Choosing the Right Meat Goat
Selection of Market Lamb and Goat Prospects
By Jessup Yeaman
It’s that time of year once again; lambs and kids are being weaned and offered for sale as projects to 4-H and FFA members across the nation. Selection is one of the keys to a successful project and it all starts with a little planning ahead.
There are some things you should consider before you ever head out in search of a market lamb or goat project. For instance, what exactly do you want to show? Lambs or Goats? If lambs, then fine wools? Fine wool crosses? Perhaps Southdowns or medium wools? Knowing which shows you will attend is also a good idea. Do you know enough about classifying lambs to make good purchases? How large of a lamb or goat can the youth realistically control and exhibit to the best of their ability?
You have options when it comes to purchasing your projects. Many producers have sales with an auctioneer. Some prefer selling their lambs or goats via private treaty. Either way, you should purchase your animals from a reputable breeder that is willing to give assistance if needed. Breeder information can be found not only by word of mouth, but in show publications, on the internet, or through associations such as the Texas Lamb Breeders.
When it comes to the actual visual selection of the project there are criteria that market lambs and goats must meet in my opinion in order to be truly competitive in today’s show arena.
1) Muscularity; the most important selection criteria. After all, these are market animals and muscle is the product that they provide. One early indicator of muscling is natural base width. An animal that is wide based at a young age is that way because it will be carrying plenty of muscle later in life. Expression of muscle in the forearm is another very reliable indicator of true muscle. A nice round rib shape with some spring to it lays the foundation for muscle over the rack and a large, square hip with wide set pin bones indicates muscle later in life. Be wary of animals that are overly fat at a young age. They will often appear heavy muscled but in reality were simply fed well or were born singles. By the same token, don’t be afraid of a lamb or goat that is very thin or green. Look for the indicators of true muscle.
2) Eye appeal and balance. Lambs and goats need to be attractive when viewed from any angle. Animals should have some length of body, level top lines, and square hips. Length and extension through the front end makes them appear more attractive and better balanced. Lambs and kids are more energetic and easier to evaluate early in the morning or late in the evening when it is cooler and they aren’t full of water.
3) Structural Integrity. The skeleton is the framework that supports muscle. Animals should come to the surface square on their feet and legs and should stand on adequate circumference of bone. Rear legs should be correct in the set to their hock, necks should tie neatly into the top of the shoulders, and the shoulders themselves should be smooth and correct in their angles. In today’s show arena many judges (myself included) put emphasis on how well animals hold themselves together when put in motion. Remember that if they have structural issues when just weaned, they are not going to improve in this aspect over time. In fact, the problem will likely become worse as the animal becomes heavier and more mature.
In closing, if you are not comfortable selecting a project on your own, there is nothing wrong with asking for help. County agents, ag teachers, or simply another feeder that is in the know can be absolutely invaluable during the selection process. Good luck in your hunt for “the one” and best of luck to all the exhibitors this year.
Courtesy of Ranch & Rural Living