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Kenneth and Sheila Thompson
KST Meat Goats
Tatum, NM

Yes, Vicki, There is a Goat Judge
Ken Thompson

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Thompson

This is my first year showing Boer meat goats. I showed 4 goats in the Chaves County 4-H and FFA show a few weeks ago. My goats received 9th, 6th, and 4th. The judge here said that they need more muscle tone (shoulders) and broader shoulders. Besides walking them what else can I do to condition them? And also what do you feel is the best kind of goat food for them? Any tips you have would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you for your time.

Good Morning, Vicki --

It is good to hear from you, and it is also good to hear of the success that you have had with the goats you have been showing. Please understand that I am fairly new to the Boer or meat goat business myself, and I have no personal experience with showing these animals. I have attended the past two shows at the Lea County Fair, and I have talked with quite a few people who show their animals. I have read quite a bit about this as well.

My first advice to you to be really careful who you believe when you are asking for advice. Most of us have opinions, and more importantly, most of us have certain traits or qualities that we like to see in our own animals. We tend to tell others that their goats (or any other type of animal) should look like our own. I think the meat goat showing business is in a state of growth and transition right now, and unless you have the same judge in Roswell next year that you had this year, you will find that the new judge has some of his or her own preferences that would result in another animal being picked that is different from the one that won grand champion this year.

You probably already are aware of this aspect of showing animals, since it affects every group of animals shown every year at the same place, and certainly is apparent when you travel to a different show the same year with your same animals but face different judges. One of the problems that is being worked through right now in the goat showing business is that meat goats are a relatively new item, especially in our part of the world. The interest in showing these interesting animals has skyrocketed. We had almost 250 goats shown in the contest here in Lea County this year.

We also had a judge who has been involved with Boer goats and meat goats from the very first importation of the Boer breed into this country. The judge last year was also experienced in handling meat goats, but not as much as was Mr. Norman Kohls, who was here this year. Each of these two judges made a tremendous change in the type of goats that were selected as winners, and because of the changes made last year, there were very many different and better quality meat goats in the show this year. Even so, the judging this year was very much tougher, so I imagine that we will see a change again next year in the type of goat that is brought to the show. Who knows who the judge will be next year? That is the hard part about showing animals, because you just don't know what to expect.

I don't mean to discourage you, but I hope to cause you to try to find and raise animals that are the best type and quality for meat goats that you can possibly raise. I hope that there are some standards developed that will allow folks like you to know generally what to aim for with your animals. Having said all this, I will now tell you my own opinion about what you should aim for.

A good meat goat does not necessarily have to have Boer influence to be good, but I suspect that any meat goat that wins at any show will exhibit a strong Boer influence. That is what is popular right now, and that is the easiest way to make it obvious up front that you have a meat-type animal. Some of the class winners here this year did not look at all like Boers as far as color was concerned, although they were surely constructed as well as any Boer or Boer-cross at the show. I suspect there was some Boer influence, but the Boer coloration is pretty dominant, and these were a deep brown color with no white anywhere at all. Who knows? They were definitely good looking meat goats.

While there are obviously some things you can do to enhance the condition and muscular development of your animals, there are some things that have to be there to begin with. As the coach said about his volleyball team, "We have a lot of experience and ability, but we don't have any height on our team. I have tried very hard, but you cannot improve height by coaching." He is right, of course. You cannot change a genetically narrow and short-in-length animal to a wide and long one by all the excercise or feed rations in the world. From what I have seen and read, animals that are fairly large boned, with as much length down the back between the shoulders and the hip bones, and that have ribs that are well sprung so that they cause the rib cage to be well rounded and create a large heart/lung area capacity are animals that have the potential to put lots of muscle (read that "meat") on their frame. I also suspect that male animals will have the best chance to win, all other things being equal, because they will be larger and more meaty than doe kids. This only applies to a meat goat show where all animals are shown together, without separate classes for males and females.

It is kind of hard to look at young kids and tell what they are going to look like, but a youngster with stout bones in his/her legs and big feet, with a wide chest, and whose legs are attached at the corners of the body has the most potential. When you watch a kid walk and come to a stop, the legs should naturally "park" in the location under the body that you would want to "set" them if you were showing the animal. If both front legs seem to come from the same spot on the body, or if the rear knee joints rub together when the animal walks, look around some more.

When the ribs leave the backbone and go wide to form a circle, instead out just out and straight down, there will be a good place for the loin muscle to grow large, and the animal needs to be wide from front to rear, with smooth, tight shoulders, and widely sprung rear legs which indicate that the hip bones are also wide apart and which allows that nice wide loin muscle to come all the way back. The animal with the longest twist, that area from the base of the tail to the point where the hind leg muscles come together, will have the largest "ham" muscles. You want that muscle to go as far down the leg as possible, and for the frame of the animal to be as wide as possible at the top and the legs to be at the corners so that this muscle can be large and strong.

Crosses with dairy type animals can be OK, but in the early stages especially, they tend to be slimmer boned, taller off the ground, and less well muscled than you want. There is no meat between the belly of an animal and the ground. You generally want an animal that is well porportioned for its size, and is well developed for its age and maturity. You could have a 60 pound goat that is 4 months old, 6 months old, or 8 months old. The four month old would be obviously younger looking, and would also have much more potential for future development and weight gain than its older companions.

With a good animal to start with, and a good diet, which in my opinion includes lots of good quality forage or hay, at least until the last few days before a show, and with plenty of excercise, you should be able to produce a good lean animal with lots of muscle (remember, muscle is meat!). Some folks rig up their feeders so that the animals have to stand up on their hing legs to reach the feed. That is probably good, since goats like to eat that way naturally. They are browsers, and like to reach up into trees and brush to find the leaves they prefer. Goats are not grazers first, but browsers, but they are ruminants, and you must be very careful when feeding them grain that you don't overdo it. Too much grain without enough forage will upset the ph balance in their rumen and cause them to be sick. You can also cause urinary calculi with this type of diet.

They need plenty of clean, fresh water at all times, and plenty to eat, and plenty of good excercise. The rest will be up to you, and will depend on how hard you work to prepare your animal for showing so that it has a chance to look its very best. Use a chain, not a dog collar for showing, and spend enough time so that your animal is as well behaved and under control as possible. Look good yourself, and be proud of yourself and your animal, and that will show through and be obvious to the judge. The judge will be looking at your animal from the very first step it takes in the ring, and if it makes a very favorable impression, the rest will have a hard time removing that good impression from the judges mind. Your goat will look its best if it matches your size. If you have to stoop over very much to reach the chain, it will be hard for the pair of you to look really sharp.

There is probably so very much more that could be said, and there is obviously so much more to know than what I have to share with you. I hope some of what I have said is helpful to you, and I hope most of all that you have fun and gain good experience from raising these neat and interesting animals, while also participating in shows. You will make memories and friends that will last a lifetime. Good luck to you. Don't let negative experiences discourage you, and remember that there are lots of very, very good animals that don't win grand champion. If you have participated, you have succeeded in a big way, and you will definitely benefit from the experience.

So long --
Kenneth and Sheila Thompson
KST Meat Goats
Tatum, NM


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