Goat Do You Choose?

Goat Breed Comparisons for Commercial Meat Producers

By: Kelley Yates

In Kentucky, we typically see Boer, Kiko, Spanish, and Savannah goats in the commercial meat market. Producers have been combining these breeds to create offspring to meet individual market goals, with the hope of increasing profit margins. But, what is one key factor that hands down will impact your profit margin regardless of the cost of feed, vet supplies, mineral, etc? Number of kids sold! The more quality kids taken to market, the higher your profit margin. A higher kidding rate, coupled with managing your inputs to be as low as possible, creates a recipe for sustainable profit margins each year. In a twelve year study conducted by Dr. Richard Browning, Tennessee State University (TSU), and Dr. Maria Leite-Browning, Alabama A & M University, the productivity of both straight bred and cross bred Boer, Kiko, and Spanish does were measured under a low to moderate input system to see which one provided higher reproductive output. Results from this study can help producers make better selection and mating decisions.

Doe Traits

In total, TSU studied the reproductive output of Boer, Kiko, Spanish, and Crossed does for twelve years; six years using straight bred matings and six years using crossbred matings. Controls were made for the service sire breeds, doe ages, and parity amongst the doe breeds, and the does were from a diverse sampling of genetic lines. Does were culled throughout the study based on reproductive failure.

The study was conducted in Nashville, TN, which provided humid and moist environment common to the southeast United States. The does were provided fescue pasture with supplemented orchard grass hay and limited grain supplementation in the winter. Stocking rate was 3-4 does per acre and were wormed twice per year.

Kids were not creep fed and weaned at 90 days of age.


Straight Bred

Over six years, TSU compared the fitness traits of 205 Boer, 207 Kiko, and 193 Spanish straight bred does. Straight bred meaning Boer to Boer, Kiko to Kiko, and Spanish to Spanish matings.

The straight bred does were “managed on pasture and bred to bucks of various breeds to produce spring-born purebred and crossbred kids.”

Overall, reproductive output for straight bred Boer does was half that of the straight bred Kiko and Spanish at spring and summer weaning points. Here is the breakdown:


Total # Kids Weaned/Head/over 5 years

Total Lbs Kids Weaned at 90 Days/Head//over 5 years










Reasons for the lower performance of the Boers were:

·        Higher fecal egg counts

·        Lower annual survival rates

·        Lower stayability (not being culled) rates

·        Lower cumulative kid production

·        Poor fitness


Cross Bred

Over six years, TSU compared the fitness of 245 Boer cross (113 first time crosses with Kiko and 112 first time cross with Spanish), 162 Kiko, and 150 Spanish does.

Overall, the crossbred Boer does performed better than the straight bred Boer does. Here is how the results broke down:

  • Boer crossed females performed at the same level as the straight bred Kiko and Spanish does, except their decreased fertility rate resulting in 13% does kidding, 7% does weaning kids, and 0.13 kids weaned per doe

  • Boer cross does were close in fitness level of the Spanish and Kiko does, but did not enhance the trait

  • Spanish does showed lower fecal egg counts than the Kiko


% Does Birthing Kids

% Does weaning kids




Boer x Kiko






Boer x Spanish



Take Aways

As goat producers, we need to constantly be looking for ways to improve the reproductive output of our herds to ensure sustainability. Choosing a mating system that enhances your herd is critical to success. When comparing the Boer, Kiko, and Spanish breeds in this study, here are some considerations:

  • Reproductive Output

    • In straight bred mating systems, Kiko and Spanish does out performed Boer does in number of kids weaned by almost 100%

    • When crossing the Boer breed on herds of Kiko and Spanish, then number of kids weaned were not improved. Conversely, crossing Kiko and Spanish on Boer does (first time crossing) did improve the number of kids weaned.

    • FEC at weaning

  • FEC at weaning

    • Kiko and Spanish does, regardless of straight bred or crossbred mating, had lower FEC than Boer and Boer crosses

    • Straight bred Spanish does had lower FEC than any other straight or cross bred mating

    • When crossing Kiko and Spanish to Boer, FEC in the Boer were lowered. Crossing Spanish to Boer had the most impact on reducing FEC in the Boer

  • Survivability

    • Survivability of straight bred Kiko and Spanish does was very close with Kiko being 2% higher

    • Boer doe survivability increased 10% by crossing with Kiko

    • Boer doe survivability increased 24% by crossing with Spanish

Preweaning Kid Traits

Once the reproductive output levels of the Boer, Kiko, and Spanish does were determined, the next step was to evaluate the kid performance after birth. This study had 1,547 kids born and 1,173 kids weaned. All possible mating pairs were conducted with the three breeds.

Kid Weights

Kid weights were compared using both sire breed and dam breed matings, as well as comparing direct breed (the effect of breeds contributing to kid genotype) and maternal breed effects (the effect of breeds contributing to the dams raising the kids). Here are the results:

  • Straight bred Boer kids were heavier than straight bred Kiko and Spanish kids at birth

  • Boer crossed kids were also heavier than straight bred Kiko and Spanish kids at birth

  • Straight bred and Boer crossed Kiko kids weighed more at weaning than Boer and Spanish kids

  • Boer Kiko cross kids weighed 1.76 pounds heavier than the combined breed average

  • Boer does raised lower percentages of kids to weaning than Kiko and Spanish

Postweaning Kid Traits

For three years, TSU evaluated the carcasses of 275 buck kids. It was found that sire breed affected the live grade and dressing percentage, which is how kids in Kentucky are evaluated in the market system. It was found that the Boer influence produced better live conformation grades, but lighter carcasses and lower dressing percentages than the Kiko and Spanish.

Doeling development was also studied for replacement stock value. The goal was to see “how kid breed affected doeling development from weaning through their first year in the breeding herd.” For the study, 60 Boer, 102 Kiko, 96 Spanish, and 130 Boer cross doelings were used.  The doelings were mated at approximately 18-20 months of age.

Overall, it was found that straight bred Boer doelings were less fit than the Kiko, Spanish, and Boer cross doelings. The fitness level of Boer-cross doelings was similar to the Kiko and Spanish straight bred. Here are some specifics:


% Survival to First Breeding

% 1st Year Kidding Rate

% 1st Year Weaning Rate





Boer Cross













It is important to remember that this study was conducted with the commercial producer in mind. The Boer, Kiko, and Spanish breeds were compared in a moderately intensive management system (pasture with grain supplementation during specific stages of production like lactation and no creep feeding) for a total of twelve years in a hot, moist climate seen in the southern United States. Both Dr. Richard Browning and Dr. Maria Leite-Browning state that there are always performance differences within a breed due to environment and management, but between breed comparisons need to be made to help commercial producers make improvements to their herds. Commercial producers need goats that have high reproductive output, high survivability, and wean kids desirable to the market without intensive management.

Here are the concluding remarks from the study:

A comprehensive economic analysis of the Phase I dataset was conducted that incorporated most variable and fixed production costs and various income streams based on herd performance data and relevant market price data. Annual returns over variable and total costs resulted in net losses for Boer does, but net profits for Kiko and Spanish does. Additional economic assessments of the dataset revealed that applying market ‘premiums’ for Boer-influenced kids did little to alter the ‘per doe’ economic return estimates. Widespread use of breeds without knowing breed strengths and weaknesses can prove financially detrimental. Newer meat goat breeds may increase industry popularity, but not necessarily profitability.


In the current project, the Boer breed generally performed poorly across the range of performance traits measured when compared to the Kiko and foundation Spanish breeds. The latter two exhibited generally good hardiness and appeared better suited as maternal breeds for commercial meat goat production on humid, subtropical pasture.


The Boer is better suited as a terminal sire breed with the avoidance of Boer influence on the maternal side. Little benefit was shown in crossbreeding with Boer sires for replacement doeling production compared with maintaining straight-bred Kiko or Spanish base doe populations (or perhaps a crossing of the latter two). In a commercial doe herd, Boer sires may be a preferred choice if the objective is to produce market kids for harvest, taking advantage of possibly enhance kid growth and improved visual conformation. Kiko or Spanish sires may be more appropriate if replacement doeling production is the primary objective; the buck kids will still be suitable for the harvest market as carcass research demonstrated.

You can read the full study here.

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